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Introduction to Medieval Studies
. Mondays 2:00PM-4:00PM, Room 3307. 3 credits, Prof. Michael Sargent.
This course provides an introduction to a variety of materials, methods, disciplines, approaches and questions that you will encounter in studying (primarily) western European culture in the period spanning the ninth through fifteenth centuries CE. Depending on the background, training, strengths and interests of the students, we will focus particularly on textual issues in political and religious history, literature and literary transmission, mentalities, art and music. We will also pay attention to the modern and postmodern construction of the medieval through all of these areas of interest.
The following courses will fulfill program requirements:
. Mondays 11:45AM- 1:45PM, Room 3421, Prof. Jennifer Ball.
A historiographical approach to ornament examining various lenses though which ornament has been understood: nature (Ruskin), biology (Jones and Semper), linguistics (semper), and psychology (Grabar, Riegl, Gombrich) among others. Ornament will also be examined in terms of function (as frame, as field, as writing, and so on). We will also consider ideas that often align or coincide with ornament such as materialism, or spoliation. While Islamic, byzantine and western medieval art will be the primary examples used for this course, as it is a historiography of the subject, we will look across time and space. Accepts auditors- with interview.
Religious Differences in Medieval and Early Modern Literature.
Tuesdays 2:00PM-4:00PM, Room 3305, Prof. Steven Kruger.
In medieval and early modern England (and Europe more generally), religion operates in significant ways to shape individual and community identities. England officially expels its Jewish communities in 1290; in 1656, Parliament debated a proposal to readmit Jews (which was never officially adopted, although
Jewish communities began to reestablish themselves in this moment). Islam, throughout the long period from the twelfth to the seventeenth century, remains a strong ideological presence for Europeans, and confrontations between Christians and Muslims – in the period of the Crusades, at Nicopolis in 1396, at Constantinople in 1453, and in the long Ottoman-European struggle – often impinged in intensely real ways on lives in Western Europe (even when the crucial events in this confrontation remained at some considerable distance). Fractures within European Christianity, too – the Reformation, of course, but also earlier “heretical” and popular devotional movements – strongly shape medieval and early modern societies and cultures.
In this seminar we will look at a wide range of work that considers questions about religious difference, interreligious confrontation and cooperation. The texts read will range from the more canonical – Chaucer’s
Man of Law’s Tale
Merchant of Venice
The Jew of Malta
– to more obscure and often anonymous works: seventeenth-century pamphlets produced during the debate over Jewish readmission; early modern pamphlets identifying Native Americans with the ten lost tribes of Israel; plays about Christians “turning Turk”; pro-Christian polemic produced by Jews who had converted to Christianity; late-medieval drama in which religious difference is placed center-stage; romances of Christian-Muslim confrontation like
The Sultan of Babylon
. Alongside these primary texts, we will consider some historical materials that help place this literary-cultural work into perspective. We will also read some theoretical and critical writing that considers how religious identity operates: Is medieval and early modern religion parallel in certain ways to modern race? How is it shaped by and intertwined with questions about gender and sexuality? In a period when the idea of the modern nation is born, how important is religion to that formation?
Each student will present orally as part of the seminar structure, and each student taking the course for 4.0 credits will produce a research paper for the course. Students working in periods other than the medieval and early modern can develop projects in their own field related to the course theme. First-year students in the Ph.D. Program in English can use this project to produce one of the four components of the portfolio required for the Program’s first examination: 1) a 12-15-page review essay; 2) an annotated bibliography of 15 primary or secondary sources; 3) a syllabus with a 1500-word account of a pedagogical approach to a text; or 4) a 10-page conference paper. In addition to completing one of these portfolio projects, students will write a brief (1000-1500-word) essay reflecting on the ways in which this project might provide the basis for a longer, research essay.
Dante's Web: Charting Connections between the Commedia and his other Works
. Wednesdays 2:00PM-4:00PM, Room 3310A, Prof. Paola Ureni.
This course will highlight the connections between Dante’s works, identifying and following thematic, philosophical, and lexical threads that link the Commedia, Convivio, Monarchia, De Vulgari Eloquentia, Vita Nuova, and Rime. Even though the consideration of the temporal sequence of Dante’s writings will be important, our readings will be organized according to thematic – rather than chronological – criteria. Scholars have often discussed the relations and reciprocal influences in Dante’s oeuvre, particularly, for instance, in the Commedia and the Convivio. On the basis of the philosophical and political dimension, studies and critical editions of the Monarchia have considered its relationship to the Convivio. More recently, for example, the political dimension has been highlighted as relevant to the linguistic theory of the De Vulgari Eloquentia. Besides investigating the connections discussed by Dante criticism, we will explore and identify references to structures of thought shared by the different aspects of medieval intellectual discussions, and mirroring Dante’s intellectual iter. This will allow for a study of the poet’s syncretic consideration of the political, philosophical, musical, and scientific discourses, as well as of the relationship between classical authors and material, and contemporary theological tenets.
Musicology Seminar: Medievalism and the Modernist Musical Imagination
. Fridays 10:00AM-1:00PM, Room 3491, Prof. Anne Stone.
The list of composers who have engaged in some way with medieval music reads like a who’s who of musical modernism in Europe and the United States: Benjamin, Berio, Birtwistle, Britten, Hindemith, Maxwell Davies, Messiaen, Pärt, Perle, Saariaho, Stravinsky, Tavener, Webern, and Wuorinen, just to name a few.
This seminar will explore the intersections between selected modernist composers and the specter of the Middle Ages. Is the relationship merely one of numerous isolated references, a collection of case studies, or is there a deeper affinity between the project of modernist music and the collective notion of the medieval? What do modernist composers think they are doing when they allude to medieval musical processes or literary themes? Is there a coherent "medievalism" discernible in modern music akin to that of neoclassicism or exoticism?
We will start by considering two recent operas that take troubadours as their subject: Kaija Saariaho’s
L’amour de loin
(2000) and George Benjamin's
Written on Skin
(2012). Later topics will include Paul Hindemith’s direction of the Yale Collegium Musicum, George Perle’s analysis of Machaut, Luciano Berio’s collaboration with the medievalist Edoardo Sanguineti, and medieval-ish works by Peter Maxwell Davies and Harrison Birtwistle.
Requirements: weekly reading and written response, posted to Dropbox the Wednesday before each class; a short presentation and 5-page paper early in the semester; and a longer presentation and paper (15 pages) at the end; the longer paper may be an elaboration of the earlier paper, or on a different topic.
Readings will include two recent books from art history and English respectively: Alexander Nagel,
Medieval Modern: Art out of Time
(London: Thames and Hudson, 2012); Bruce Holsinger,
The Premodern Condition
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005); other reading will include articles and essays by Walter Benjamin, Luciano Berio, Bertold Brecht, Umberto Eco, Paul Hindemith, Daniel Leech-Wilkinson, Ezra Pound, George Perle, and Kirsten Yri.
Medieval Theatre & Performance
. Thursdays 2:00PM-4:00PM, Room 3310B, Prof. Erika Lin.
This course offers an interdisciplinary introduction to theatre and performance in England and Europe from the Byzantine era through the mid-1500s, with special emphasis on the later centuries. Combining dramatic analysis with varied historical and theoretical methods, we will examine a range of theatrical genres, including biblical plays, morality drama, saints’ plays, interludes, and farces. Because scripted drama was only one of many ways that performance permeated medieval culture, we will consider theatre’s extensive links with other social practices, such as music, dancing, sports, festivity, civic pageantry, royal ceremony, devotional ritual, and judicial punishment, and we will draw connections with broader cultural discourses on topics such as gender, class, religion, marriage, witchcraft, and politics. Throughout our investigations, we will pay particular attention to popular beliefs about—and experiences of—spectacle, audience, identity, and social formations. Beyond a historicist focus, the course also has three more theoretical aims: (1) to consider how the study of pre-modern theatre can enrich the field of performance studies, which has been shaped largely by contemporary concerns; (2) to develop new critical tools through analysis of unfamiliar earlier periods, which offer alternative epistemologies; and (3) to address self-reflexive questions about methodology, materiality, gaps in evidence, and the stakes of research on ephemeral phenomena. Primary readings will include both plays and other extant texts related to performance, such as property lists, ballads, household records, and parish accounts. We may also consider some visual evidence. Non-English sources will be provided in translation; all archival documents will be transcribed (no experience with paleography required). Secondary readings will be drawn from a variety of fields, including not only theatre studies, cultural history, and literature, but also history of science, musicology, dance studies, architecture, art history, and religious studies.
Evaluation: active class participation, short weekly response papers, possible brief in-class presentation, research proposal with annotated bibliography, and a final paper.
Literature, Law, and the Penitential Body
. Tuesdays 2:00PM-4:00PM, Room 4419. 4 credits, Prof. Jay Paul Gates.
Ranging across injury, ordeal, execution, judicial mutilation, and torture as represented in Anglo-Saxon literary and legal texts, this course explores imagined social structures over the 600-year Anglo-Saxon period and conceptions of the role of the embodied individual in those structures. Issues to be examined are intersections between the imagined social structures as represented by the literature and the laws as well as potential divergences; shifts from a fragmented, family-, and feud-oriented structure to one based on the individual Christian as a confessional subject; and the roles and responsibilities of legal authorities such as judges, kings, and bishops within each structure.
The following courses will fulfill program requirements:
Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales: Animals, Nature, and Agency
. Thursdays 11:45AM-1:45PM, Room 3308. 2/4 credits, Prof. Karl Steel
“So pricketh hem Nature in hir corages”: apart from reading Chaucer’s unfinished masterpiece, this course will focus on the implications of this single line—how can we, and should we even, distinguish between Nature’s “pricking” of the hearts of birds and its pricking of our hearts? Where can we locate the agency of Springtime piety, or of the other cultural formations of this collection of texts, whether these be the gendering of violence (Knight’s Tale), the compulsions of class and jealousy (Clerk’s Tale), or the helpless binding of character to story (Man of Law’s Tale)? Along the way, the course will offer introductions to Critical Animal Theory, major concerns in Ecocriticism, and readings in free choice and causality, from Augustine and Boethius through to the end of the Middle Ages.
Course requirements will include two book reviews (one on a medieval topic, one on a related topic in contemporary, theoretically sophisticated scholarship), and the usual seminar paper. Familiarity with Chaucer’s Middle English is helpful but not required.
Early Modern Iberian/Colonial Latin America
. Wednesday, 6:30-8:30 p.m., Room 5383, 3 credits, Prof. Herman Bennett
In the Fall of 2017, History 76000: Early Modern Iberia/Colonial Latin America will be framed around the political economy of the early modern Atlantic.
In the wake of successive intellectual turns (the linguistic, feminist, cultural, the post-colonial, and archival turn), our engagement with the cultural domain has become finely honed but at the expense of our understanding of the social. This dynamic, in many respects, reflects the working of related but distinct renderings of the political. Arguably, for cultural historians narrating the political entails discursive formations and an awareness of how political rationalities are grafted on to cultural codes and grammars. While we now understand how the political related to the social draws on similar discursive formations, it also embodies a materiality—signified in the relationship of the political to the economy as in ‘political economy’—that configures it as distinct. To this end, the course will introduce students to a range of authors and texts which will develop our analytical skills as they relate to the realm of political economy. To be clear, this is not a course in economics or political science for historians. While abstractions of the “economy” or “politics” figure prominently in the semester’s work, the course focuses on the contextualized meanings that these terms and related concepts implied for various authors and historical actors through time and space. At the same time, it should be understood that this course does not offer a formalized discussion of ‘political economy’ framed through a historiography self-consciously stylized as such. Instead by bringing a distinct selection of authors and texts into conversation seminar participants will hopefully refine their acumen for thinking and writing about the temporal and spatial specificity of early modern ‘political economy.’
Islamic rulership: the caliphate in theory and practice.
Tuesday, 4:15-6:15 p.m., Room 5383, 3 credits, Profs. Anna Akasoy and Chase Robinson
This class offers an introductory survey to Islamic political theory and practice. Readings and discussions will address origins and development of principal themes and institutions of the Islamic political tradition, including prophecy, caliphate, imamate, jihad, messianism, sharia, revivalism and modernism. We will be reading a combination of primary and secondary sources, including scripture, history, poetry, political theory, coins, and philosophical literature. Both Sunni and Shiite traditions will be covered. No background in Middle Eastern history required.
Neoplatonism across Time and Faith
(cross-listed as Comp Lit 80900 and ENGL 71000).
Wednesdays, 2:00pm-4:00pm.,Room 3309, 3/4 credits
Profs. Clare Carroll & Feisal Mohamed
Engaging in questions of Platonic influence may seem to support a traditional view of the Renaissance as reviving and redoubling a unitary sense of Western culture tracing its roots to ancient Greece. This course poses a strong challenge to that narrative. By focusing on the Platonism of late antiquity, we in fact engage in a profound re-mapping of the period’s engagement with classical and medieval locales, one less centered on Athens and Rome and taking into its ken Alexandria, Damascus, and Baghdad.
The Neoplatonic tradition was the philosophical
of the Renaissance: the rediscovery of Plotinus and Proclus achieved in no small measure through the prodigious influence of Marsilio Ficino was a spark generating widespread interest. And as was recognized in the period, it is a tradition that spans all three Abrahamic faiths: the great wellspring of biblical Neoplatonism is the Jewish scholar Philo of Alexandria, whose influence can be discerned in the seminal Christian mysticism of Pseudo-Dionysius and in the Islamic tradition of
. These interests certainly display themselves in literature, though this course will ask whether such engagements constitute thick intellectual engagement or a merely ornamental embellishment.
We will see in the course how Neoplatonism continues to provide a common philosophical language to theologians of all three faiths, as in the work of the twentieth-century Shi’a philosopher Henri Corbin and of the member of the “Radical Orthodoxy” school Simon Oliver.
Great Digs: important sites of the Classical, Late Antique and Islamic Worlds
.Thursdays, 4:15-6:15 p.m., Rm. 6421, 3 credits, Prof. Elizabeth Macaulay-Lewis
This class exposes students to major archaeological sites from the Classical, Late Antique and Islamic worlds. It seeks to broaden students’ awareness of archaeological methods and aims to demonstrate how interconnected the Classical, Late Antique and Islamic worlds were. Two major types of archaeological techniques, excavation and survey, are introduced.The course will then focus on examples from all periods surveyed in the track, including sites such as Classical Athens, Rome, Hadrian’s Villa (Tivoli), Pompeii, Alexandria, Constantinople, Ravenna, Jerusalem, Dura Europos, and Samarra. These examples and others will serve as case studies that demonstrate how specific sites shaped our knowledge of human history.