2023-2024 Courses

Please find below a selection of courses of interest to graduate students in Medieval Studies that will be taught in  Spring 2024. Note that the list is incomplete.

Spring 2024


Prof. Thomas Dale, Art History 415/715; Medieval Studies 415: Death and the Afterlife in Medieval and Early Modern Art (MW 4:00-5:15 pm, Elvehjem Building, L140)

Dante’s Inferno, the Dance of Death and the macabre, the graves goods of the Sutton Hoo Burial Ship. resplendent golden reliquaries, the Book of Hours of Jean, Duc du Berry, the royal tombs of Westminster abbey, and the catacombs of Rome.  These are some of the subjects to be addressed in this advanced topic course, which considers how medieval and early modern European Christianity has used art to cope with death between the 3rd and 16th centuries.  We will explore how funerary art and images of the eschaton (“last things”) fostered the interdependence of the living and the dead as stimuli for memory and ongoing rituals, and projected essential Christian beliefs in resurrection and judgment at the end of time.

Professor Jennifer Pruitt, Art History 373/773: Great Cities of Islam (TR, 11:00-12:15)

Have you always wanted to visit the Taj Mahal? Are you intrigued by the annual pilgrimage of millions of Muslims to Mecca in Saudi Arabia? Do you wonder how ancient cities like Cairo or Istanbul preserve their history while operating as modern, global megacities? In this course, we will travel through space and time to explore the development of some of the world’s most fascinating cities – Mecca (Saudi Arabia), Cairo (Egypt), Istanbul (Turkey), and Delhi (India). Through images, texts, films, sounds, and even food, we will trace the development of architectural wonders and the urban fabric from the time of their foundation to the present day. Final projects allow students to write a comprehensive travel guide to a city of their choice

Professor Jennifer Pruitt, Art History 440/740: Art and Power in the Arab World (TR, 4:45-6:00)

This course considers the use of art and architecture as an expression of power in the Arab world, from the seventh century to the present. Beginning with the establishment of the caliphate and ending contemporary disputes in the use of sacred space in Jerusalem, we will investigate the shifting role of art and architecture in the quest for political dominance. With a particular focus on the arts of Cairo, Baghdad, Cordoba, Mecca, Jerusalem, Damascus, and the modern Arabian Gulf, we will explore competing visions of power and sources of legitimacy, through the lens of artistic production.

Themes include the role of cultural heritage in political disputes; visual rhetoric of the caliphate; contemporary debates over the nature of medieval Islamic art and culture; conflict over holy spaces; artistic exchange between Europe and the Middle East.

Incorporation of relevant current events in the Middle East will be a regular feature of class discussion.


Professor Martin Foys, English/Medieval Studies 520: Old English (TR, 9:30-10:45 am, B215 Van Vleck)

Old English is the earliest form of English – it is 1,000 years old and the language of Beowulf, and of saints and sinners and monsters. It is also fascinating — uncannily strange, yet at the same time the backbone of modern English, and can teach you an awful lot about the language we use every day. In the first half of the semester, the class is an intro-level  language course: we will cover basic pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary, while having  doing short translation exercises due in most class meetings and occasional quizzes. In the second half, we will put the skills you’ve learned to work, reading Old English texts and poems in the original — a rare opportunity. Because this is a principally a language class, no research papers will be required. Instead, there will be translation exercises, quizzes, a midterm exam and final translation projects. No previous experience required., though some familiarity with studying another language at any level can be helpful.


Professor Elizabeth Lapina, History 600: Women and Crusades (W, 1:20-3:15 pm)

In 1099, a motley army from Western Europe took the city of Jerusalem and massacred its population. This was the beginning of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, which lasted for two hundred years. In our seminar, we will approach this historical development from an unusual perspective, focusing on the role of women. Women actively participated in the crusades and in the life of the Kingdom of Jerusalem and other states established during the First Crusade and in its immediate aftermath. Women were, of course, also among the many victims of crusaders.

In the seminar, we will analyze the motivations of women who went on crusades as well as a wide variety of roles that women played while on crusades. However, we will spend the majority of the time discussing the women living in the Kingdom of Jerusalem and other states established during or in the aftermath of the First Crusade. These states, ruled by Latin (Western) Christians, were notable for the heterogeneity of their population, so we will attempt to uncover the experiences of Muslim, Jewish, Eastern Christian as well as Latin Christian women. Among other things, we will discuss queens of Jerusalem and other noble women and will attempt to understand the extent and the limitations of their power; we will study women as patrons, responsible for numerous architectural and artistic projects; we will discover patterns of religious beliefs and practices proper to women in this region; and we will study the variety of fates of women who became captives of war. The students will also watch (on their own) Ridley Scott’s film, “Kingdom of Heaven” about the Kingdom of Jerusalem and we will evaluate and discuss the film’s accuracy in its representation of medieval women. Students will be expected to undertake independent research and to submit a paper on any topic having to do with women and either crusades or the Kingdom of Jerusalem.

Professor Leonora Neville and Professor Sarah Thal, History 753: Seminar in Transnational History, Topic: Masculinity & War in the Pre-Modern World (R, 1:20-3:15 pm) 

This seminar will support students’ research into topics related to gender, warfare, and military honor in the premodern world, or ways that modern constructions of military masculinity draw on idealized pre-modern models. Discussion readings will focus on ancient/medieval Greco-Roman and premodern Japanese examples, but student research projects are not confined to these areas. We will discuss major literary texts in translation, such as Iliad and The Tales of the Heike, as well as scholarship on the changes in classical military honor and the transformation of the samurai. Individual student research projects will form the main focus of the seminar with an emphasis on group and individual feedback to help students sharpen their analysis and clarify their writing.