A new course at the University of British Columbia  will delve into George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire saga and the hit HBO television series that follows. 

"This is a chance for them to take what they've learned about how you read Dickens or Chaucer and apply it to something that is an undeniable modern phenomena," said Robert Rouse, UBC associate English professor and course instructor. 

The course, titled Our Modern Medieval: The Song of Ice and Fire as contemporary Medievalism, hit its 16-student capacity within the first three hours of registration opening. Fourth-year students will start the class in January.

'We're the real monsters'

Robert Rouse

Robert Rouse, UBC associate professor, will teach a new course based on the Game of Thrones books and TV series. (Charlie Cho/CBC)

"We're going to be putting Martin's work into conversation with all of the things Martin has read: medieval history, medieval literature, and try to get an insight into what Martin is doing and where his inspiration is coming from," said Rouse.

"Martin's work is technically fantasy, but it's very realistic fantasy. It's not full of Tolkien's orcs, for example," he said.

"The monsters in Martin's work are people. That's quite scary for us. That's one of the points of attraction, because it reminds us that we're the real monsters, not dragons or orcs."

'He's not a good literary writer'

The syllabus reads, "The course will involve the reading of the five books (thus far) of the series, and the watching of the five seasons of the HBO series. Please make sure you've read these BEFORE the course begins, as it will problematic to try to catch up if you have not done so."

Rouse said the requirement isn't just meant to weed out fickle TV fans; it's for pragmatic reasons. "You can't read those five books in 14 weeks. It's impossible."

Besides, Rouse admits he's not quite sure if he himself is a fan of the books.

"[Martin] is not a great writer. He's not a good literary writer, but he's a fantastic story teller," he said.


To hear the full interview with Robert Rouse, listen to the audio labelled: Winter is coming...to the UBC English Department.