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The arts of Byzantium are perhaps the most treasured and debated of all time. From the essential and pivotal Iconoclastic controversy to the abduction of many Byzantine reliquaries and manuscripts by Crusaders in the thirteenth century, the Byzantine image has shaped much of how we view and discuss art, especially religious imagery, today. This course will explore the worship and display of art and architecture from the Byzantine Empire with a specific emphasis on the cross-cultural connections among Byzantium, Medieval Europe, the Islamic world, and the Armenian kingdom. The course will follow a chronological path, beginning with early Christian art and highlighting specific topics along the way. These will include: icons, church decoration, the imperial image, manuscripts, and luxury arts. Students will become familiar with current scholarship, as well as with the writings of contemporary Byzantines on their art. We will consider Byzantine artifacts as works of multiple meanings, examining theological, social, and political viewpoints.
J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle-Earth, made famous in the novel and film versions of The Lord of the Rings, is a fictional world steeped in medieval language, culture, and literature. In this class, you will learn about the field of medievalism while discovering how the father of high fantasy, and modernist medieval scholar, J. R. R. Tolkien, viewed the Middle Ages. We will survey (in translation) the Old English, Middle English, Norse, and Celtic medieval texts that influenced Tolkien, and in turn we will use Tolkien as a bridge to better understand the medieval past.
In this course we will survey what remains of the textual evidence of the myth and religion of the Vikings. The Vikings gained notoriety and fame in the period ca. 800‒1100 CE for raiding and trading, from Britain to Russia, but the myth and religion reflected daily life at various social levels in the Nordic area. The best sources are two books from thirteenth-century Iceland, the Poetic Edda, a small compilation of mythic and heroic poems, and a treatise on poetry (also called Edda) by Snorri Sturluson, a poet, historian, and statesman. With a few additions, available electronically, these will form the basis of our analysis (as they do for all scholars in this field). Textbooks: The Poetic Edda, transl. Carolyne Larringon (Oxford 2006); Snorri Sturluson: Edda, transl. Anthony Faulkes (1995). Written work: midterm examination, term paper (5‒7 pages), final examination.
Medieval literature contains countless examples of “tales of wonder.” Such tales exist in romance, epic, and hagiography, among other genres. These narratives of the miraculous, fabulous beasts and locales, and heroic quests engage the reader in more than just imaginative landscapes and characters; they meditate upon questions of cross-cultural contact, faith, violence, law, love, class relations, and gender expression. In this course, we will examine medieval tales of wonder through a variety of readings including selections from Ælfric’s Lives of Saints, The Wonders of the East, the Saga of Burnt Njall, the Saga of the People of Laxardal, Dante’s Inferno, Boccaccio’s Decameron, Chaucer’s The House of Fame, and Marie de France’s Breton Lais. Most readings will be done with modern English translations. The class will require consistent and lively participation in activities and discussion. Students will be required to do an in-class presentation, a manuscript project, short reading responses, and two longer essays.
English351.001 - Chaucer
This course will focus upon the Canterbury Tales, the final work and masterpiece of Geoffrey Chaucer, one of the greatest writers in the English language. We will consider Chaucer within the historical context of the tumultuous fourteenth century, a time of plague, famine, political uprising, and religious rebellion. Discrediting the myth of the Middle Ages as a time of repression and uniformity, this class will highlight issues of gender, class, and race while examining the themes of equality, justice, and exclusion. Primary texts will be read in Middle English, the language of Chaucer, with an emphasis upon accurate pronunciation; previous experience with Middle English is not required. In addition to familiarizing the student with the Middle English language, coursework and assignments are designed to develop the student’s knowledge of the conventions of medieval English poetry and to place the work of Chaucer within a historical and critical framework.
English 449.001/549.001 - Middle English Language
This course provides an introduction to those principal dialects of Middle English, demonstrated by selected readings, in the context of the development of the language from Old English to Early Modern English (ca. 1150‒1500). We will be looking at the language both diachronically (the historical development) and synchronically (the differentiation of dialect features at a given time). The primary goal of the course is to familiarize students with the range of texts available in different dialects during the period. Students should, for example, be able by the end of the course to read Sir Gawain and the Green Knight in the original North-West Midlands dialect with a full appreciation of the contribution of the language to the artistry of the poem, and to recognize its difference from the London dialect of Chaucer. Assignments will include take-home exercises, a midterm, a final, and a group translation project.
English 650.001 - Anglo-Saxon Evil
Evil takes many forms in Anglo-Saxon literature: the devil, individual demons, monsters, sinners and their sins. Behind these various manifestations of evil lie two fundamental and competing conceptions of evil: one growing from the Christian, philosophical tradition and the other from non-Christian traditions that were still prevalent in Anglo-Saxon daily life. This seminar will examine different depictions and conceptions of evil in Anglo-Saxon literature and explore them through modern paradigms in order to understand the exact nature of evil according to the Anglo-Saxons. Prerequisite: reading knowledge of Old English.
This course surveys the European Middle Ages from the eve of the twelfth-century Renaissance to the Great Schism and its aftermath in the early fifteenth century. Among the topics covered are the economic and political transformations of the eleventh and twelfth centuries, the flowering of learning and culture during this same period, the highlights of Christian thought from Anselm of Bec to Julian of Norwich, and the enduring legacy of high and late medieval society—the great works of art, architecture, poetry, political theory, theology, and philosophy produced during this formative period in the development of Western culture. The course makes extensive use of primary sources and a variety of media that provide first-hand glimpses into the minds and lives of medieval men and women.
This course will offer an overview of the history and culture of England from the arrival of the Angles and Saxons in the fifth century until the Battle of Hastings of 1066. These six centuries form one of the most vibrant and innovative periods of English history, when the foundations of England’s political and cultural eminence were first established. We will cover such diverse topics as the pagan culture of the early Anglo-Saxons, the Sutton Hoo Ship-Burial, the Irish and Roman missions to England, the Viking invasions, the military and educational campaigns of King Alfred the Great, Anglo-Saxon manuscript culture, and the Bayeux Tapestry. The course will center upon the interpretive study of such primary source materials as the Beowulf poem, Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People, and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. There will be two papers, three in-class quizzes, and a final examination.
“Spain is different” was the slogan used by the caudillo Francisco Franco to encourage tourism to Spain in the 1970s, as the country had been effectively isolated by the international community due to Franco’s fascist rule. The slogan was designed to evoke the “exotic” qualities of Spain and its history. Of course, this elided the historical nuances of centuries’ worth of encounter and exchange among the many peoples—particularly Christians, Jews, and Muslims—who called the peninsula home in the premodern past. In this graduate-level reading seminar geared towards specialists in premodern history, Iberian history, and Latin American history, we will study the history of Spain and Portugal until roughly the end of the seventeenth century as constructed and analyzed by some of the foremost scholars of premodern Iberian history from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Among some of the many themes investigated will be the waves of settlers of the peninsula, the formation of the Iberian kingdoms, social and cultural exchanges among Christians, Jews, and Muslims, and cultural and intellectual innovations. Each week students will be expected to read approximately a book and/or a selection of scholarly articles and come prepared to discuss them at length. The final project will be a historiographical paper that deals with the state of the question regarding some aspect of premodern Iberian history.