Fall 2020 courses

MDVL 506/HIST 506/CLSS 856  Human Migration in Antiquity    

Noel Lenski      M 3:30-6:00

This course will examine the processes of human migration in premodern societies with an emphasis on ancient Rome. It will explore voluntary and forced migrations, their motivations, processes and outcomes. Particular attention will be paid to sources and problems in the period of Late Antiquity, when human migration helped drive the collapse of the Roman Empire.
MDVL 585/HIST 535   Problems in Church History, 800-1500  

Paul Freedman W 9:25-11:15 

The course is intended to run chronologically from the Carolingian Empire and its form of imperial church governance through the ecclesiastical reform of the eleventh century, monastic orders and their proliferation in the twelfth century, the emergence of the paper monarchy and challenges to church authority from secular rulers and popular, sometimes heretical, movements.  It ends with the upheavals of the late Middle Ages, specifically the Great Schism of 1378-1417 and the failed conciliar movement of the fifteenth century.  Among the sources to be considered will be cathedral and monastic cartularies, archival documents, saints’ lives and other biographies of church figures and records indicating the position of the church in the secular world, including education, commerce, city planning and jurisdictional conflicts.
MDVL 596/HIST 596  Jewish History and Thought to E. Modern Times  

I. Marcus  T/TH 11:35-12:50

A broad introduction to the history of the Jews from biblical beginnings until the European Reformation and the Ottoman Empire. Focus on the formative period of classical rabbinic Judaism and on the symbiotic relationships among Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Jewish society and culture in its biblical, rabbinic, and medieval settings.
MDVL 603/HIST 603  Jews and Christians in the Formation Of Europe, 500-1500  

I. Marcus  T 1:30-3:20

This seminar explores how medieval Jews and Christians interacted as religious societies in 500-1500. 
MDVL 663/REL 945 From House Churches to Medieval Cathedrals  

V. Marinis  TH 9:30-11:20

This course examines art associated with, or related to Christianity from its origins to the end of the Gothic era.  Analyzing major artistic monuments and movements in a variety of regions, the course pays particular attention to how art shapes and is shaped by the social and historical circumstances of the period and culture. The course aims to familiarize the students with key monuments of Christian architecture, sculpture, painting, and related arts, examining each within its own particular socio-cultural perspective. The course stresses the importance of looking attentively at works of art and their contexts, and encourages students to develop skills of close observation and critical visual analysis.  Additionally, students will be encouraged to examine the ways developments in Christian theology, dogma, and liturgical practice interact with visual and material arts.  Regular readings from the text will be complemented by in-depth class lectures and discussions.
REL 955  The Cult of Saints in Early Christianity and the Middle Ages

Vasileios Marinis and Felicity Harley  Tu 1:30-3:20

For all its reputed (and professed) disdain of the corporeal and earthly, Christianity lavished considerable attention and wealth on the material dimension of sainthood and the “holy” during its formative periods in late antiquity and the Middle Ages. Already in the second century Christian communities accorded special status to a select few “friends of God,” primarily martyrs put to death during Roman persecutions. Subsequently the public and private veneration of saints and their earthly remains proliferated, intensified, and became an intrinsic aspect of Christian spirituality and life in both East and West until the Reformation. To do so, it had to gradually develop a theology to accommodate everything from fingers of saints to controversial and miracle-working images. This course investigates the theology, origins, and development of the cult of saints in early Christianity and the Middle Ages with special attention to its material manifestations. The class combines the examination of thematic issues, such as pilgrimage and the use and function of reliquaries (both portable and architectural), with a focus on such specific cases as the evolution of the cult of the Virgin Mary. Area V and Area III.

MDVL 665/ENGL 500/LING 500  Old English  

Emily Thornbury   M 1:30-3:20

The essentials of the language, prose readings, and close study of several celebrated Old English poems.
MDVL 680 /REL 680  Churches of the East: Syrian Orthodox and Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Churches    

Bryan Spinks       T/ TH 1:30-2:50

This course will give an introduction to the different Churches of the East. It will examine the Christological controversies that caused the divisions between the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Church of the East, using primary documents in English translation. It will then focus on the  liturgies of the Syrian Orthodox and Ethiopian Tewahedo Orthodox Churches, using primary liturgical texts, classical commentaries, and secondary sources from modern liturgical scholarship.
MDVL 712/REL 712 History of Early Christianity: Origins and Growth      

Gabrielle Thomas       MWF  9:30-10:20

This course introduces students to early Christianity from apostolic times through the eighth century. It examines the social, political, and religious context of early Christianity; its expansion and Imperial adoption; the character of its life, worship, and mission; the formation of the Christian scriptures; the articulation and defense of a central body of doctrine; church councils and creeds; the monastic movement; and early Christian art. In conversation with influential theologians of the period, we ask questions about ways in which early Christian identities are formed and explore how power is used and distributed in this process. Students are exposed to a range of primary sources and modes of historical study. This course serves as essential preparation for the study of Christian history and theology in later historical periods. Above all, it provides an opportunity to consider early Christianity on its own terms and to discover how it continues to shape the lives of Christian communities today. 
MDVL 736/REL 3612 Medieval Latin Workshop    

John Dillon    T/ TH: 9:30-10:50

This course is intended as a community-driven survey of medieval and/or ecclesiastical Latin for students at YDS and GSAS interested in improving their command and reading proficiency of Late Antique, Medieval, and Christian Latin (and Latin generally). The selection of texts is determined by the students enrolled, supplemented by the instructor: students are required to contact the instructor in advance and propose an appropriate Latin text—something relevant to their studies, dissertation subject, etc. Ideally, all students enrolled have at least two full sessions/one week dedicated to their author/text. Depending on enrollment, the instructor assigns passages of appropriate length (e.g., material for one or two sessions or more) from the students’ proposed texts. The students and instructor work through the texts together in a seminar format. The course thus is a Latin survey, but its contents are determined by the students and keyed to their needs.
Prerequisite: basic knowledge of Latin grammar and syntax, equivalent to LATN 110 and LATN 120.
Students who intend to take this course must contact the instructor before the first class session so that readings can accommodate all students.
MDVL 946/CPLT 658aU/ITAL 946a  Early Modern Ecologies: Representing Peasants, Animals, Land

Jane Tylus  TH 3:30-5:20                           

How did the surge in writings about the land in early modern Europe reflect new interest in engaging the boundaries between the human and non-human? And what does it show about the ethical responsibilities of poets and intellectuals to cultures and environments not their own?  Finally, how did writers and artists seek to legitimize their intellectual labors by having recourse to the language of agricultural work? The literature of peasants and shepherds has long dwelled on precisely these questions, even as much of that literature has chosen to make the countryside and its human and non-human denizens symbols of other things: leisure, song, patriotism, erotic sensibilities, parsimony.  Our course will take up these questions of representation and ethics, focusing on the origins of interest in the peasant in ancient literature, and then turning to the early modern period when pastoral novels, plays, paintings, and poems became the rage– a period not incidentally one that coincided with new world discoveries and new possibilities for ‘golden ages’ abroad.  

Along with a series of literary and artistic works from antiquity through the 17th century by Virgil, Shakespeare, Spenser, Milton, Tasso, Petrarch, and others, we will read a number of theoretical works by Gayatri Spivak, Ken Hiltner, John Berger and others on the imaginative constructions of the other and the ethics and emergence of new aesthetic and literary forms.  While our main focus is Italy and England, we will also be exploring texts from classical antiquity as well as some Spanish and French works, along with the visual depictions of the countryside in Northern European traditions.