Higgins, Iain



Phone number: (250) 721-7234
Email: englchr@uvic.ca
Department: English

Research description:

- Medieval English, Scottish and French literature
- Contemporary Canadian poetry
- Medieval travel writing
Expertise Profile
What's the difference between a medieval romance story and Star Wars?

Dr. Iain Higgins, professor in the Department of English and the Medieval Studies Program at the University of Victoria, claims there isn't one.

Yes, the knight now drives a spaceship instead of riding a horse, but he's still on a quest to do battle and save a princess.

Dr. Higgins studies later medieval English, Scottish, and French literature, travel writing, and poetry, both medieval and modern.

In his classes, he teaches students that connections like these are not merely coincidental. If the plot of a medieval romance is still around today, perhaps some of those assumptions about violence, heroism and gender are still in place in the 21st century too.

Dr. Higgins has a longstanding interest in a late 14th century travel book called The Book of John Mandeville, which was a medieval bestseller that shows how cultural assumptions help shape understanding. This fictive account of an English knight's memories of the East between Constantinople and the Earthly Paradise is based on genuine travel books and other reliable sources, including encyclopedias.

The book was so widely read that it influenced Christopher Columbus on his arrival in the Americas. To this day, the confusion we face with the term "Indian" can be traced back to the travel writing of the medieval period.

Dr. Higgins recently published a translation of The Book of John Mandeville accompanied not only by detailed annotation and commentary, but also by a selection of substantial excerpts from its various sources and variants. The author's changes to his sources and the changes made to his book show us how cultural understanding is shaped and reshaped over time.

By pursuing his own passion, he hopes to inspire students to do the same.

Dr. Higgins is both a poetry lover and a poetry writer - he published his first collection called Then Again in 2005 and is working on a second.

Related Links
Dr. Higgins' Faces of UVic Research video: http://youtu.be/iXjL90enZGk

Countries lived or worked in:

The U.S.A. and France

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