The Medieval Studies Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison offers an interdisciplinary environment for the exploration of the cultures of Europe and the Mediterranean basin during the Middle Ages, a period spanning Late Antiquity to roughly 1500. Representing faculty from over 18 departments, we offer courses and certificate programs at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. The Program also sponsors events and conferences on topics of interest both to the university and to the community at large.

Upcoming Events

Diversity and Medieval Studies. A workshop for graduate students and faculty.

Friday, February 11th, 12:00 pm. (Via Zoom).

Public Lecture. Prof. Hannah Barker (Arizona State University) “Health Fraud in the Medieval Genoese Slave Market.”

Thursday, February 17th at 5:00 pm. (Via Zoom).

Genoa during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries was the site of an active market in enslaved people, mainly Tatar, Russian, and Circassian women exported from the Black Sea. Buyers who participated in this market worried that, in their ignorance of medical matters, they might be tricked into purchasing women with serious illnesses like leprosy or falling sickness. In the Islamicate world, physicians such as Ibn Buṭlān in eleventh-century Baghdad wrote handbooks to educate prospective buyers about the most common strategems used to make enslaved people who were sick seem healthy. No such genre existed in medieval Genoa. In my talk, I will discuss how Genoese buyers and sellers handled the risk of medical fraud, and how the decisions that they made affected the lives of enslaved people offered for sale

Workshop. Prof. Hannah Barker (Arizona State University), introduced by Prof. Samuel England (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Friday, February 18th at 12:00 pm. (Via Zoom).
Public Lecture and Workshop sponsored by the University Lectures Fund and the History Department.

Public Lecture. Prof. Brendan Goldman (University of Washington) ” “That the Pilgrims May Be Spared Prison”: Extortionate Taxation and the Politics of Pilgrimage in Islamic Jerusalem (970-1071).”

Thursday, February 24th at 5:00 pm. (Via Zoom).

Jerusalem before the First Crusade embodied a series of incongruities: It was an economic backwater on the periphery of Islamic Palestine’s political administration. But it was also a center of pilgrimage. It was a symbol of Muslim supremacy. But it was also a site of shared Judeo-Christian-Islamic religious spaces and mythologies. When Muslim rulers persecuted non-Muslims (dhimmīs) in Jerusalem—especially in the context of extortionate taxation—their actions often evoked responses from Jewish and Christian communities far from the holy city. This talk examines several Cairo Geniza letters from the eleventh century that illuminate how Fatimid Muslim administrators used the sanctity of Jerusalem and its pilgrimage economy to extract revenue from the city’s few permanent Jewish residents. It asks: How do these documents shed light on minority-state relations in Islamic Jerusalem on the eve of the First Crusade? What might they tell us about the political economy of pilgrimage in medieval Palestine?

Public Lecture sponsored by the Anonymous Fund, Medieval Studies Program, History Department, Art History Department, Institute for Research in Humanities, Middle East Studies Program, and Center for Religion and Global Citizenry.

Ninth Annual Medieval Studies Colloquium “False Dichotomy: Sacred and Secular in the Middle Ages.”

 April 7th-9th (In-person, Science Hall).

Program of Events.

Public Lecture. Prof. Suzanne Yeager (Fordham University),  introduced by Prof. Jordan Zweck (University of Wisconsin – Madison) “Pilgrim Toil: Emotional and Physical Labor and Claims to Sanctity.”

Thursday, March 24th from 1:00-2:30. (Via Zoom).

Past studies of pilgrim journeys take note of the extensive effort needed to journey to a shrine.  Some scholars measure it by expense (a year’s salary), others calculate the time invested, or distance traveled.  All scholars tend to agree that medieval pilgrimage must have been arduous without the modern amenities we enjoy in the present day.  But I would suggest that the position of pilgrim as laborer is much more complex than this, particularly as many travelers allude, in often surprising ways, to their roles in expending physical and emotional toil.  This talk will explore pilgrim work in the accounts of Egeria, Mandeville, Saewulf, Judah Halevi, and others.  These physical and emotional investments, it can be argued, increase the value of pilgrimage, especially when attached to premodern Christian travel to Jerusalem.

Workshop. Prof. Suzanne Yeager (Fordham University), introduced by Prof. Lisa Cooper (University of Wisconsin – Madison) “Medieval Pasts and Successor Narratives: Imagining Jewish Identity in Premodern England.”

Friday, March 25th from 12:00-1:00. (Via Zoom).

Modern scholarly thinking around adaptation shows that successor versions of a text must carry a “core value” of the original or ancestor source.  This workshop explores the core values that premodern Christian authors identified as essential to their portrayals of Jewish identity.  Fourteenth-century Middle English texts such as The Siege of Jerusalem and The Travels of Sir John Mandeville show a range of approaches to Judaism, ranging from reviling the religion to cherishing it.  We’ll explore the contested space of these views and also consider how theories of succession are expressed in other contexts, such as medieval claims to land, sanctity, and resources.

Public Lecture and Workshop sponsored by the Anonymous Fund, Medieval Studies Program, History Department, Art History Department, Institute for Research in Humanities, Middle East Studies Program, and Center for Religion and Global Citizenry.

Public Lecture. Prof. Dilshat Harman (Center for Visual Studies of the Medieval and Early
Modern Culture, Russian State University for the Humanities in Moscow), “Imagining
Jerusalem in Late Medieval Nuremberg: Adam Kraft and Albrecht Durer.”

Friday, April 1st, 12:00 pm. (via Zoom).

The lecture will deal with Jerusalem in late medieval imagination, focusing on the reconstruction of Jerusalem in Nuremberg. Recent research shows that imagining Jerusalem played a crucial part in many late medieval devotional practices – virtual pilgrimages to Jerusalem, reconstructions of its topography and sacred places in European cities, visualizations of one’s own city as
Jerusalem. In her lecture Dr. Harman would explore how the overlapping of Nuremberg and Jerusalem cityscapes was activated by the imagination of the citizens participating in the walking the Nuremberg Way of Cross and what artistical devices Nuremberg artists Adam Craft (c.1460- 1509) and Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) used to make these spaces overlap even more for the viewers of their reliefs and prints.

Public Lecture sponsored by the Anonymous Fund, Medieval Studies Program, History Department, Art History Department, Institute for Research in Humanities, Middle East Studies Program, and Center for Religion and Global Citizenry.

Ninth Annual Medieval Colloquium: “False Dichtomy: Sacred & Secular in the Middle Ages.”

April 7th-9th. (in-person, Science Hall).

Program of events.

Public Lecture. Prof. Michael Lower (University of Minnesota) “The Age of Diplomacy: Franks and Ayyubids in Western Asia, 1229-1244.”

Thursday, April 7th at 5:00 pm. (in-person, Science Hall Room 180).

Christians and Muslims often fought over Jerusalem in the Middle Ages. In the 1230s, though, Christian Franks and Muslim Ayyubids effectively shared the city. In this talk, Michael Lower explores how a prolonged bout of peace-making broke out in an age of crusade and jihad.

Workshop. Prof. Michael Lower (University of Minnesota) “Mercenaries, States, and Organized Violence: Europe and North Africa.” 

Friday, April 8th at 12:00 pm. (in-person, Science Hall Room 450).

Medieval European mercenaries are often seen as impediments to state formation because European monarchies found them expensive and difficult to control. By taking a broader comparative approach to their deployment that encompasses North Africa, I show that these soldiers could serve as effective agents of state power. Abandoning the mercenaries is sometimes represented as a positive break with the medieval past that accelerated European progress into the modern political order of states and standing armies. From a comparative point of view, however, this transition looks more like a gradual retreat from a system for organizing violence that continued to function well in other parts of the world.

Public Lecture and Workshop sponsored by the Anonymous Fund, Medieval Studies Program, History Department, Art History Department, Institute for Research in Humanities, Middle East Studies Program, and Center for Religion and Global Citizenry.

Public Lecture. Prof. Lisa Mahoney (DePaul University) “The Lost Royal Tombs of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem.”

Thursday, April 21st, at 5:00 pm (in-person, Helen C. White #4281).

Workshop. Prof. Lisa Mahoney (DePaul University) “Frankish Church Façades and the Art of Diplomacy.”

Friday, April 22nd, at 12:00 pm (in-person, Nutri Science #290).
Public Lecture and Workshop sponsored by the Anonymous Fund, Medieval Studies Program, History Department, Art History Department, Institute for Research in Humanities, Middle East Studies Program, and Center for Religion and Global Citizenry.

“Dante after Dante” International Symposium

April 29th – April 3oth

The Department of French and Italian at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is very happy to share with you the program of our International Symposium Dante after Dante, a multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary, and multimedia conference on April 29-30, 2022. Papers will be delivered online, and are free and open to the public. Please register here. Film screenings will be taking place at the UW Cinematheque. Dante performances will be available both on UW-Madison campus and online. For more information, please consult the program.

Beyond paper sessions on Dante in/and filmmaking, economy, visual arts, the conference will focus on Dante and the issue of race the US, as well as on Dante reception in world literature. This event will pair in a unique way these more traditional modes of academic inquiry with dance performances in collaboration with Li Chiao-Ping Dance (with a choreography inspired by Dante’s Inferno), and with a series of film screenings at the UW Cinematheque.