On The Road Again DIS 2008

On the Road Again:
El Camino de Santiago de Compostela, then and now
Burgos, León, and Santiago, Spain

Jim Hala, Professor of English
Monica Cantero, Associate Professor of Spanish

The medieval pilgrimage route from France to Santiago near the Atlantic coast of Spain was a key element in the formation of European cultural identity, and was simultaneously a profoundly personal experience for the pilgrims who walked it. It thus created not only a revolution in the arts, in commerce, religion and political structures; it also helped to re-define the individual's relation to their cultures. Today, El Camino de Santiago has grown popular again, as people from all over the word re-trace the route taken in the Middle Ages. In doing so, the modern pilgrim re-aligns her or his relation to the past and present, and to the international community of fellow pilgrims. Through this Drew International Seminar, we will study the idea of pilgrimage, both in the Middle Ages and now. We will study El Camino itself, and then, we will walk segments of the route, thus immersing ourselves in the historical reality of the pilgrimage.

Pre-departure course, Spring 2008
Engl 40/Span 117/Special Topics
We will begin with our own experiences of pilgrimage while at the same time reading what others have written about their experiences of personal pilgrimages. In the second phase of the course, we will examine more public forms of pilgrimage, reading Bobby Ann Mason's In Country, and making our own pilgrimage to the World Trade Center site in New York. We will also visit The Cloisters' branch of the MET to examine artifacts from the medieval pilgrimage road. We will then look at pilgrimage in the two Abrahamic faiths not connected to Santiago, Islam and Judaism, reading the 14th c Journey of Ibn Battuta and the 'ascent psalms' of the Hebrew Ketuvim. We examine samples from Christian medieval texts connected to pilgrimage (Chaucer, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, The Book of Margery Kemp). Our last text for the course will be Mary Rose O'Reilly's The Barn at the End of the World, the account of a very contemporary woman's pilgrimage(s). In the final week, students will do a project/presentation on their expectations for the on-site component in any form/manner they wish (video, Power Point, music, acting...), along with a written statement of the purpose and the goal for the presentation.

On-site seminar, May 2008
Our focus will be on the cultural, historical context of the El Camino de Santiago, with special attention to León, Burgos, and Santiago, cities which exemplify the mixture of contemporary and historical narrative, literature, and art that have always been a feature of the Camino. In each city, specific spaces, both public and private, are illustrative of the ideals encompassed by the spiritual, emotional, and physical effort of the pilgrimage — journey as metaphor, journey as identity-building, life as journey, life as metaphor. In order to better understand this notion of pilgrimage, we will also walk several key stretches of the road starting in the South of France, staying in the same monasteries, inns, and shelters that the medieval pilgrims stayed in. Walking will be done during the morning, about 9 miles per day. We will also have lunch and cultural activities en route that will relate to the places, towns, or villages that we are visiting as modern pilgrims. Also, we will invite speakers from pilgrim associations and Universities to give us lectures on the sites we are exploring and their relevance to El Camino de Santiago. We will also schedule free time afternoons, so that students can conduct research, conversations with other pilgrims or enjoy their own personal time and space in this experience.

Re-entry Activities, Fall 2008
Pre-departure projects will be revised in light of our experience on the Camino. We will gather for a Spanish-themed pot-luck and presentation/discussion of the final projects to the group. The projects will be publicized and made available to Drew student groups and faculty members who teach relevant courses.

Special considerations
All participants are required to possess a valid passport and purchase an International Student Identity Card which provides internationally valid medical, emergency evacuation and repatriation insurance. Students with other than US citizenship should consult the Spanish Consulate for any additional entry requirements. Vaccination and other health-related recommendations from the CDC will be distributed during pre-departure as appropriate. Vegetarians can be accommodated but students with severely restricted diets or other special medical needs are urged to speak to the faculty leaders. We will spend considerable time on the road. Advice on appropriate shoes, packs, and items to bring on the trip will be provided.