The Medieval Studies concentration exposes students to the medieval civilizations of Europe and the Middle East through a range of disciplines. A broad approach is particularly appropriate to the study of medieval culture because the national and disciplinary boundaries to which the university has become habituated did not exist. French was spoken in England, Provençal in Italy, Arabic in Spain, and Latin everywhere. The dominant political organizations in Western Europe—the Church and Holy Roman Empire—were transnational by definition. Fields such as literature, history, astronomy, medicine, religion, and philosophy were not considered distinct. Students are encouraged to appreciate connections such as those between the Crusades and the epic, or the Cistercian movement and monastic architecture, so that they may grasp medieval culture as it was experienced.
Areas of Study
In the Lower College, students take at least two semesters of a survey course (e.g., History 2110, Early Middle Ages; Literature 204A, Comparative Literature I; or Literature 250, English Literature I). Students are required to have a reading knowledge of a foreign language by their senior year, and are encouraged to begin or continue work in languages as soon as possible. Students may choose to specialize in one discipline, but are expected to become familiar with a variety of fields.
Students may moderate into Medieval Studies as well as a divisional program. They are expected to fulfill the requirements for both the divisional program and the Medieval Studies concentration, though they ultimately write one Senior Project combining work in both fields. In the Upper College, students turn to more specialized work, taking at least three additional courses in medieval studies. At least one of those must be a 300-level course. Before undertaking research for the Senior Project, students must demonstrate reading knowledge of at least one appropriate language, either medieval or modern. A student working on an art history project may be asked to learn French or German for access to scholarly works; a student concentrating on historical materials might learn Latin; a student involved in literature may become familiar with the relevant medieval language, such as Old English or Old Provençal, through a tutorial. A Senior Project emerging from this study plan is grounded in a breadth of knowledge acquired in the Lower College and the more advanced skills obtained in the Upper College. In the final year, students complete a Senior Project. At least two members of the Senior Project board must be affiliated with Medieval Studies.
Recent courses include The Danger of Romance, Literature of the Crusades, The Book before Print, Plague!, Islamic Art and Architecture, Chaucer, Saints’ Lives from the Middle Ages through the Reformation, and The Invention of Celebrity.