Using the Middle Ages in Fantasy

The European Middle Ages are a foundational source of world building for countless fantasy writers. But, a lot of our ideas about the Middle Ages have more to do with Tarantino movies and with Victorian stereotypes than actual events between the fall of Rome and the invention of the printing press. This class will explore how culturally complex the Middle Ages actually were and how their literature can serve as sources of inspiration for modern writers. We'll practice ways of using the Middle Ages beyond the tired tropes of castles, sexism, and torture. The class will also address the questions "Does historical accuracy have any value or meaning for writers of fantasy?" Students will get a reference list of free and accessible sources on the Middle Ages to use for future research.


Deep Dive

Starting date

Always Available


4 weeks



A few more words about this course

Is there more to fantasy than elves and castles? Absolutely! Is medieval literature relevant to more than just High Fantasy? You bet!
This class covers what the terms medieval and Middle Ages actually mean, addresses tropes, cliches, and misconceptions that hold writers back, and introduces primary sources that the student can mine for inspiration. 
Throughout this course you will learn:

  • The difference between medieval and Middle Ages
  • How to avoid misconceptions when crafting medieval literature
  • Early sources of medieval and/or Middle Ages literature

Sarah Joy Adams

Author, Professor
Penelope Goddard began painting at the age of six. She attended the Johnson School of Art at the age of ten and later began studying classical art. At the age of 18 she was accepted at St. Markus Institute of Art on a full scholarship. Her art series have been exhibited in the US  Europe.
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