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IP312 The Quest I: Departures and Heroic Journeys

Module leader: Dr Bryan Brazeau
  • Optional module
  • 15 CATS
  • Term 1
  • 10 weeks

Moodle Platform

Important information

This module will be running in the academic year 2022-23.

The idea of the "quest" was an animating principle throughout the premodern world. Through the quest an individual could fight evil, heal a broken social order, discover previously-unknown worlds, forge new alliances, and find their true selves along the way. Yet, how do we conceive of the quest in an age that Max Weber characterised as dominated by rationalisation, intellectualisation, and above all, a profound sense of "disenchantment" (Entzauberung)? What currency does the idea of the quest have in the modern, bureaucratic, secular world?

We'll explore the problem that lies at the outset of all quests: the departure from emotional comfort and epistemological certainty to face unknown realms of fear and enchantments (broadly conceived). Why do we leave? What do we hope to gain? How can we truly depart and break down what holds us back? The module explores this problem through case studies from various fields. Each case study is framed through the lens of a particular "quest," with each path converging on the central problems of departure, enchantment, and facing the unknown. As such, "the quest" lens functions as an intervention in multiple contemporary problems that resist easy solutions, and can only be approached from a transdisciplinary perspective, such as that of the "disenchantment of the modern world," and the many avenues we seek out in order to re-enchant it and construct meaning.

This module complements our other core and optional modules offered in Liberal Arts and encourages you to draw upon and extend prior knowledge. The purpose of the module is for you to explore the problems involved in how quests from various disciplines frame the concept of departure and facing the unknown. Through an exploration of these issues, you'll learn to think critically about problematising the straightforward narratives you receive through the idea of the quest in popular and contemporary culture. As the module focuses on the problem of engaging with the unknown, it's hoped that you'll also develop your own strategies for grappling with unfamiliar ideas and perspectives outside your comfort zone.

  Please note: Module availability and staffing may change year on year depending on availability and other operational factors. The School for Cross-faculty Studies makes no guarantee that any modules will be offered in a particular year, or that they will necessarily be taught by the staff listed on these pages.