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Spring 2010





Introduction to Medieval Studies


Wednesday,  11:45 a.m. – 1:45 p.m. Room TBA, 3 credits [10253]


Professor David Greetham



The course will deal with some of the broad disciplinary issues (e.g., what is medieval history? the nature of the medieval book, the role of classical literature and philosophy in medieval consciousness, the influence of Islamic culture), while also concentrating on three or four major interdisciplinary “moments” that can illuminate the tensions, conflicts, and cultural challenges faced during the period(s).

While the selection of such “moments” will in part depend on student interests,# possibilities might include the Albigensian heresy/crusade, the Black Death (“great mortality”), the invention of printing, and childhood/the family (as a tie-in with the Spring medieval conference at GC). These “moments” will each be placed in an interdisciplinary context usually involving literature, politics, art history, and religon.

We will probably use the recent Lansing & English
Companion to the Medieval World (Blackwell 2009) as an initial source,* together with such classic works as Le Goff’s Medieval Civilization (Blackwell, 1988). The opening and closing sessions will attempt a current definition of “medieval studies,” and will probably use Van Engen’s The Past and Future of Medieval Studies (Notre Dame, 1994) and/or Powell’s Medieval Studies (Syracuse, 1992), supplemented by more recent critiques of the field.

Requirements: preparation for, and participation in all class discussions, with probably two oral presentations and a final paper.

# I would be interested in receiving student suggestions for these interdisciplinary “moments,” ideally well in advance of the semester. You can send me an e-mail  

*As with most Blackwell
Companions, this is a very expensive book ($200) and students will not be asked to purchase it. I have ordered it for the library and will also make my own copy available.





Foundations of Monasticism


Wednesday, 4:15 – 6:15 p.m.,  Room TBA, 3 credits [10254]


Professor Jennifer Ball


The course will be arranged both geographically, as well as by the various types of monasticism practiced (hermetic, coenobitic, etc.). 

Texts, especially early monastic rules and saints’ lives, alongside architectural and archaeological remains will be used to piece together the everyday life and development of these communities, and their relationship with the secular world around them, which was sometimes fraught with tension.

Special attention will be paid to issues of gender and sexuality, as groups ranged from those based on sexual renunciation to communities in which entire families took up the monastic life. 

Additionally, the involvement of monasteries in cultural production will be examined, as monastics were generally literate and monasteries often housed scriptoria, textile producing workshops or artist workshops of other kinds.








The Book of Hours Unbound: French & Netherlandish Manuscript Illumination 15th-Century



Tuesday, 2:00-4:00  p.m., Room TBA, 3 credits [10327]


Professor Barbara Lane


Two of the most elaborately illuminated manuscripts of the fifteenth century will on view in New York this spring: the Belles Heures, executed for the Duke of Berry between about 1404 and 1409 (The Art of Illumination: The Limbourg Brothers and the Belles Heures of Jean de France, Duc de Berry, Metropolitan Museum of Art, March 2 to June 13), and the Hours of Catherine of Cleves, probably produced in Utrecht around 1440 (Demons and Devotion: The Hours of Catherine of Cleves, Pierpont Morgan Library and Museum, January 22- May 2). 

Both of these manuscripts will be exhibited unbound, offering the unprecedented and never-to-be-repeated opportunity to study their miniatures as individual folios. 

This seminar will be organized around these exhibitions, studying the two manuscripts in the context of fifteenth-century illumination in France and the Netherlands. 

Possible topics for seminar papers include the iconography of the unusual cycles of miniatures in these manuscripts, their relationship to each other or to panel paintings or other manuscripts produced in France and the Low Countries during this period, and the problematic identity of the Master of Catherine of Cleves. 

A few auditors will be accepted if space permits.  The total number of students cannot exceed 12, because a few classes will be held in the museum galleries where the manuscripts are exhibited.


Preliminary Readings
Defoer, Henri L.M., et al. The Golden Age of Dutch Manuscript Painting.  New York, 1990, especially pp. 146-164. 

Husband, Timothy. The Art of Illumination. The Limbourg Brothers and the Belles Heures of Jean de
France, Duc de Berry.  New Haven, Yale University Press, 2008.

Wieck, Roger. Time Sanctified: The Book of Hours in Medieval Art and Life.  2nd. Ed., New York, George Braziller, 2001.




Literature & the Ancient World: Latin


Wednesday, 4:15-6:15 p.m., Room TBA,  4 credits [10258]


Professor Jacob Stern
Permission of instructor required.


This course will begin with a review of Latin grammar and syntax.

We will then read weekly selections from various classical, medieval and Renaissance authors; these will be translated and discussed during class meetings.

Readings will be chosen from the following: Augustine, Bede, Boccaccio, Catullus, Cicero, Horace, Jerome, Livy, Lucretius, Medieval lyrics, More, Nepos, Ovid, Pliny, Vergil.

This course, if passed with the grade of B+ or better, will satisfy the ancient language requirement for the Ph.D. in Comparative Literature.

A suitable knowledge of Latin is prerequisite for the course and therefore permission of the instructor is required in order to register.






The Tristan Legend


Thursday, 6:30 – 8:30  p.m., Room TBA, 4 credits [10261]


Professor Paul Oppenheimer



For at least a thousand years, torturous human conflicts between passion, or undying, obsessive love, and politics, or public responsibility, as well as between love and art, have found some of their most influential and fascinating representations in versions of the Tristan legend.

The legend itself has exerted a profound influence, persisting into the present, on Western cultures, poets, musicians, painters, film-makers, and novelists.

Starting with what may be its earliest-known appearance, in the eleventh-century Persian epic Vis and Ramin by Fakhraddin Gorgani (to be read in translation, as will other works, unless students have the languages), the course explores the Tristan story’s extraordinary movement westward into such masterpieces as the medieval Tristan by Béroul , Gottfried von Strassburg’s thirteenth-century Tristan, and the Morte D’Arthur by Malory, plus important modern changes in its characters and situations brought about by Swinburne, Richard Wagner (whose operatic inventions will be considered in detail), Thomas Mann, and F. Scott Fitzgerald: Tender Is the Night will be considered from the point of view that it reflects many of the poisonous, seductive, psychological, and mystical motifs of the original story.

Cinematic treatments will be investigated, and where possible, shown.

A brief, in-class presentation of a research topic. One research essay.

Texts (addenda to be supplied later):
Fakhraddin Gorgani. Vis and Ramin. Dick Davis trans. Penguin Classics.

Gottfried von Strassburg. Tristan. A. T. Hatto trans. Penguin.

Béroul. The Romance of Tristan: The Tale of Tristan’s Madness. Alan S. Fedrick trans. Penguin Classics.
Malory. Le Morte D’Arthur, etc. Keith Baines trans., Robert Graves intro. Signet Classics.

Richard Wagner (TBA): both opera and libretto.

Charles Algernon Swinburne. Tristram of Lyonesse. Various editions: see also editions of his complete poems.

Thomas Mann. Death in Venice and Seven Other Stories. Lowe-Porter trans. Various editions.

F. Scott Fitzgerald. Tender Is the Night. Various






Dante & Medieval Thought


NYU Tuesday, 3:30-6:10  p.m. Room TBA, 4 credits [10269]


Professor Ardizzone



Course taught in English






The High and Late Medieval Dream Vision



Thursday, 11:45 a.m.-1:45 p.m., Room TBA 2/4 credits [10128]


Professors Glenn Burger and Steven Kruger



Medieval theorists conceived the dream as potentially revealing or commenting on individual psychology, the social and the political, and cosmic truth, all at the same time.

Perhaps this capacious definition of dreams helps account for the extraordinary popularity, from the twelfth century to the sixteenth, of the literary genre of dream vision.

Many of the major European writers of the period – Alain de Lille, Boccaccio, Petrarch, Machaut, Chaucer, Shakespeare – produced works that are in conversation with the tradition of dream literature, and dream poetry is central to the high and late medieval English literary tradition.

In this course, we will examine a wide range of medieval dream visions, thinking about how these works engage, in complex ways, with questions about the individual psyche, sociality, and the metaphysical.

We will read works selected from among the following authors and texts: Boethius, Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun (The Romance of the Rose), Guillaume de Deguileville, Jean Froissart, Geoffrey Chaucer, William Langland (Piers Plowman), Pearl, John Lydgate, Robert Henryson, James I of Scotland, The Assembly of Ladies, Lancelot of the Laik, The Court of Sapience, John Skelton, and Stephen Hawes.

In considering such works, we will attend to the ways in which the dream vision was used to explore the experience and ideology of courtly love; its involvements with theological and devotional discourses; its navigation of the complexities of medieval gender and sexuality, and of such social institutions as marriage, the family, the court, and pilgrimage.

We will consider, throughout, how historicist approaches to medieval material might be useful, as well as what kinds of critical theoretical approach (psychoanalytic? Deleuzoguattarian? queer? postcolonial?) might be particularly fruitful in the reading of such medieval texts.

Students will be expected to prepare two oral presentations in the course of the semester, and to write a 20-page seminar paper.


After the Bible: Saints' Legends in Late Antiquity


Tuesday, 6:30-8:30 p.m., Room TBA, 2/4 credits [10149]

Professor E. Gordon Whatley


Hagiography (i.e. writings about the saints) is probably the most successful narrative mode in European literary history, flourishing uninterrupted from the 2nd to the early-16th century, far surpassing secular narrative and lyric genres in quantity of extant compositions and manuscript copies.

Only in recent decades, however, has this rich and influential corpus of texts begun to engage the attention of a wider critical community; it still lacks an authoritative modern discussion or theory.

This course will explore the main hagiographic sub-genres (acta apocrypha, vita, passio, miracula, inventio) through a selection of representative saints' legends originally composed in Greek and Latin, and medieval English verse and prose.

Representative readings will be selected from the following:- early “apocryphal gospels” and "acts" (Virgin Mary, Andrew, Paul & Thecla); the "passions" of early martyrs, both historical and dubious (Polycarp, Perpetua & Felicity, Agnes, Cecilia, and George), and later martyrs such as the English King Edmund of East Anglia, and Archbishop Thomas Becket; the "lives" of “confessor” saints: Anthony (desert hermit), Martin (missionary bishop), Benedict (monk, monastic founder), Radegunde (nun, monastic founder), Christina of Markyate (English recluse and abbess), and Francis of Assisi (“the last Christan”); individual "miracle" tales (Andrew, Virgin Mary, Erkenwald of London, Augustine of Canterbury); the “invention” and “translation” of relics (Swithun of Winchester). Also included, for comparison’s sake, will be some partial selections from pre-medieval works traditionally regarded as “biography” (Plutarch’s Life of Julius Caesar, Augustine of Hippo’s autobiography), and some post medieval texts, including an opera and early movie. While the authors of many of the classic hagiographical sources are anonymous, among the known authors of our selections are (in roughly chronological order) Athanasius, Jerome, Sulpicius Severus, Venantius Fortunatus, Baudonivia, Gregory the Great, Gregory of Tours, Hrotswitha of Gandersheim, Ælfric of Eynsham, Bonaventura, Jacopo da Voragine, Chaucer, Lydgate, Dryden, Flaubert, France, and de Mille.

While it will be convenient for some texts to be purchased from, e.g. Amazon, the majority of our texts, most of them quite short, will be available on the Internet, or in Blackboard as pdf files, and occasionally on Library Reserve.

Although many of the readings are available in modern (or early modern) translations, there will be a few encounters with Middle English, but help will be available for non-medievalists.


Some opportunities for work with original manuscripts.

Class members will present brief, occasional reports on our primary texts and relevant secondary sources throughout the first eleven weeks of the course; during the last three weeks they will report on, and write up, a longer, focused study of a hagiographic text of their choice.




Islamic History, 600 - ca. 1200


Wednesday, 2:00-4:00 p.m., Room TBA, 3 credits [10177]
Professor Chase Robinson




This course presents an introduction to the political and social history of the central Islamic lands from the seventh century until the beginning of Seljuk rule in the twelfth. 

We shall be especially concerned with charting the emergence of the political and social order and with understanding some of the principal debates in the field of early and ‘classical’ Islamic history. 


Advanced Seminar: Pre-Modern European & Non-American History

Wednesday, 6:30-8:30 p.m., Room TBA, 5 credits [10182]

Professor Eric Ivison


Medieval Epic


Monday, 6:30-8:30  p.m., Room TBA, 3 credits [10152]

Professor Ottavio DiCamillo







This course will deal the epic poetry of medieval Castile and will focus on those works that have been deemed representative of the genre: the Poema de mio Çid, the Poema de Fernán González as well as the Mocedades de Rodrigo and other fragments of supposedly epic cycles.


Aiming at redefining both the genre and the canon, often associated with cantares de gestas and romances, we will begin by reexamining the various theories thus far advanced on medieval epic and then proceed to analyze classical epic material in the Libro de Alexandre and the absence of such material in the works under examination,.

In this context, attention will be paid to the chroniclers of the later Middle Ages which are believed to have incorporated many of these epic fragments in their prose narrative. Special emphasis will be given to textual problems, to the transmission of the material text as well as to the organization of the literary text (language, use of rhetoric, techniques of artes poetriae, intended readers, reception etc.). 

Text to be used in the course: Cantar de mio Çid.  Ed. Alberto Montaner, Barcelona: Crítica; Poema de Fernán González. Ed. Juan Victorio, Madrid: Cátedra; Libro de Alexandre. Ed. Jesús Cañas Murillo, Madrid: Cátedra. 

Other epic fragments will be distributed in photocopies throughout the course.