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IP313 The Quest II: Exile and Homecoming

Module leader: Dr Bryan Brazeau
  • Optional module
  • 15 CATS
  • Term 2
  • 10 weeks

Moodle Platform

Important information

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

“The concept of country, homeland, dwelling place becomes simplified as ‘the environment’—that is, what surrounds us; we have already made a profound division between it and ourselves. We have given up the understanding…that we and our country create one another, depend on one another, are literally part of one another.”

This quotation from Wendell Berry’s 1977 The Unsettling of America prompts us to consider how we conceive of the relationship between ourselves and our home. How does our environment shape who we are and the stories we tell each other? Does exile or distance from home make the heart grow fonder?

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. 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 end of all quests: that of transitioning from the status of being in exile to one's homecoming (broadly conceived). What do we hope to gain at the end of a quest? How has our concept of "home" shifted alongside our concept of individuality and selfhood? How have those we left behind changed? If we continually change along the quest, can the concept of home and homeland offer any kind of epistemological certainty or emotional comfort?

The module explores this problem through case studies that focus on a key aspect of the quest from various fields. Each case study is framed through the lens of a particular "quest," with each path converging on the central problems of exile and homecoming in the modern world. 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.