An interdepartmental program in Medieval and Renaissance Studies

Last updated: August 27, 2014 at 3:50 p.m.

Objectives

The medieval and Renaissance studies program provides students with a broad introduction to the development of Western civilization from the end of antiquity to the seventeenth century. It is founded on the principle that an interdisciplinary perspective is the most profitable way to gain an understanding of the formation of early modern Europe. In order to develop a multifaceted picture of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, all students select one of two core courses in history, and they are encouraged to explore a variety of disciplinary perspectives provided by various national literatures, fine arts, and philosophies. The exact balance of these approaches depends on a student's interest. The program offers a useful complement to many majors, and it is a good foundation to graduate study in a variety of fields.

Learning Goals

The Medieval and Renaissance Studies minor provides students with a broad introduction to the emergence and formation of Western civilization, including development from and engagement with Islamic civilization in the Mediterranean, from the end of antiquity to the 17th century. The program is founded on the principle that an interdisciplinary perspective is the most profitable way to gain an understanding of the formation of Europe.

Knowledge

1. Students will gain broad knowledge of the history of Western civilization in the Medieval and/or Renaissance periods.

2. Students will develop a multifaceted picture of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance by exploring a variety of disciplinary perspectives including national and transnational literatures, fine arts, philosophy, religious studies, and specialized history courses.

3. Students will gain proficiency in at least one of the languages of the Medieval and Renaissance periods (including French, Italian, Spanish, German, Latin, Greek, Russian, Arabic or Hebrew).

4. Student training may include the interaction between the Christian and Islamic worlds as well as the significance of religious minorities in the Medieval and Renaissance periods.

Core Skills:
Students in Medieval and Renaissance Studies acquire core skills that can be used in graduate study in a number of disciplines or in a variety of professions. Critical thinking, writing, using library resources, and research methods are emphasized in almost every class. Students will be able to frame questions, investigate problems, and evaluate conclusions using one or more academic disciplines or approaches (e.g., literary and artistic criticism, historical analysis, philology, and religious studies). Students will implement interdisciplinary methods by completing one of several capstone courses or an independent research project such as a senior thesis.

After Graduation:
The program maintains that knowledge of the past as well as shifting representations of the past in the present are key components of a liberal arts education that allow one to reflect upon the contemporary world in a sophisticated manner. The knowledge and skills the minor provides will lay the foundation for a fuller, more productive, and engaged life after college. Exposure to the diversity of religious, ethnic and cultural aspects of the Medieval and Renaissance periods will contribute to greater understanding in the service of a more peaceful and just society.

How to Become a Minor

The most important requirement for taking part in the program is an interest in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Students may enter the program at any time in their undergraduate careers, but an early start maximizes a student's range of choice, because a number of courses are offered at different intervals. Students should consult with their adviser and the chair of the program to map out their particular plan of study.

Faculty

Jonathan Decter, Chair
(Near Eastern and Judaic Studies)

Bernadette Brooten (on leave academic year 2014-2015)
(Near Eastern and Judaic Studies)

Mary Campbell
(English)

William Flesch (on leave spring 2015)
(English)

Dian Fox
(Romance Studies)

William Kapelle
(History)

Charles McClendon
(Fine Arts)

Sarah Mead
(Music)

Michael Randall
(Romance Studies)

Govind Sreenivasan
(History)

Jonathan Unglaub
(Fine Arts)

Cheryl Walker
(Classical Studies)

Affiliated Faculty (contributing to the curriculum, advising and administration of the department or program)
Jonathan Decter (Near Eastern and Judaic Studies)

Requirements for the Minor

A. Core course: HIST 110b (The Civilization of the High and Late Middle Ages) or HIST 123a (The Renaissance).

B. Students in the program must complete the university language requirement in one of the following: French, Italian, Spanish, German, Latin, Greek, Russian, Arabic, or Hebrew.

C. Three other courses from the program listing. In order to promote an interdisciplinary approach to the study of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, two of these courses should be in two different fields other than history.

D. Capstone: In addition to the core history course and electives, students choose one of the three options for fulfilling the capstone of the minor:

1. The completion of an independent study on a medieval or Renaissance topic (MEVL 98a or b) with one or more members of the program faculty:

2. A senior thesis in the student’s major, with an emphasis on some aspect of medieval or Renaissance studies, read by at least two faculty members in the program.

3. MEVL colloquium. These are medieval and Renaissance program electives that are either (a) seminar classes with a research paper, or (b) taught in a foreign language and/or use predominantly original foreign language texts.

E. No grade below a C will be given credit toward the minor.

F. No course taken pass/fail may count toward the major requirements.

Special Notes

Please note that MUS 10a and b yield half-course credit each; therefore, two semesters of MUS 10 are required to equal one full-semester course, that is one elective course. 

Courses of Instruction

(1-99) Primarily for Undergraduate Students

MEVL 98a Independent Study
Usually offered every year.
Staff

MEVL 98b Independent Study
Usually offered every year.
Staff

Core Courses

HIST 110b The Civilization of the High and Late Middle Ages
[ ss ]
Survey of European history from 1000 to 1450. Topics include the Crusades, the birth of towns, the creation of kingdoms, the papacy, the peasantry, the universities, the Black Death, and the Hundred Years' War. Usually offered every second year.
Mr. Kapelle

HIST 123a The Renaissance
[ ss ]
Culture, society, and economy in the Italian city-state (with particular attention to Florence) from feudalism to the rise of the modern state. Usually offered every second year.
Mr. Kapelle

Elective Courses

The following courses are approved for the minor. Not all are given in any one year. Please refer to the Schedule of Classes each semester.

CLAS 115b Topics in Greek and Roman History
[ hum wi ]
Topics vary from year to year and the course may be repeated for credit with permission of the instructor. Topics include the Age of Alexander the Great, the Age of Pericles, the Greekness of Alexander, and Imperialism in Antiquity. See the Schedule of Classes for the current topic. Usually offered every year.
Ms. Walker

CLAS 166a Medieval Literature: A Millennium of God, Sex, and Death
[ hum wi ]
A survey of medieval Latin literature in translation, beginning with the fourth-century church fathers and ending with the early Renaissance. Includes Augustine, Ambrose, Jerome, Egeria, Jordanes, Gregory of Tours, Isidore of Seville, Bede, Alcuin, Einhard, Hroswitha, Geoffrey of Monmouth, Hildegard, Anselm, and others. Usually offered every fourth year.
Ms. Walker

COML 103b Madness and Folly in Renaissance Literature
[ hum wi ]
A study of the theme of madness and folly as exemplified by the major writers of the Renaissance, including Erasmus, Rabelais, Montaigne, Boccaccio, Ariosto, Shakespeare, Petrarch, and Cervantes. Usually offered every second year.
Mr. Lansing

ENG 33a Shakespeare
[ hum ]
A survey of Shakespeare as a dramatist. From nine to twelve plays will be read, representing all periods of Shakespeare's dramatic career. Usually offered every year.
Mr. Flesch or Ms. Targoff

ENG 43a Major English Authors, Chaucer to Milton
[ hum ]
A survey of major English authors from the Middle Ages through the Renaissance, including Chaucer, Wyatt, Spencer, Marlowe, Shakespeare, Sidney, Donne, Herbert, Marvell, Milton. No prior experience in medieval or Renaissance literature is required. Usually offered every third year.
Ms. Targoff

ENG 63a Renaissance Poetry
[ hum ]
Examines lyric and narrative poetry by Wyatt, Surrey, Marlowe, Sidney, Spenser, Shakespeare, Jonson, Donne, and Herbert. Usually offered every second year.
Mr. Flesch or Ms. Targoff

ENG 103a Exploring the Self in Seventeenth-Century Poetry
[ hum ]
Examines the poetry of Donne and his contemporaries, including George Herbert, Richard Crashaw, and Andrew Marvell. These "metaphysical poets" will be read alongside critical accounts by Samuel Johnson, T. S. Eliot, and others. Usually offered every third year.
Ms. Targoff

ENG 123a Dream Visions: Genre, History, and the Mysterious
[ hum ]
A study of the mysterious function of imaginary dreams in medieval and Renaissance writing, along with actual dream dictionaries and dream transcriptions of the period. Visions of Hell, prophetic dreams, apocalypse, Chaucer, Dante, Shakespeare, Nashe, and others. Usually offered every third year.
Ms. Campbell

ENG 133a Advanced Shakespeare
[ hum ]
Prerequisite: ENG 33a or equivalent.
An intensive analysis of a single play or a small number of Shakespeare's plays. Usually offered every third year.
Mr. Flesch

ENG 173a Spenser and Milton
[ hum ]
Prerequisite: ENG 10a, 11a, or HUM 10a (may be taken concurrently) or by permission of the instructor.
A course on poetic authority: the poetry of authority and the authority of poetry. Spenser and Milton will be treated individually, but the era they bound will be examined in terms of the tensions within and between their works. Usually offered every third year.
Mr. Flesch

FA 33b Islamic Art and Architecture
[ ca nw ]
May not be taken for credit by students who took FA 39b in prior years.
Introduces architecture and arts of the Islamic lands from seventh-century Levant to post-modernism in Iran, India, and the Gulf states. Provides an overview of major themes and regional variations, and their socio-political and historical context. Usually offered every third year.
Ms. Grigor

FA 42b The Age of Cathedrals
[ ca ]
Architecture, sculpture, and painting (including stained glass) in Western Europe from the twelfth to the fifteenth century, with particular attention to the great churches of medieval France. Usually offered every second year.
Mr. McClendon

FA 45b Art of the Early Renaissance in Italy
[ ca ]
May not be taken for credit by students who took FA 51a in prior years.
Examines major painters, sculptors, and architects in Florence, Rome, and Venice from Giotto to Bellini (1290-1500). Important themes include the revival of Antiquity, the visual arts and the culture of Humanism, the Rise of the Medici, art and the ideal of the Republic, the development of art theory and criticism, Naturalism and the Sacred image, and the relation of artists and patrons during times of crisis (black death, Pazzi Conspiracy, and Savonarola). Usually offered every second year.
Mr. Unglaub

FA 46b High and Late Renaissance in Italy
[ ca ]
May not be taken for credit by students who took FA 58b in prior years.
Examines the major works of art produced in Italy in the sixteenth century. It focuses on the principal centers of Florence, Rome, and Venice. The foremost artists of the age, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, and Titian, receive in-depth coverage. The course also considers the social institutions, ecclesiastical, courtly and civic, that furnished the patronage opportunities and promoted the ideas that occasioned, even demanded, new artistic forms of grace and harmony, energy and torsion. Usually offered every year.
Mr. Unglaub

FA 47b Renaissance Art in Northern Europe
[ ca ]
May not be taken for credit by students who took FA 54b in prior years.
A survey of the art of the Netherlands, Germany, and France in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Cultural developments such as the invention of printing, the Protestant Reformation, and the practices of alchemy and witchcraft will be considered through the work of major artists. Usually offered every fourth year.
Mr. Unglaub

FA 143a The Art of Medieval England
[ ca ]
May not be taken for credit by students who took FA 43a in prior years.
A survey of art and architecture from the end of the Roman Empire to the Renaissance. Particular concern for the synthesis of native and foreign cultures and their artistic styles, resulting from the barbarian invasions, the Norman conquest, and political rivalry with France. Usually offered every fourth year.
Mr. McClendon

FA 145a St. Peter's and the Vatican
[ ca ]
May not be taken for credit by students who took FA 45a in prior years.
The history, growth, and development of Christendom's most famous shrine, with particular concern for the relationship between the design and decoration of the Renaissance/baroque church and palace complex and their early Christian and medieval predecessors. Usually offered every second year.
Mr. McClendon

FA 149a The Age of Rubens and Rembrandt
[ ca wi ]
May not be taken for credit by students who took FA 63a in prior years.
Explores the major figures of seventeenth-century painting in the Netherlands and Flanders: Rubens, Van Dyck, Rembrandt, and Vermeer. During this time, the ideal of Renaissance painter/courtier gives way to the birth of the modern artist in an open market, revolutionizing the subjects, themes, and styles of painting. Usually offered every second year.
Mr. Unglaub

HISP 110a Medieval and Early Modern Spanish Literature: Gender, Class, Religion, Power
[ fl hum ]
Prerequisite: HISP 106b, or HISP 108a, or permission of the instructor.
Was el Cid a political animal? How do women, Jews, and Muslims fare in classical Spanish literature? Study of major works, authors, and social issues from the Middle Ages to the end of the seventeenth century. Texts covered range from lyric love poetry and the epic Cantar del Cid to Cervantes and masterpieces of Spanish Golden Age theater. Usually offered every year.
Ms. Fox

HISP 128b Picaros, Prostitutes, and Peasants: Representations of the Underclass in Early Modern Spain
[ fl hum ]
Prerequisite: HISP 109b, or HISP 110a, or HISP 111b, or permission of the instructor.
Explores cultural expressions of privation and privilege through the lenses of economic means, ethnicity, gender and religion in early modern Spain. Texts include a picaresque novel, a dialog set in a bawdy house, and a play about class and gender violence. Usually offered every second year.
Ms. Fox

HIST 110a The Civilization of the Early Middle Ages
[ ss ]
Survey of medieval history from the fall of Rome to the year 1000. Topics include the barbarian invasions, the Byzantine Empire, the Dark Ages, the Carolingian Empire, feudalism, manorialism, and the Vikings. Usually offered every second year.
Mr. Kapelle

HIST 110b The Civilization of the High and Late Middle Ages
[ ss ]
Survey of European history from 1000 to 1450. Topics include the Crusades, the birth of towns, the creation of kingdoms, the papacy, the peasantry, the universities, the Black Death, and the Hundred Years' War. Usually offered every second year.
Mr. Kapelle

HIST 112b The Crusades and the Expansion of Medieval Europe
[ ss ]
Survey of the relationships between medieval Europe and neighboring cultures, beginning with the decline of Byzantium. Topics include a detailed look at the Crusades, the Spanish reconquista, the Crusader kingdoms, economic growth, and the foundations of imperialism. Usually offered every third year.
Mr. Kapelle

HIST 113a English Medieval History
[ ss ]
Survey of English history from the Anglo-Saxon invasions to the fifteenth century. Topics include the heroic age, the Viking invasions, and development of the English kingdom from the Norman conquest through the Hundred Years' War. Usually offered every third year.
Mr. Kapelle

HIST 120a Britain in the Later Middle Ages
[ ss ]
Exploration of the critical changes in government and society in the British Isles from the late fourteenth to the sixteenth century. Topics include the Black Death, the lordship of Ireland, the Hundred Years' War, the Scottish War of Independence, economic change, the Tudors, and the Reformation. Usually offered every third year.
Mr. Kapelle

HIST 121a Breaking the Rules: Deviance and Nonconformity in Premodern Europe
[ ss wi ]
Explores the ways in which "deviant" behavior was defined and punished by some, but also justified and even celebrated by others in premodern Europe. Topics include vagrancy, popular uprisings, witchcraft, religious heresy, and the status of women. Usually offered every second year.
Mr. Sreenivasan

HIST 123a The Renaissance
[ ss ]
Culture, society, and economy in the Italian city-state (with particular attention to Florence) from feudalism to the rise of the modern state. Usually offered every second year.
Mr. Kapelle

HIST 123b Reformation Europe (1400-1600)
[ ss wi ]
Survey of Protestant and Catholic efforts to reform religion in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Topics include scholastic theology, popular piety and anticlericalism, Luther's break with Rome, the rise of Calvinism, Henry VIII and the English Reformation, the Catholic resurgence, and the impact of reform efforts on the lives of common people. Usually offered every third year.
Mr. Sreenivasan

HIST 126a Early Modern Europe (1500-1700)
[ qr ss ]
Survey of politics, ideas, and society in Western Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Focuses on the changing relationship between the emerging modern state and its subjects. Topics include the development of ideologies of resistance and conformity, regional loyalties and the problems of empire, changing technologies of war and repression, and the social foundations of order and disorder. Usually offered every third year.
Mr. Sreenivasan

IMES 104a Islam: Civilization and Institutions
[ hum nw ]
Provides a disciplined study of Islamic civilization from its origins to the modern period. Approaches the study from a humanities perspective. Topics covered will include the Qur'an, tradition, law, theology, politics, Islam and other religions, modern developments, and women in Islam. Usually offered every year.
Mr. Lumbard

LAT 125a Medieval Latin
[ fl hum ]
Surveys medieval Latin prose and poetry from the fourth to the fourteenth centuries and their influence on subsequent English, French, and Italian literature. Materials will be studied in the original Latin and English. Offered on request.
Ms. Johnston or Ms. Walker

MUS 80a Early Music Ensemble
Offered exclusively on a credit/no credit basis. Yields half-course credit. Open to singers and instrumentalists interested in learning about the historical ancestors of their modern instruments. Instrumental and/or vocal experience and competency in sight-reading required. A maximum of four course credits will be allowed for all enrollments in Ensemble (80a,b – 88a,b) alone or Private Instruction and Ensemble together. May be undertaken as an extracurricular, noncredit activity by registering in the XC section.
Examines the performance of music written before 1700. A large number of historical instruments are available for student use and instruction. Solo, ensemble, and one-on-a-part opportunities. Usually offered every year.
Ms. Mead

MUS 80b Early Music Ensemble
Continuation of MUS 80a. See MUS 80a for special notes and course description.
Usually offered every year.
Ms. Mead

NEJS 124a Arabic Literature, Hebrew Literature (500-1500)
[ hum ]
A comparative study of Arabic and Hebrew literature from before the rise of Islam through the fifteenth century. Studies major trends in Arabic poetry and fiction and how Jewish authors utilized Arabic motifs in their Hebrew writings, both secular and sacred, and sometimes wrote in Arabic themselves. Usually offered every second year.
Mr. Decter

NEJS 140a Under Crescent and Cross: The Jews in the Middle Ages
[ hum ss wi ]
Surveys Jewish political, social and intellectual history in the domains of Islam and Christianity from the rise of Islam (622) to the Expulsion of the Jews from Spain (1492) and Portugal (1497). Topics include the legal status of Jews, Jewish communal organization, persecution and response, inter-religious polemics, conversion, the origins of anti-Judaism, and trends in Jewish law, philosophy, literature, and mysticism. Usually offered every second year.
Mr. Decter

NEJS 140b Early Modern Jewish History
[ hum ]
Examines Jewish history and culture in early modern Europe: mass conversions on the Iberian peninsula, migrations, reconversions back to Judaism, the printing revolution, the Reformation and Counter Reformation, ghettos, gender, family, everyday life, material culture, communal structure, rabbinical culture, mysticism, magic, science, messianic movements, Hasidism, mercantilism, and early modern challenges to Judaism.
Mr. Sheppard

NEJS 149a The Jews of Muslim and Christian Spain
[ hum ]
A survey of Jewish political, intellectual, and social history in the Islamic and Christian spheres from the beginnings of Jewish life in Spain until the expulsion in 1492. Students develop skills in reading historical, literary, and philosophical texts. Usually offered every second year.
Mr. Decter

NEJS 194b Sufi Teachings
[ hum nw ]
An examination of the teaching and practices of the Sufi tradition. Explores the foundations of Sufism, its relation to other aspects of Islam, the development of Sufi teachings in both poetry and prose, and the manner in which Sufism is practiced in lands as diverse as Egypt, Turkey, Iran, India, Malaysia, and Europe. Usually offered every second year.
Mr. Lumbard

Elective Courses Counting as Colloquium Course

The following courses may count as medieval and renaissance studies colloquia for the capstone option as outlined in the requirement section; otherwise, they count as an elective.

ENG 132b Chaucer I
[ hum ]
Prerequisite: ENG 1a or ENG 10a or ENG 11a.
In addition to reading Chaucer's major work The Canterbury Tales in Middle English, pays special attention to situating the Tales in relation to linguistic, literary, and social developments of the later Middle Ages. No previous knowledge of Middle English required. Usually offered every second year.
Ms. Campbell

FA 191b Studies in Renaissance and Baroque Art
[ ca wi ]
Open to Fine Arts majors and minors, Italian Studies minors, and Medieval and Renaissance minors only. Topics may vary from year to year; the course may be repeated for credit as topics change.
Usually offered every third year.
Mr. Unglaub

FREN 122b The Renaissance: When France Became France
[ fl hum wi ]
Prerequisite: FREN 106b or the equivalent, or permission of the instructor.
At a moment when the modern nation-state is perhaps coming to an end in supranational institutions like the European Union, it is important to look at how that nation-state came into being in the sixteenth century. During a time of both political and religious turmoil and intense artistic creation, writers of the Renaissance created works that helped define us as both public and private individuals. Works studied include Rabelais' Gargantua, Montaigne's Essays, Marguerite de Navarre's Heptameron, as well as the poetry of Ronsard, du Bellay, and Louise Labé. Usually offered every second year.
Mr. Randall

HECS 150a Staging Early Modern Spain: Drama and Society
[ hum ]
Open to all students. Conducted in English with readings in English translation.
Explores readings and representations of seventeenth-century Spanish drama in social and political contexts. Special attention to gender and violence in texts dealing with seduction, cross-dressing, revolution, and wife-murder, by writers such as Cervantes, Lope, Caro, and Calderón. Usually offered every second year.
Ms. Fox

HISP 120b Don Quijote
[ fl hum ]
Prerequisite: HISP 109b, or HISP 110a, or HISP 111b, or permission of the instructor.
A reading for fun and critical insight into what is often called "the first modern novel." Discusses some reasons for its reputation as a major influence on fiction and films throughout the Western world. Usually offered every second year.
Ms. Fox

HISP 125b Literary Women in Early Modern Spain
[ fl hum ]
Prerequisite: HISP 109b, or HISP 110a, or HISP 111b, or permission of the instructor.
Examines works by and about women in early modern Spain, with particular attention to engagements with and subversions of patriarchal culture in theater, prose, and poetry. Writers include Caro, Zayas, Cervantes, and Tirso de Molina. Usually offered every second year.
Ms. Fox

LAT 125a Medieval Latin
[ fl hum ]
Surveys medieval Latin prose and poetry from the fourth to the fourteenth centuries and their influence on subsequent English, French, and Italian literature. Materials will be studied in the original Latin and English. Offered on request.
Ms. Johnston or Ms. Walker