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

Fall 2024 Medieval Studies Courses

MDVL 526/MUSI 526/MUSI 412 Theorizing Musical Time in the Medieval Islamicate World

Giulia Accornero, Th 9:25am-11:15am

This class is an introduction to medieval Islamicate music theory, with a particular focus on the theorization of musical time, motion, and rhythmic patterns as proposed by polymath Abū Naṣr al-Fārābī. After a deep dive in al-Fārābī’s music theory, we survey rhythmic theories and diagrams by Ibn Sīnā (Avicenna) and al-Urmawī. While focusing on music theory, we also learn about music performance in the Abbasid caliphate, the “translation movement” and the integration of Greek music theory (with a focus on Aristoxenus) and philosophy, and discuss historiographical issues.

Prerequisite: Basic music theoretical knowledge and/or knowledge of medieval Islamicate culture/philosophy is expected.

MDVL 537/HIST 534 Medieval Political History

Paul Freedman, Th 1:30-3:20pm

A reading and discussion course that concerns the nature of political power in Europe between approximately 1000 and 1500. Particular attention is paid to the development of state institutions, dynastic and territorial rivalries, the European balance of power, and the interaction of church and state.

MDVL 571/CLSS 601 Introduction to Latin Paleography

Agnieszka Rec, T 3:30-5:20pm

Latin paleography from the fourth century CE to ca. 1500. Topics include the history and development of national hands; the introduction and evolution of Caroline minuscule, pre-gothic, gothic, and humanist scripts (both cursive and book hands); the production, circulation, and transmission of texts (primarily Latin, with reference to Greek and Middle English); advances in the technical analysis and digital manipulation of manuscripts. Seminars are based on the examination of codices and fragments in the Beinecke Library; students select a manuscript for class presentation and final paper.

MDVL 596/HIST 596/JDST 761/RLST 773 Jews and the World: From the Bible through Early Modern Times

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

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 613/REL 3613 Medieval Latin: Medieval Mystics from Bernard of Clairvaux to Thomas à Kempis

John Dillon, TTh 10:00am-11:20am

This reading course in Medieval Latin is intended to help students improve their command of Latin through working directly with medieval texts. We read selections from major mystics of the Middle Ages, including works by Bernard of Clairvaux (1090–1153), Hildegard of Bingen’s Scivias (ca. 1151/1152), the thirteenth-century Latin translation of Mechthild of Magdeburg’s Das fließende Licht der Gottheit (Lux divinitatis fluens, ca. 1250–80), and Thomas à Kempis’s Imitatio Christi (Imitation of Christ, ca. 1418–27).

Prerequisite: one year of formal study of Latin, equivalent to LATN 110 and LATN 120 or LATN 125.

MDVL 619/NELC 619/CPLT 552 The Medieval Court

Shawkat Toorawa

What are the features of the medieval court? To answer this, we look at courts in Western Europe, Byzantium, the Islamic world, and East Asia to learn about courtly culture, court poetry, and court society. Readings include van Berkel et al., Crisis and Continuity in the Caliphate of al-Muqtadir; Castiglione, Book of the Courtier; Duinden, Vienna and Versailles; Elias, The Court Society; Maguire, Byzantine Court Culture; Miner, Introduction to Japanese Court Poetry; al-Washshā, al-Muwashshā. Knowledge of French desirable.

MDVL 663/REL 945 From House Churches to Medieval Cathedrals: Christian Art and Architecture to the End of Gothic

Orgu Dalgic, M 1:30-3:20pm

This course examines the art associated with, or related to, Christianity from its origins to the end of Gothic. It analyzes major artistic monuments and movements in a variety of regions, paying particular attention to how art shapes and is shaped by the social and historical circumstances of the period and culture. The class considers art in diverse media, focusing on painting, sculpture, architecture, and decorative arts. Trips to the Yale Art Gallery and the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library are included. The course aims to familiarize students with key monuments of Christian architecture, sculpture, painting, and related arts, analyzing each within its particular sociocultural and theological perspective. The course stresses the importance of looking at works of art closely and in context and encourages students to develop skills of close observation and critical visual analysis. Additionally, students are encouraged to examine the ways parallel developments in Christian theology, dogma, and liturgy are influenced by art.

Prerequisites: basic knowledge of Christian history and familiarity with the Bible.

MDVL 665/ENGL 500/LING 500 Old English I

Emily Thornbury, TTh 1:00-2:15pm

The essentials of the language, some prose readings, and close study of several celebrated Old English poems.

MDVL 668/ENGL 537/ENGL 317 The Gawain Poet

Jessica Brantley, T 9:25-11:15am

The course offers a contextual study of four of the greatest (and most enigmatic) Middle English poems—Pearl, Patience, Cleanness, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. At its center is British Library MS Cotton Nero A.x, the single medieval book that contains them all. In addition to reading the poems closely in their manuscript context, we examine associated artworks, from the twelve illustrations in the Cotton MS that constitute a medieval reading of the poems, to St. Erkenwald, a poem preserved elsewhere that some argue was written by the same author. Finally, we think about the modern reception of the poems through a serious engagement with scholarly debate surrounding them, and also through comparative work with translations.

MDVL 756/REL 756 The Cult of Mary: Early Christian and Byzantine Art

Felicity Harley, Vasileios Marinis, Th 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.

MDVL 802/NELC 632/NELC 132/MMEST 171 The Islamic Near East from Muhammad to the Mongol Invasion

Kevin van Bladel, MW 1:00-2:15pm

The shaping of society and polity from the rise of Islam to the Mongol conquest of Baghdad in 1258. The origins of Islamic society; conquests and social and political assimilation under the Umayyads and Abbasids; the changing nature of political legitimacy and sovereignty under the caliphate; provincial decentralization and new sources of social and religious power.

MDVL 992/REL 992 Art and Ritual at Mount Sinai – Travel Seminar

Vasileios Marinis, Robert Nelson, T 1:30-3:20pm

This course looks at art and ecclesiastical and pilgrimage rituals at the monastery of St. Catherine in the Sinai. Founded by Emperor Justinian on a site already venerated by Christians as the place where, supposedly, Moses encountered the Burning Bush, the monastery is one of the oldest continuously inhabited Christian communities in the world. Its holdings of icons have no parallel and offer the opportunity to study Christian imagery in the context of both devotional use and corporate rituals, if not place of origin. This course introduces various aspects of Orthodox liturgy and religious pilgrimage relevant to the explication of the surviving church arts at the monastery and the surrounding area