2022-2023 Courses

Please find below a selection of courses eligible for the Undergraduate Certificate in Medieval Studies that will be taught in Fall 2022. Note that the list is incomplete, and there are many other courses that are eligible.
Fall 2022
  • Prof. Scott Mellor, “World of the Sagas”  (LitTrans / Medieval 235): The World of the Sagas will give students an introduction to medieval Scandinavia and “the Vikings” and give you an understanding of medieval Scandinavian studies as a field as it relates to narrative. The course begins by looking at modern images of the Viking age in movies, television, and gamings and then approaches medieval Scandinavia along historical lines with texts from medieval sources, including the legendary history of early Scandinavia, the consolidation of the Scandinavian kingdoms, the Viking expansion, and finally the conversion of Scandinavia to Christianity which marked the end to the Viking adventure. As we learn about medieval Scandinavia we gain a greater understanding of ourselves and the human condition.
  • Prof. Scott Mellor, “Nordic Mythology” (Scandinavian / Folklore / Medieval / Religious Studies / Literature in Translation 342): The course will give students an introduction to Medieval Nordic Mythology and put it in a European context. The course will use the Kalevala, the mythological and heroic poetry of the Edda and a few of the Icelandic legendary sagas, as well as a few early Christian texts; a look at the material culture that help us understand this volatile time.
  • Prof. Lisa Cooper, “Medieval Romance” (English 425): Knights, tournaments, adventures; damsels in distress; star-crossed lovers; talking animals; forests, wastelands, tempestuous seas; magical potions; elaborate feasts and even more elaborate clothing; King Arthur, Lancelot, Gawain, Guinevere, and, of course, Merlin and a curious object called the Grail. All this and so much more come together in the genre known as romance, one of the major literary forms of the Middle Ages. This course will read across the “bestseller” stories of the era, from the late twelfth century in France to the end of the fifteenth century in England. No previous knowledge of medieval literature or culture required.
  • Prof. Kirsten Wolf, “Introduction to Old Norse” (Scandinavian Studies / Medieval 407): The course has a linguistic purpose and is designed to give students a reading knowledge of Old Norse through the study of Old Icelandic grammar and selections of Old Norse-Icelandic texts.
  • Prof. Thomas Dale, “Religion and Art” (Art History 115): Why do Catholics and Buddhists venerate sculpted images by burning incense or lighting candles as they direct their prayers to the divinity, and yet other religious groups including Muslims and Protestant Christian condemn or destroy figural images as idolatrous? Why do so many religious traditions build commemorative monuments for the dead ranging from the pyramids in Egypt to Indian burial mounds on our own campus? And what makes a particular place such as the Temple Mount in Jerusalem both sacred and contested space among different religions? These are some of the questions we explore in an introductory course focused on material aspects of religion around the world, from antiquity to the present. A fundamental premise is that all religions, even if they deny the use of figural images of the deity, mediate sacred and divine presence through material means, aimed to stimulate the human senses.
  • Prof. Thomas Dale, “Monsters in Medieval Art and Culture” (Art History 515-815): Dragons, unicorns, dog-heads, werewolves, hell-mouths, and one-eyed giants are among the many monsters which populate the medieval and neo-medieval imagination.  They evoke simultaneously wonder, delight, horror and fear with their manifold hybrid combinations of species and bodily distortions. This seminar explores the origins and distinctive meanings and functions of monsters in medieval art and culture.  It is premised on the concept of the monster as product of the imagination that elicits thought about the human condition and the blurred boundaries between the animal and the human, a necessary corollary to humanity.  The term “monster” derives from the Latin word ‘monstrare”—to show or demonstrate—and since the early Middle Ages, monsters have been understood in European culture as manifesting through outward bodily form spiritual deformity or sin, supernatural or diabolical beings, the foreign or the other, and the unknown.  We will be looking at the intersection of natural history writing and images, religion and theology, politics, and race.  Visual images are the primary focus, but we will also explore important literary texts and historical sources, and we will read broadly across the disciplines of Medieval Studies.  We will look at beasts and monsters in illuminated bestiaries, at caricature and physiognomic deformity, at monsters in monastic cloisters, at monsters, gender and sexuality, at the Plinian “monstrous races” and Wonders of the east, at monsters on maps, at the extension of monsters to the New World in the Age of Exploration, at “grotesques” and artistic invention, and finally at the revival of monsters in Neo-medieval imagination of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, ranging from the gargoyles of Notre-Dame to the orcs of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.  Evaluation will be based on regular participation in class discussion, an annotated bibliography, two oral presentations on a research paper, and a final research paper.
  • Prof. Karl Shoemaker, “Medieval Law and Society” (History 476).
  • Prof. Jelena Todorovic, “Il Duecento (Italian 13th-century poetry)” (Italian 671).
  • Prof. Jelena Todorovic, “Black Death and Medieval Life Through Boccaccio’s Decameron” (LitTrans/Medieval 255).
  • Prof. Salvatore Calomino, “Readings in Middle High German” (German/Medieval 755). The course will be taught in English.
  • Prof. Jennifer Pruitt, “History of Islamic Art and Architecture” (Art History 305).
  • Prof. Jennifer Pruitt, “Art and Power in the Arab World” (Art History 440).

Spring 2023

For a video about many of these spring courses, see this video.

  • Prof. Lisa Cooper, “Medieval Drama” (English 424): This course will introduce students to the dramatic traditions of medieval England, from the church rituals of the tenth century to the flowering (and eventual decline) of the elaborate guild-produced mystery cycles and traveling troupe morality plays of the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries. In addition to focusing closely upon the textual traces of what were once vibrant live events, we will also consider the geographical, socio-political, and of course spiritual contexts of medieval performance. To that end, we will supplement our reading of the plays themselves with discussions of maps, city records, urban chronicles, and excerpts from spiritual texts of the period; we will also take account of the many and highly divergent approaches to the plays in both past and current scholarship. Issues we will consider include the nature and function of urban space and public spectacle; the nexus of relations binding (as well as those dividing) crown, church, and guild; the relationship of performing and observing bodies to the sacramental body of Christ; and, more generally, both the significance of work and the place of play in late medieval culture (Monday and Wednesday 2:30-3:45).
  • Prof. Leonora Neville, “Religion and Politics in the long Roman Empire” (History 500): In ‘Religion & Politics in the Long Roman Empire’ we will read original sources and scholarship to examine the intertwining of statecraft and religion in the Roman empire from the ancient Republic through the conquest of the eastern empire in the 13th century, asking whether and how the change from polytheism to Christianity affected Roman civic religion and how connections with Roman civic religion influenced the development of eastern Christianity. Undergraduate and Graduate students are welcome and will be challenged at their appropriate level. (Wednesdays 1:20-3:15).
  • Prof. Martin Foys, “Really Old English” (English 520): Old English is the earliest form of English; it is also fascinating — exotic, yet at the same time the backbone of the language we use today. In the first half of the class, we will cover basic pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary, while doing short translation exercises. In the second half of the semester, we will put the skills you’ve learned to work, working on reading Old English texts and poems in the original — a rare opportunity. Because this is a language class, no papers will be required. Instead, there will be translation exercises, quizzes, a midterm exam and a final translation projects.
  • Prof. Jelena Todorovic, “Of Demons and Angels. Dante’s Divine Comedy in Translation” (LitTrans/Religious/Medieval253): Have you ever wondered about human nature? What is our place in this world? Through readings, videos, and original images, explore and discuss Dante’s answers from one of the greatest world literary classics, his Divine Comedy. From Hell, through Purgatory to Paradise, we will travel together with Dante in a universal tale of the journey of the human soul. Along the way, learn about Dante, his life and his works, development of literary history, historical and socio-political context of medieval Europe, the Mediterranean and the Middle East. Make connections that cross today’s geographic and cultural lines in an exploration of literary topics, the history of ideas, and shared history, pondering universal concepts and patterns in the development of civilization that can still be observed today (Tuesdays and Thursdays, 11:00-12:15 pm).
  • Prof. Samuel England, “Introduction to the Middle East” (International Studies 266). To be confirmed.
  • Prof. Jordan Zweck, “Literature and Culture I” (ENG 241): What is a person, a home, a nation, a world? What we now call “English literature” begins with these questions, imagining a cosmos filled with gods and heroes, liars and thieves, angels and demons, dragons and dungeons, whores and witches, drunken stupor and religious ecstasy. Authors crafted answers to these questions using technologies of writing from parchment to the printing press, and genres old and new, from epic and romance to drama and the sonnet. This course develops skills of critical reading and writing that are essential to majors and non-majors alike. This course provides an introduction to literature in English from the Middle Ages to the early eighteenth century. Together with English 242, it provides an introduction to British literary history, and its primary goals include familiarizing students with the canon of English literature and preparing students for more specialized study in advanced courses in the major. The course spans roughly 1000 years, from the origins of English literature to the rise of the novel. Along the way, we will examine how literature engaged with topics as disparate as love, religion, and science, and we will read everything from elegant descriptions of angelic beings to six-hundred-year-old fart jokes. To focus our discussions, we will concentrate on questions of form and genre, including the epic, fabliau, romance, sonnet, lyric, and novel. Emphasis will be on close reading and literary analysis, but we will also pay close attention to the social, cultural, and political contexts from which each text emerged.
  • Prof. Jennifer Pruitt, “Great Cities of Islam” (Art History 373): This course offers a comparative study of the foundation and development of five great cities in the history of Islam: Cairo (Egypt), Istanbul (Turkey), Delhi (India), Mecca (Saudi Arabia), and Isfahan (Iran).    Architectural wonders, changes to the urban plan, population, and city challenges are studied from aesthetic and cultural perspectives. Integrating historical and religious studies, this course highlights the shifting nature of Islamic culture from the tenth century CE to the present (Monday, Wednesday, Friday 11:00-11:50am).
  • Prof. Thomas Dale, “Icons, Religion, and Empire: Early Christian and Byzantine Art, c. 200-1453” (Art History 310): Why did early Christians consider art necessary, if potentially dangerous? How did they adapt and compete with Roman and Jewish traditions? How were the visual propaganda and monumental architecture of the Roman Empire transformed during a millennium of Byzantine (East Roman) rule? These are key questions addressed as we explore the role of architecture and images in religion and imperial politics of the Mediterranean basin between the 3rd and 15th centuries. Other broader topics include the cult of the saints; theories and functions of icons and iconoclasm in Orthodox Christianity; text and image in illuminated manuscripts; multi-sensory aspects of sacred space and ritual; & Byzantium’s role in global cultural exchange, and the visualization of race. Requirements: For Undergraduates, the final grade will be based on participation (10%), a midterm (25%), a final exam (25%) and two short written assignments, including a rough draft for the first assignment (40%). Those students who are interested in substituting a single, longer research paper for the two shorter assignments should consult the instructor at the beginning of the semester Graduate Students will be evaluated on the basis of participation (25%); the midterm exam (25%); and a research paper on a topic chosen in consultation with the professor, 25 pages, double-spaced at font 12 (50%) (Monday and Wednesday, 4:00-5:15 pm).
  • Prof. Thomas Dale, “Topics in Medieval Art : Venice and the Arts of Empire and Cultural Encounter” (Art History 415): Enduring for almost an entire millennium, Venice, a city of small islands and canals settled beginning in the fifth century at the head the Adriatic Sea, forged a vast empire in the Eastern Mediterranean through trade, colonization, and conquest. A city like no other in Italy, Venice reveals in its architecture and monumental arts, as well as luxury objects in glass, textiles, and metalwork, a complex engagement with the Byzantine Empire, the Islamic states of the Mediterranean, and the Mongol Empire. The course traces the history of Venice from late antiquity to the fall of the Republic to Napoleon in the late eighteenth century through the city’s art, architecture, and urbanism, placing particular emphasis on its myth-making engagement of history, its cultural encounter with the cultures of the Eastern Mediterranean, and its attitudes towards race. It also emphasizes the role of visual images and architecture in forging the religious and secular narratives of the city as the “Most Serene Republic”. Principal objects of study include the basilica of San Marco, its mosaic and sculptural decoration and treasury objects; the sculpture and painted narratives of the Doge’s Palace’; the new devotional art of Giovanni Bellini, Titian, and Tintoretto; Palladio’s reinvention of Roman architecture; Tiepolo’s grand ceiling paintings of the four continents in the post Columbian age; and the Rococo culture of Carnival in the city’s final century. Requirements: Undergraduates will be evaluated on the basis of class participation including leading discussion of readings (30%), a midterm (30%), an annotated bibliography (10%) and a research paper (30%). Graduate students will be evaluated on the basis of class participation including leading discussion of readings (30%), an annotated bibliography (10%), a brief oral presentation on their research (10%), and a longer research paper (50%) (Monday, Wednesday, Friday, 9:55-10:45 am).
  • Prof. Scott Mellor, “Nordic Storyteller” (Medieval/Folklore/LitTrans/ScanSt 345): Ballads and tales, many of which originate in the medieval past, have often been scorned by the literary establishment. However, the fact that they survived through centuries of oral transmission until they were finally recorded in the fairly recent past testifies to their lasting existential appeal. The stories these texts tell are dashingly entertaining and often deeply disturbing: they may offer a profoundly fatalistic view of existence, but they may also voice an angry and, at the same time, humorous protest against oppression. When this narrative type was discovered by scholars and the societal elite about 1800, it inspired many first-rank Nordic authors, e.g., Hans Christian Andersen, Henrik Ibsen, Selma Lagerlöf; and in the 20th century it has cast its spell over Isak Dinesen, Villy Sørensen, and Pär Lagerkvist and its influence has moved from literary to other media today. The course examines both the original literature and its modern “imitations” as well as gives an introduction to the critical methodologies that have recently been developed (Tuesday/Thursday 1:00-2:15 pm).