2023-2024 Courses

Please find below a selection of courses eligible for the Undergraduate Certificate in Medieval Studies that will be taught in Spring 2024. Note that the list is incomplete, and there are many other courses that are eligible.
* indicates that the course is open to graduate and undergraduate students




Professor Thomas Dale, Art History 201: History of Western Art I: From Pyramids to Cathedrals (MWF, 11:00-12:15 pm, Elvehjem Building, Room L140)

This introductory survey of ancient and medieval art explores the arts and cultures of Europe and the Mediterranean basin before the Renaissance from ca. 3000 BCE to ca. 1400 CE.  It considers celebrated works of Western art and architecture ranging from  the pyramids at Giza in ancient Egypt to Giotto’s Arena Chapel in late medieval Italy. Art is defined broadly to encompass the material culture of everyday life, including jewelry, ceramics, and textiles. We will consider the social and historical contexts of art and artistic production – art and imperialism, race and ethnicity, technology, religious ritual and belief, and myth and storytelling, as well as the ways in which art addresses concrete human concerns: death and the afterlife, desire and the body, self-definition and portraiture, power and propaganda, monstrosity and the supernatural, the divine and the sacred.

*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 Jordan Zweck, English 241: Literature and Culture I: To the 18th Century (TR 11:00-11:50am, Humanities 2340)

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. This course also develops skills for writing clearly and critically that are essential to majors and non-majors alike.

Texts may include Beowulf; Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales; Paradise Lost; Oroonoko; and poetry by Shakespeare, Spenser, and Donne.

Professor Jordan Zweck, English/Medieval 423: Topic in Medieval Literature and Culture: Medieval Times & Temporalities (TR, 1:00-2:15 pm, Van Vleck B223)

When people in the past imagined the future, what did it look like? And how did people in the Middle Ages remember the past? In this class, we’ll read about ways the Middle Ages measured time (calendars, seasons, candles, etc.), and how they thought about their place in time, including history and the world to come. No experience with medieval languages or literature necessary!


Professor Elizabeth Lapina, History/Medieval/Religious Studies 309: The Crusades (MW, 8-9:15 am)

The crusades were a new type of war believed by participants and contemporaries to be not only just, but also holy. The rallying cry of the First Crusade was “God wills it!” In this class we will study political and military history of crusades, analyze the ideas that made crusades possible and discuss experiences of those involved in or affected by them, including men and women,Christians, Jews and Muslims.

*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 Lee Palmer Wandel, History 212/RS212: The History of Western Christianity to 1750 (TR 8-9:15, 1217 Humanities)

In its first eight hundred years, Christianity grew from a small persecuted sect in the Roman Empire to the dominant religion in western Europe.  The next millennium witnessed its deep penetration into the lives of Europeans, its fissuring into multiple Churches, and their spread across the globe. This course will explore Christianity as it was defined and redefined over its first 18 centuries.  It will explore the ways that Christians, over time, understood the life of Christ and his teachings—the ways in which his life was to serve as a model, the relationship between his preaching and formal doctrine.  It will explore the rituals Christians articulated over time, the architecture they designed as sites of worship, images, music, and performances.


Professor Nicholas Jacobson, History of Science 211: Imagining the Medieval World (M, 1:20-3:15 pm)

Conduct original historical research in the fields of history of science, medicine, or technology and convey the results to others. Become historical detectives through engagement with archival materials and disciplinary methodologies in the histories of science, medicine and technology; practice defining important historical questions, collecting and analyzing evidence, presenting original conclusions, and contributing to ongoing discussions.


Professor Salvatore Calomino, German/LitTrans 276: German Medieval Epic and Romance (TR, 9:30-10:45 am)

In this course students will have the opportunity to read and discuss significant narrative works from the German medieval period. Stories of heroes, knights, and courtly women were found in various medieval cultures with motifs being shared or typical of individual areas. German epics and romances from this time represent both important adaptations and original compositions. Narrative works of both types to be read will include classic Arthurian romances, Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival, Gottfried von Strassburg’s Tristan, and the Nibelungenlied. Students will write mid-semester and final examinations. Upon completion of the course participants will:

1. Have a strong background in significant genres of early literature.
2. Have developed an appreciation for the role of the court and patronage in the production of literary texts.
3. Have developed an understanding for borrowing and adaptations between medieval cultures.
4. Have developed an understanding for the unique feudal relationships within medieval societies and their representation in literary texts.

No knowledge of German required; open to all levels of registered students. Taught in English.


Professor Adam Stern, Jewish/African/Medieval/Relig Studies 462: Muslims and Jews (TR, 2:30-3:45 pm, Ingraham 224)

Explores the historical relationship between Muslims and Jews in a variety of contexts from the seventh century to the present. Surveys literary and cultural exchanges against the background of shifting political and social conditions across the Middle East, Europe, and the United States. Considers also the parallel legacies of anti-Semitism, Orientalism, and Islamophobia. Major themes include comparative religion, secularization, migration, and colonialism, as well as the politics of history and cultural memory. Introduces readings in English translation of medieval and modern texts originally written across languages, and especially in Hebrew and Arabic.


Professor Jelena Todorovic, Medieval Studies/LitTrans/Religious Studies 253: Of Demons and Angels: Dante’s Divine Comedy (TR, 1:20-2:10 + section)

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.


Professor Scott Mellor, Scand St/Folklore/LitTrans/Medieval 345: The Nordic Storyteller (TR, 1-2:15 pm)

Storytelling is as old as time. Yet folk narratives in the Nordic region, often originating in the medieval period, have frequently been scorned by the literary establishment. The fact that these narratives survived through centuries of oral transmission until they were recently recorded 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 in the nineteenth century, it inspired many first-rank Nordic authors like 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 origins of these folktales, its modern “imitations” and literature as well as gives an introduction to the critical methodologies that have recently been developed to deal with this seemingly simple, but in reality, highly sophisticated, narrative.

Professor Kirsten Wolf, Scand St/Medieval 409: Survey of Old Norse-Icelandic Literature (TR, 9:30-10:45, 487 Van Hise Hall)

Objectives: The course is intended to give students an overview of Old Norse-Icelandic literature from the earliest times until the Reformation in the mid-sixteenth century. The course is a continuation of 407 Old Norse I / 408 Old Norse II and requires familiarity with Old Norse-Icelandic grammar and a basic reading knowledge of Old Norse-Icelandic.

Content: The course seeks to familiarize students with the vast body of Old Norse-Icelandic literature through a chronological study of the major literary genres: eddic poetry, skaldic poetry, religious literature (homilies, saints’ lives, biblical translations), early historical writings (Íslendingabók, Landnámabók), kings’ sagas, contemporary sagas (bishops’ sagas and Sturlunga saga), the Sagas of Icelanders, mythical heroic sagas (fornaldarsögur), and romances (riddarasögur). Following a lecture introducing each genre, representative texts will be read, translated, and analyzed in class.

Learning outcomes: By the end of the course, students will have been introduced to the various genres of Old Norse-Icelandic literature. Through translation work, they will have solidified their knowledge of Old Icelandic grammar and expanded their lexicon.