Please check the Yale Course Search  site for the most up to date information, as well as the course descriptions and locations.

Spring 2022 Medieval Studies courses

ENGL/MDVL 533: Medieval Drama      
Jessica Brantley   -    Th 1:30-3:20

This seminar explores the dramatic traditions of late-medieval England from many angles in order to construct a rich, contextual reading of theatrical culture in the period. The biblical cycle drama—sometimes known as Corpus Christi or mystery plays—forms the center of the course, and we consider evidence from all four extant cycles, while concentrating primarily on the N-Town plays. We read the cycle drama in the context of other important genres including liturgical drama, morality plays, saints’ plays, mummings and disguisings, and royal entries. Recent critical interest in the histories of performance leads us consider the difference enactment makes to the literary objects we study. But we also think about what it means to read a medieval play, particularly how the visual imagination works for a solitary reader. To this end, we investigate medieval artistic forms that touch the drama without (perhaps) being properly theatrical: liturgy, pageantry, song, spectacle, recitation, book illumination, sculpture, and stained glass. We also attend to the physical forms in which medieval drama is preserved—i.e., the manuscripts in which we find the texts and performance records. Finally, we consider the legacies of medieval drama as engaged by contemporary playwrights, including Sarah Ruhl (Passion Play) and Branden Jacobs-Jenkins (Everybody).

MDVL/HIST 538 Medieval Kingship
Hussein Fancy -  W 1:30-3:20

This course examines premodern kingship in medieval Europe and the Islamic world from a variety of perspectives: historical, philosophical, theological, and anthropological.

Prerequisite: Reading knowledge of Latin and/or Arabic is desirable.

MDVL 621/CLSS 624/ENGL 521/HIST 532: Advanced Manuscript Studies
N. Raymond Clemens  -  M 10:30-12
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 636/REL 636: The Ethics of Thomas Aquinas
Adam Eitel - T 6:00pm-8:00pm

This seminar examines the ethics of Thomas Aquinas. Although chiefly focused on the second part of the Summa Theologiae, the course devotes considerable attention to Aquinas’s biblical commentaries and Scriptum on the Sentences, his commentary on the work of twelfth-century theologian Peter Lombard. Students consider Aquinas’s account of several interlocking topics: the nature of human flourishing; the dynamics of human action; the passions and their role in the moral life; the theological substance of law, grace, virtues, and gifts; the reality of sin; and the promise of redemption. 

Prerequisite: at least one graduate seminar in theology, ethics, or philosophy.

MDVL 664/REL 713: History of Medieval Christianity: Learning, Faith and Conflict
Volker Leppin  -  MW 9:30-10:20
This course is a general survey of the intellectual, political, and cultural developments that influenced the development of the Christian Church, primarily in the West, covering roughly the period from the end of the Roman Empire (ca. 476 CE) to the beginnings of the Reformation (ca. 1500 CE). Its goal is to help students preparing for ministry to understand the forces that shaped Christian doctrine and the institutional and liturgical structures of today. We explore together questions related to the arrival of Christianity in England, the Carolingian Renaissance, the impact of monastic reform movements, struggles between church and state at the time of the Investiture Controversy, the crusading movement, the rise of papal monarchy and canon law, intellectual movements such as scholasticism and nominalism, lay reforming moments, the Conciliar experiment, and popular piety and mysticism. Special attention is given to the timely topic of the impact of the Black Death pandemic on the church’s structure and spirituality.
MDVL 666/ENGL 502: Old English II
Emily Thornbury  -  Th 9:25-11:15
Readings in a variety of pre-Conquest vernacular genres, varying regularly, with supplementary reading in current scholarship. Current topic: the Exeter anthology of Old English poetry, comprising saints’ lives, lyrics, elegies, wisdom poetry, riddles, and more.
MDVL/ITAL 671: Transhumanizing Dante: Faith and Science in a Vision of an Age to Come
Christiana Purdy Moudarres  -  M 1:30-3:20
In canto 1 of Dante’s Paradiso, the poet struggles to describe the change his body underwent en route to heaven. As Henry Francis Cary put it for generations of English-speaking readers in his nineteenth-century translation of the Comedy, “To be transhumanized is an experience that words cannot express” (“Trasumanar significar per verba / non si poria” [Par. 1.70–71]). Seven hundred years have passed since Dante’s coinage of the word, which has taken on new meaning for contemporary readers. Once relegated to the realm of science fiction, transhumanism has become an imminent reality, a movement that affirms humanity’s transcendence of its current limitations through advances in science and technology. Interestingly, despite the steady stream of publications on the movement’s history as of late, acknowledgments of Dante’s coinage are few and far between. Occasional exceptions amount to quick dissociations. Clearly, to cite one representative example, the medieval poet’s meaning was of a “religious or spiritual nature,” a far cry from transhumanism’s aims of “technological transcendence.” Apparently, despite concerted efforts of historians of science and religion to contest their fields’ inherent opposition to one another, the “conflict thesis” proposed by nineteenth-century historiographers still colors popular perceptions of the Middle Ages, leaving Dante’s understanding of transhumanism—beyond its “religious or spiritual nature”—in a position of benign neglect. In light of this contemporary state of affairs, the purpose of this course is twofold. Its first, most general objective is to underscore the foreignness of the aforementioned “conflict thesis” to Dante’s cultural milieu; its second, more speculative aim is to argue for his poem’s prescience—its anticipation of transhumanism’s latest iteration.
MDVL 679/NELC 669: Near Eastern Manuscript Research
Kevin van Bladel  -  M 3:30-5:20
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 736/REL 3612: Medieval Latin Workshop
John Dillon  -  TTh 10-11:20
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/REL 771: Francis and Clare of Assisi
Volker Leppin  -   T 1:30-3:20
In the early thirteenth century, the question of poverty came to the fore in medieval Christianity. Many people rebelled against the structures of the vastly profitable world of trade and asked if it could still be reconciled with Christian values. The most influential figures of this movement were two young people from Assisi in central Italy: Francis and Clare, both later canonized by the Catholic Church. In them we find sincere efforts to live true Christian discipleship according to the rules of the Sermon on the Mount. In this course we explore their biographies and thought. The sources we read were written both by themselves and by their hagiographers. We seek to determine the extent to which this material is reliable or not and, in addition, aim to construct a historical and theological image of Francis and Clare as we examine enduring and unresolved questions about them. Area III.
Prerequisites: one of REL 712, REL 713, REL 714, or REL 715, and a course in theology; or sufficient background from previous studies; or permission of the instructor.
MDVL/REL 755: Introduction to Byzantine Monasticism
Vasileios Marinis  -  T 1:30-3:20
Monastics and monasteries constituted a quintessential element of Byzantine society. This seminar investigates Byzantine monasticism in its historical, theological, and social contexts from its origins in the third century to the codification of Hesychastic practice in the fourteenth. The course aims to familiarize students with the foundational texts of this tradition; inquire into lives of monastic saints as both rhetorical constructs and historical sources; analyze foundation documents that regulated liturgical and everyday life in Byzantine monasteries; explore the architecture of and artistic production in Byzantine monasteries; and understand the ways and means by which cults of saints were developed and cultivated in a monastic context.
MDVL/SPAN 914/CPLT 960: Microliteratures: The Margins of the Law
Jesús Velasco  -  T 1:30-3:20
Examining marginal writing in manuscripts and printed books from the Middle Ages and the early modern period, we interrogate the productive relations between law and culture. We focus on a wide array of sources from the Iberian Peninsula and the Mediterranean. Likewise, we consider different legal systems.
MDVL/REL 955/HSAR 584: The Cult of Saints in Early Christianity and the Middle Ages
Vasileios Marinis and Felicity Harley McGowan  -   W 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.