The term "Middle Ages" prompts the question "the middle of what?" European Enlightenment thinkers gave that name to the thousand year range of ca. 500-1500 because they saw it as bridging the Classical and their own “modern” (to us, Early Modern) periods, starting with alleged “rebirth” (Renaissance) of Greco-Roman civilization. Current medieval studies have burst the bounds of Euro-centrism to involve all of Asia and much of Africa and to highlight interconnections from Ireland to Byzantium, Rome to Kyoto, Paris to Baghdad, Beijing to Cairo, and Delhi to Timbuktu in a era where text-based universal religions played an inordinate role in society and political, social, philosophical, and scientific thought.
The Medieval Studies Program at Georgetown University offers an interdisciplinary undergraduate major and minor in the College as well as Certificates in the School of Foreign Service and Business Schools. Senior majors and certificate students write a thesis, and minors also have this option. With the program director in the fall, they research chosen topics in a small seminar format that encourages a focus on methods, critical approaches, writing skills, and rhetorical options; in spring, they continue with close mentoring of the thesis writing and submission. For more information, please click on the following Program page link or on the Program tab at the top of the page.
An Honors option also exists, requiring three courses in Latin (Latin I and II and Medieval Latin) or its equivalent in another appropriate language for medieval research (Greek, Classical Arabic, Biblical Hebrew, Classical Chinese, Classical Japanese, Old Norse, Old Church Slavonic, Middle Persian, Sanskrit, etc.), and a thesis which earns at least an A minus.
The Medieval Studies Program empowers students as culturally literate global citizens through interdisciplinary study of cultures removed in time and space. They develop strong skills in research, analysis, critical inquiry, rhetoric, and writing, elements shared by many other fields that make up our interdisciplinary range. Our program graduates have gone on to a variety of successful post-graduate experiences including law, medical, and graduate schools, as well as jobs in the corporate and data management worlds.
The program's faculty and courses draw from more than fifteen different disciplines within the University. Our faculty offer courses in history, law, art history, archaeology, manuscript study, theology, and philosophy, as well as classical and vernacular languages and literatures. Students can expect to acquire expertise in how varied methodologies interact and intersect, creating a genuine interdisciplinary experience. Our flexibility and range are strong incentives, as is the centrality of medieval institutions to our modern world and its core issues in religion, warfare, class, gender, education, labor, trade, and finance. This impressive interdisciplinary range and ready access to faculty make Medieval Studies a rich and rewarding experience for our community of students. Summer, semester, or year abroad study can greatly enrich one’s program.
Off-campus, Washington's Dumbarton Oaks, Smithsonian Institution, Library of Congress, National Gallery of Art, the Folger Shakespeare Library, and the Freer and Sackler Galleries, offer a wealth of teaching, research, and internship opportunities. Further afield, students may wish to advantage of Baltimore's Walters Art Gallery and library, and in New York, The Pierpont Morgan Library, The Cloisters, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
In addition to our academic program, our ally the Medieval Club is a student-run society which seeks to combine the historical elements of the Middle Ages with the recreational in order to raise student interest, awareness, and knowledge about this important period.
Learning Goals and Outcomes
We share many of the learning goals which our contributing departments have articulated, in addition to some goals which are more specific to Medieval Studies.
- Students will engage the fundamental building blocks of civilization and cultural development found in the study of things medieval, such as studying and examining the roles of so-called “barbarians” as the Vikings and the Mongols, the continuation of Mediterranean trade, banking, and production after Rome's collapse, the Silk Road, China’s breakthroughs in practical technology and money economy, the transmission of Hindu numbers and mathematics to the Islamic and Christian worlds, the medieval European university and its non-European equivalents, and the questioning gender relations first constructed and contested in “courtly love” from Japan to France
- Students will learn the practice of interdisciplinary approaches and how the nature of the evidence for Medieval Studies necessitates genuine interdisciplinarity, not just the accretion of separate disciplines.
- Students will deepen their understanding of the roots and branches of Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism in all their diversity, mutual influences, conflicts, and coexistence.
- As culturally literate global citizens, students engage with the positive living influence of the Middle Ages in modern cultures through such institutions as the state, gender roles, law, banking, vernacular literatures, and the university itself, as well as the problems created by the confrontation of deeply ingrained medieval religious outlooks and cosmopolitan modern rationalism, consumerism, and hedonism. Students can serve a world beyond themselves equipped with a deepened awareness of how much of the medieval survives in current institutions and why it matters.
- From their academic specialization, students can develop the ability to observe, describe, analyze, and interpret medieval art, artifacts, documents, and literatures both as individual fields of study and as interrelated evidence of past thought, aesthetics, production, and attitudes.
- Students can deepen their abilities to understand, question, and appreciate societies removed in space and time from the students' own cultures: the alterity of the Middle Ages equips us to better understand the long history of modern issues of tolerance and difference.