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

Spring 2024 Medieval Studies Courses

MDVL 501/ENGL 501/LING 501 Beowulf and the Beowulf Complex   

Emily Thornbury, W 9:25am-11:15am

A close reading of Beowulf in Old English, within the modern and medieval critical landscapes.

Prerequisite: a strong working knowledge of Old English (typically ENGL 500, or the equivalent).

MDVL 519/ENGL 519/MHHR 500 Medieval Manuscripts and Literary Forms       

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

This course investigates the relation between manuscript studies and literary criticism. It includes an introduction to working with medieval manuscripts (no prior experience required) and continues with a series of case studies that examine what thinking about material texts can contribute to scholarship in medieval—or any—literature. Manuscripts to be considered include the Beowulf MS, the St Albans Psalter, the Ellesmere Chaucer, Cotton Nero A.x. (the Gawain MS), the Book of Mergery Kempe, and the manuscript of the N-Town plays.

MDVL 560 Master’s Project   STAFF 

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 590/HIST 590/JDST 764/RLST 777 Jews in Muslim Lands from the Seventh through the Sixteenth Century     

Ivan Marcus, TTh 11:35am-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 603/HIST 603/JDST 806/RLST 616 How the West Became Anti-Semitic: Jews and the Formation of Europe, 800-1500

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

This seminar explores how medieval Jews and Christians interacted as religious societies between 800 and 1500.

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

Volker Leppin, MW 9:30am-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 735/REL 3612 Medieval Latin Workshop

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

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 741/REL 741 Averroes and Thomas Aquinas

Volker Leppin & Frank Griffel, MW 2:30-3:45pm

Averroes (Ibn Rushd, d. 1198) and Thomas Aquinas (d. 1274) are two of the most interesting thinkers in Islam and in Christianity. Living in different parts of Europe less than a hundred years apart, the two are among the most important philosophers in the Western tradition. Both were fascinated by the philosophy of Aristotle, to whom they responded in different ways. And both were active theologians and authors. This seminar considers the similarities and differences in their lives and thinking—exploring, for instance, how Thomas reacted to Averroes and how Averroes, in turn, would have reacted to Thomas. This seminar introduces each of these thinkers in their own right, focusing on their accomplishments in the fields of philosophy and theology. We study not only their own writings but also consider secondary literature as well. The focus of this seminar, however, is on discussion of primary sources in English translation.

MDVL 747/REL 747 Islamic Art and Architecture in the Mediterranean

Orgu Dalgic, TBD

*Coming soon to YCS*

This course surveys the history of Islamic cultures through their rich material expressions beginning from the time of the Prophet Muhammed in the seventh century to the present and extending across the Mediterranean from Spain to Syria. The course aims to familiarize students with the major periods, regions, monuments, and media of the Islamic cultures around the Mediterranean; and with basic principles of Islam as they pertain to the visual arts and, in particular, their interactions with the Christian world. We discuss architecture (mosques, madrasas, mausolea, etc.) as well as works of art in various media (calligraphy, illuminated manuscripts, textiles, ceramics, etc.) within both the Islamic and the larger, universal, and cross-cultural contexts.

MDVL 755/REL 755    A History of Byzantine Monasticism

Vasileios Marinis, W 1:30-3:20pm

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 815/HSAR 835 Medieval Art Travel Seminar

Jacqueline Jung, M 1:30-3:20pm

This advanced graduate seminar explores issues pertaining to the art and architecture of medieval Europe that can only be fully investigated on site. Readings, discussions, and short presentations by students in class meetings lay the theoretical and historical groundwork for a trip to Europe at the end of the term, typically lasting for twelve to fourteen days. Final papers of approximately twenty to twenty-five pages, which are begun prior to the trip but build on experiences at the sites, are due within a month after our return. The theme for spring 2024 is Boundaries, Borders, and Passages in Late Medieval Art and Architecture. The topic is two-pronged: it covers both empirical and historiographical content. On the empirical side, we consider the ways Gothic buildings themselves call attention to boundaries and passages—both internally and externally, horizontally and vertically—through their spires, stairways, screens, portals, and ephemeral embellishments such as winged altarpieces, textiles, and portable objects; both churches and castles, moreover, blur the boundaries between the secular and sacred domains that they purportedly distinguish. Late medieval paintings, too, often display a play with frames and boundaries that attests to a sensitivity to these architectural and spatial configurations. On the historiographical side, we see that the vast majority of late medieval buildings and their arts do not fall neatly into the geographical, chronological, and medial categories to which scholarship likes to assign things. The national boundaries we recognize today were not fixed in the Middle Ages, and the people who commissioned, fabricated, used, and wrote about architecture then did not distinguish period styles the way we do. Exciting things may happen when we art historians cross the boundaries that typically hold works of late medieval art apart and think about the passages that link them through time, place, and medium. The travel portion of the seminar charts an unconventional trajectory from Frankfurt, in the fifteenth century as now a wealthy trading center in the Middle Rhine region, through a series of sites in eastern and central France, to Barcelona, another mercantile and political hotspot. Along the way we visit important sites (buildings and museums) in Strasbourg, Dijon, Conques, Albi, Carcassonne, and Vic—always thinking of the changing environments we move through, and the responsiveness of the buildings to their own distinctive places and histories even as reverberate with each other.

This class is limited to eight students. Priority is given to history of art students and medieval studies students who have done graduate-level coursework in some part of the medieval field. Reading knowledge of French, German, or Spanish is required; speaking ability in any of these languages is strongly recommended.