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Spring 2023 Medieval Studies Courses

Medieval Studies Course List

Spring 2023

MDVL 560 Master’s Project        Mimi Yiengpruksawan         HTBA

Directed reading and research on a topic approved by the DGS and advised by a faculty member (by arrangement) with expertise or specialized competence in the chosen field. Readings and research are done in preparation for the optional master’s project.

MDVL 585/HIST 535 Problems in Church History, 800-1500       Paul Freedman       T 1:30-3:20pm

The course runs 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 papal 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 are 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 590/HIST 590/RLST 777/JDST 764 Jews in Muslim Lands from the Seventh through the Sixteenth Century  

Ivan Marcus, TTh 11:35-12:50pm

Introduction to Jewish culture and society in Muslim lands from the Prophet Muhammad to Suleiman the Magnificent. Topics include Islam and Judaism; Jerusalem as a holy site; rabbinic leadership and literature in Baghdad; Jewish courtiers, poets, and philosophers in Muslim Spain; and the Jews in the Ottoman Empire.

MDVL 595/HSAR 585/EMST 745/Art and Race in Medieval Europe        

Jacqueline Jung       M 1:30-3:20

This course explores the ever-present yet shifting and malleable constructions of race that circulated through visual media in medieval Christian Europe. This field of inquiry has been richly cultivated in recent years by scholars of literature, but the distinctive power of visual and material images in shaping conceptions of human difference calls for deeper interventions from the art historical side, interventions that move beyond the strictly iconographical. Centering on the non-textual arts of sculpture, stained glass, textiles, and manuscript illuminations, and attentive to the varied audiences at which they were aimed, this seminar seeks to enhance and enrich our understanding of medieval race-thinking while reflecting on the distinctive contributions art history can make to urgent contemporary questions. Topics include: the representational and symbolic values of color and other bodily features; the racialization of religious identities in European towns; geographical distance as difference; the question of art as evidence for real social interactions; and animals and the definition of the human.

MDVL 603/HIST 603/JDST 806/RLST 616 Jews and Christians in the Formation of Europe, 500-1500

Ivan Marcus, T 1:30-3:20pm

This seminar explores how medieval Jews and Christians interacted as religious societies between 500 and 1500.

MDVL 621/CLSS 624/ENGL 521/HIST 532/EMST 621 Advanced Manuscript Studies    Raymond Clemens   M 1:30-3:20pm

This course builds on the foundation provided by MDVL 620 by focusing on both regional Latin hands and the vernacular hands that grew from the Latin tradition. The backbone of the course is Middle English paleography (no prior experience needed), but the course surveys French, Italian, Hebrew, and German hands as well.

Prerequisite: MDVL 620 or MDVL 571 or equivalent study of Latin paleography strongly suggested.

MDVL 623/ENGL 526 History and Theory of the Lyric, Medieval and Modern

Ardis Butterfield & Langdon Hammer, T 1:30-3:20pm

Comparative study of lyric poetry in the medieval and modern periods, in French and English, with equal emphasis on theory and practice, in order to explore basic questions in poetics: Is it possible to define lyric poetry across periods? What is lost and gained by doing so? What can contemporary debates in poetics teach us about medieval literature? What can medieval literature contribute to contemporary poetics? Topics include poetry and music, the idea of voice, the relation between lyric and dramatic monologue, and the imaginative possibilities and technical demands of archival research. Theoretical readings focus on the debate between genre theory and historicism in recent criticism, with reference also to sound studies and new formalism. Readings in medieval poetry include troubadour and trouvère poetry, and a selection of anonymous English, French, and Latin songs and graffiti; readings in modern poetry focus on Ezra Pound, Wallace Stevens, and Susan Howe. All medieval texts are available in translation.

MDVL 664/REL 713 History of Medieval Christianity: Learning, Faith, and Conflict

Volker Leppin, MWF 9:30-10:20am

The Middle Ages have been defined by European culture as the period between 500 CE and 1500 CE. It is a period that witnesses the transformation of European Christianity into a Latin-speaking religious community under the Pope. It became increasingly separate from the developments in the Near East and Asia. All too long this epoch has served in legitimating discourses of confessions, nations and ethnic groups, such as in the nationalistic construction of the Germanic tribes. The course aims to draw a new image of these thousand years in terms of time, geography, ethnicity, gender, and culture. Medieval Christianity offers multiple possibilities for understanding both the perils and development of Christianity in an age of rapid change. On the one hand, the course examines processes of establishing power by exclusion, mainly of Jewish and Muslim believers, and of building strong hierarchies almost exclusively male. On the other hand, we find fascinating debates within Scholasticism about how to combine philosophical reason with Christian faith. Further, we explore the evolving of deep, inner spiritual practices among mystics, with special regard to female nuns, who were prolific writers. From this perspective we see how medieval Christianity is part of what we now experience as global Christianity, making a distinctive contribution to the emergence of a widely shared faith.

MDVL 677/REL 777 Preaching in the Middle Ages: Authority, Virtue, and Persuasion

Volker Leppin & Adam Eitel, W 1:30-3:20pm

At every stage of the history of Christianity, the Word of God was preached, and in the Middle Ages there even arose a separate order called the “Order of Preachers,” better known as the Dominicans. The course examines theories of preaching and its practice. Beginning with late antiquity, it asks what significance was attached to preaching and how—due to the theology of ministry, usually men, but in individual cases also women—efforts were made to preach in a way that was understandable and instructive, edifying and pastoral.

Prerequisite: One of REL 712, REL 713, REL 714, or REL 715 and a course in theology, or sufficient background from previous studies and permission of the instructors.

MDVL 752/REL 743 Staging Mysteries: the Legacy of Medieval Biblical Drama, Past and Present

Carla Neuss, T 3:30-5:20pm

While The Phantom of the Opera holds the honor of the longest running production on Broadway at 34 years, medieval mystery cycles trump it in their annual performances from roughly the 11th to 16th century throughout Western Europe. This course traces the development and history of the medieval mystery cycle tradition, in which the biblical narrative was staged for the purpose of the “augmentation of the Catholic faith” in order to lead “common people to devotion and sound doctrine” (Chester Cycle Banns). We analyze key episodes from a variety of surviving mystery cycle manuscripts, exploring the devotional and doctrinal purposes of these play as well as their civic, social, and, at times, subversively political valences. The second half of the course traces the legacy and afterlives of mystery cycle tradition in modern performance. We look at a range of adaptations of mystery cycles as well as modern drama that reinvents the mystery play genre for secular purposes, from the Soviet era “Mystery Bouffe” (1918) to Kanye West’s operas “Mary” and “Nebuchadnezzar” (2019). Through primary and secondary texts, this course explores the following questions: how did theatre emerge from liturgy and Christian ritual? How did medieval theatre embody an encounter with the divine for its audiences? What were the effects and affects that resulted from these religious performances? And how and why does the mystery cycle continue to be reinvented by new theatre practitioners for new audiences around the world?

MDVL 975/EALL 753/RLST 955/EMST 960 Proseminar for Jobseekers in Premodern Fields   

Lucas Bender, W 1:30-3:20pm – check YCS

This course is intended for doctoral students studying premodern cultures, who have advanced to candidacy and plan to seek employment within the academy, broadly construed. Over the course of the semester, students work with peers as well as faculty convener to build the skills they need to present their research to others in a clear, compelling way. Topics covered include genres of academic writing; modes of publication; CV building; preparing standard application materials; and interviewing. Weekly sessions generally include workshop time as well as presentations by the convener and visitors. Students work toward at least one end product relevant to their plans, e.g., a fully drafted application for a dissertation completion fellowship, job, or postdoc. This proseminar is particularly directed toward students affiliated with ARCHAIA and Medieval Studies but welcomes all those with research interests in the premodern world. The broad range of primary specialties represented provides students with experience engaging with scholars outside their field, which is increasingly essential for premodernists in the modern academic world.

Fall 2022 Medieval Studies courses

Medieval Studies Courses

FALL 2022 

MDVL 596/HIST 596/RLST 773/JDST 761  Jewish History and Thought to Early Modern Times, Ivan Marcus, TTh 11:35a-12:50p

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 665/ENGL 500 Old English I, Emily Thornbury    TTh 1:00-2:15pm

An introduction to the language, literature, and culture of earliest England. A selection of prose and verse, including riddles, heroic poetry, meditations on loss, a dream vision, and excerpts from Beowulf, which are read in the original Old English.

MDVL 679/NELC 669 Near Eastern Manuscript Research      Kevin van Bladel       M 3:30-5:20pm

Introduction to research using manuscripts in Near Eastern languages. Topics include codicology, palaeography, manuscript history, textual criticism and edition, and a variety of other matters specific to Near Eastern manuscripts.

Prerequisites: reading ability in one premodern Near Eastern language and permission of the instructor.

MDVL 745/REL 745 Byzantine Art and Architecture   Vasileios Marinis    Th 1:30-3:20pm    

This lecture course explores the art, architecture, and material culture of the Byzantine Empire from the foundation of its capital, Constantinople, in the fourth century to the fifteenth century. Centered around the Eastern Mediterranean, Byzantium was a dominant political power in Europe for several centuries and fostered a highly sophisticated artistic culture. This course aims to familiarize students with key objects and monuments from various media—mosaic, frescoes, wooden panels, metalwork, ivory carvings—and from a variety of contexts—public and private, lay and monastic, imperial and political. We give special attention to issues of patronage, propaganda, reception, and theological milieux, as well as the interaction of architecture and ritual. More generally, students become acquainted with the methodological tools and vocabulary that art historians employ to describe, understand, and interpret works of art.

MDVL 756/REL 756      The Cult of Mary: Early Christian and Byzantine Art   Vasileios Marinis, Felicity Harley      T 1:30-3:20pm

This course examines the origins and development of the veneration of Mary as the Mother of God, focusing specifically on the treatment of Mary in the visual and material culture of early Christianity and Byzantium. Its aim is to introduce students to key points in the history of the cult through the close study of images preserved on a range of objects in different media (including frescoes, glassware, sculpture, coins, textiles, mosaic), made for a variety of purposes. This visual material is analyzed in conjunction with relevant literary, theological, and liturgical evidence for the development of the cult. It is designed as a seminar for students who have interest or background in the material, textual, and religious culture of early Christianity.