Spring 2021 courses

MDVL 620   Latin Paleography   Lisa Fagin Davis   Mondays, 10:30-12:30

This course will introduce students to the three components of medieval Latin paleography - literacy, connoisseurship, and description - while also addressing the general challenges of working with hand-produced medieval codices and fragments. Examples selected largely from collections in the Beinecke Library. A working knowledge of Latin is helpful but is not required.

MDVL 610/REL 3610 Medieval Latin: The Calamitous Life of Peter Abelard John Dillon   T, TH 10-11:20

This is an introductory reading course in Medieval Latin that is intended to help students improve their reading ability by working directly with a medieval text. We read Peter Abelard’s Historia calamitatum, “A History of My Calamities,” in which the foremost scholar and theologian of the twelfth century gives a candid account of his life. Abelard was a celebrity professor at the dawn of the university, only to spectacularly fall into disgrace for the secret love affair with Heloise that resulted in his castration at the hands of his father-in-law. As we read Abelard’s fascinating account of his life, we focus on reinforcing our knowledge of Latin grammar and syntax and pay special attention to the features of Abelard’s language that are typical of Medieval Latin.

Prerequisite: basic knowledge of Latin grammar and syntax, equivalent to LATN 110 and LATN 120, offered by the Classics department.

MDVL 510/ENGL 501/LING 501   Beowulf and the Beowulf Complex   Emily Thornbury  

T 1:30-3:20

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 590/HIST 590  Jews in Muslim Lands, the 7th-16th C.  I. Marcus  T/TH 11:35-12:50

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 658/SPAN 658    Law and the Science of the Soul: Iberian and Mediterranean Connections

Jesus Velasco        Thursdays  1:30-3:20

This seminar intends to investigate the affinity between the legal discipline and the science of the soul. We will delve into the study of the processes whereby the legal science (in the form of legal scholarship, religious law, or even legislation) has toiled to appropriate the discourse regarding cognitive processes (the external senses, for instance) and post-sensorial operations (imagination, fantasy, memory, etc.).

This is a historical research involving the legal and philosophical production taking place in the Iberian Peninsula and the Mediterranean Basin (in their connectedness with other spaces of cultural production, including Europe and the Americas). Because of our eminently comparatist approach to this investigation, we will be reading primary sources that are multilingual, multi confessional, and philosophically active. Beginning with Plato and Aristotle, we will continue with other Arabic, Jewish, and Christian thinkers. In addition to our primary sources, we will be reading some historical and theoretical sources that will challenge us intellectually while undertaking this research.

MDVL 577/ITAL 577   Women in the Middle Ages          Christiana Purdy Moudarres   T 3:30-5:20

Medieval understandings of womanhood examined through analysis of writings by and/or about women, from antiquity through the Middle Ages. Introduction to the premodern Western canon and assessment of the role that women played in its construction.

MDVL 566/REL 666  Evil in Early Christianity   Gabrielle Thomas   T 1:30-3:20

Approaches to supernatural evil form the most striking difference between contemporary Christianity in the West and the Global South. While the South takes seriously “powers and principalities,” the Enlightenment has left the West ambivalent to a great extent. This course introduces students to the nexus of beliefs and practices within earlier Western and Eastern Christian traditions, which take seriously the concept of supernatural evil. It analyzes portrayals and personifications of evil from apostolic times through the sixteenth century. Students analyze evil with respect to diverse themes such as the personification of evil, the status of evil, the construal of evil in accounts of creation and atonement, and the methods of resisting evil employed by the saints.

Students are exposed to a range of primary sources and are challenged to both read texts on their own terms and assess their significance for contemporary thought and practice. 

MDVL  513/HIST 513 Law and History, Law in History: Premodern Civilizations through the Lens of Legal Historiography                                      Travis Zadeh, Maria Doerfler               T 3:30-5:20

This seminar invites students into a comparative exploration of the intersection of law, history, and historiography in the ancient and premodern world. Sessions explore these links across a variety of linguistic and geographic settings, including those of ancient and medieval India, China, Persia, Greece, and Rome, as well as in different political, religious, literary, and archaeological contexts. The seminar constructs the category of law expansively to encompass civic, religious, and hybrid forms of legislation. In the process, we seek to explore, inter alia, questions of the relevance of history for the study of law, history’s deployment in the context of legal writings, and law’s concomitant relevance for historiography; the use of theoretical models, including those forged in modern and postmodern contexts, for the study of law and legal historiography; and the implications of discourses about law and history in premodernity for contemporary, post-secular societies.

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

Staff                 MWF 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 755/REL 755 Introduction to Byzantine Monasticism Vasileios Marinis       W  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 656/REL 756 The Cult of Mary: Early Christian and Byzantine Art  V. Marinis  M 1:30-3:20

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.