If you consider yourself a Westeros expert, if you’re maester in your own mind, and if you happen to be a current Ivy League student—this is the news you’ve been waiting for. Brace yourself: A Game of Thrones –inspired class is coming to Harvard University.
(Pause for dramatic effect and the inevitable “well in MY day, kids just did MATH!” comments.)
For fans of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, or the incredibly popular HBO TV show, the idea of a Folkore and Mythology class centered on the franchise doesn’t seem entirely farfetched. Martin clearly draws from different areas of mythology and medieval history to create the absurdly intricate fantasy world we know and love, so it’s a topic worth exploring. Plus, anything that gets the kids learning these days, am I right?
The course will look at how Martin’s series “echoes and adapts, as well as distorts the history and culture of the ‘medieval world’ of Eurasia from c. 400 to 1500 CE.” Students will specifically explore the “set of archetypal characters at the heart of Game of Thrones—the king, the good wife, the second son, the adventurer, and so on—with distinct analogues in medieval history, literature, religion, and legend.” On a personal note, as a former English major who focused on pre-1800 lit, I am living for this course description.
Professor Sean Gilsdorf, a medieval historian and Administrative Director and Lecturer on Medieval Studies, will teach the class, along with Racha Kirakosian, an assistant professor of German and the Study of Religion. In a statement to TIME, Gilsdorf revealed that medieval biographies of queens will serve as prime source material, highlighting the “Real Housewives of 10th Century Germany’ kind of stuff, where you see these women going after each other.” Other required reading could include the Irish prose epic Táin bó Cúailnge (“The Cattle Raid of Cooley”) and Ibn Fadlan’s 10th century account of the Islamic world.
Kirakosian told TIME that she hopes the class will work as a “recruitment tool” for medieval studies and humanities courses in general. She was inspired by her former students at Oxford who initially encouraged her to watch the show. “When I read medieval verse epics with my students, they’d go, ‘Oh, that’s like in Game of Thrones,” she explained. “No, if anything at all, it’s the other way around. Isn’t it partly our job [as professors] to use that interest and go deeper?”
This isn’t the first time the franchise has worked its way into collegiate classrooms. Just last month, UC Berkeley announced that it would be offering a summer session called “The Linguistics of Game of Thrones and the Art of Language Invention” with the Dothraki language creator himself, David J. Peterson. The University of Virginia has also hopped onto the bandwagon, with its “Special Topics in Literature” summer session that will “compare the ways in which HBO’s approach to the Game of Thrones phenomena both changes and cements aspects that Martin created.”
For those of us who already graduated, Game of Thrones will return to HBO this summer, July 16, for its 7th season.