Announcing our Global Medieval Studies Awards for Academic Excellence

Posted in Announcements Student

This year the Global Medieval Studies Program solicited nominations from our Affiliated Faculty for student research projects deserving of special recognition. We are pleased to announce seven Global Medieval Studies Awards for Academic Excellence from 2021.   

Congratulations to our prize winners – and to all of our students, who have shown such admirable fortitude and creativity under such adverse conditions in the 2020-21 academic year.  

Sarah McNamer

Director, Global Medieval Studies Program

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Rosabel Ansari, The Ambiguity of ‘Being’ in Arabic and Islamic Philosophy

Ph.D. dissertation, Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies

In this dissertation, entitled The Ambiguity of ‘Being’ in Arabic and Islamic Philosophy, Ansari studies the refutation of monism in the philosophy of Abu Nasr al-Farabi (d. 950) through his philosophy of language. Ansari shows how Farabi developed Aristotle’s theory of pros hen homonymy and Alexander of Aphrodisia’s metaphysics to introduce a theory of ambiguous terms that have multiple meanings, applying it to the concept of ‘being.’ Farabi thereby refutes an ontological continuum or metaphysics of being to advance a theory of the ‘ambiguity of being’, which, as shown in the dissertation, influenced subsequent philosophers up to the present.

Rosabel Ansari’s dissertation was excellent; it received “distinction” from her committee.  

Advisor: Emma Gannagé, Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies


RK Fauth, UNPRECEDENTED: A Public Poetry Project.  M.A. capstone project, Department of English.

Fauth’s work, Unprecedented, contains all the hallmarks of excellent digital and public humanities projects. Beginning from a 14th Century pandemic text, Boccaccio’s Decameron, Fauth has created something innovative, interactive, and impactful.   

Unprecedented creatively marshals diverse modes and means, including public writing, erasure poetry, material culture, visual art, and more. In a wholly original way, Fauth’s project helps participants face the stresses of our current pandemic through the methods of the arts and humanities, and in so doing connects medieval literary texts to 21st-century life. This work also connects us to each other: for this reason among many, Unprecedented is a brilliant project.

Mentor: Matthew Pavesich, Department of English


Liam Giombetti, The Forgotten Republic: Renaissance Florence without the Medici, 1494-1512.   Honors B. A. thesis, Department of History.

This is a fine piece of scholarship.  Liam focuses on the contrast between the “usual” sources (especially Machiavelli’s writings and Guicciardini’s History of Italy) and alternative sources that either come from a less elite context (Luca Landucci’s Diary, Bartolomeo Masi’s Ricordanze) or are written before the end of the Republic in 1512 (Landucci and Masi, but also, e.g., Guicciardini’s own History of Florence, which he left unfinished in 1509). Liam argues that the hindsight, political-theory approach (great-man history, Realpolitik), and elite status and agenda (particularly of Guicciardini) colors their assessment – and dismissal – of the Republic of 1494-1512, and have influenced centuries of scholarship, whereas those other sources allow us to gain a clearer and fairer view of the Republic’s strengths, and of the level of popular support the republican regime enjoyed during its relatively short existence.

Florence is a well-mined field, but Liam found an intriguing and original angle to discuss these years, and his approach to and analysis of his sources is sharp, perceptive, and insightful. 

Mentor: Tommaso Astarita, Department of History


Sarah Laird, If Pachacuti Ran Your Hospital: What Inca and Andean Healing Practices Reveal About the Role of Rituals in Medicine.   Honors B.A. thesis, Department of History.

In this Honors thesis, Sarah aims to reconstruct elements of pre-conquest Inca culture.   The thesis is a sophisticated investigation of Inca medical practices.  It is based on a rigorous examination of original sources, namely Spanish and indigenous chroniclers.  The thesis uses multiple methods to understand medical practices, including the use of anthropological information of contemporary indigenous groups to understand Andean practices from before the Spanish invasion. Sarah used a variety of primary and secondary sources effectively, and her commitment to understanding the workings of this different culture, both in the past and today, is admirable.

Mentor: Erick Langer, School of Foreign Service


Clare Reid, In Every Sense: A Multisensory, Multimodal Approach to Hildegard of Bingen and Julian of Norwich.   M.A. capstone project, Department of English.  

Clare Reid’s capstone project engages with the creativity of medieval religious women and seeks to make creative learning and experience accessible to all.   Her project, ineverysense (new window), offers a window into the work of Hildegard of Bingen and Julian of Norwich and facilitates experiential knowledge by offering step-by-step guidelines for a diverse array of artistic projects, from creation mandalas (new window) to guided meditations (new window) to cosmic embroidery (new window).   Clare not only assesses a rich body of scholarship on Hildegard, Julian, and medieval nuns, but contributes in an original way to that body of scholarship through a key insight: that the process of artistic creation is likely to have been as meaningful to medieval nuns as the finished product.  Her paper, “Soul Meets Body: Examining Embodied Devotion in the Middle Ages,” (new window) offers a succinct explanation of the research informing her digital project.   Designed for participants from children to young adults to grandparents, Clare’s website incorporates the fruits of her pedagogical research, specifically on the Universal Design for Learning created by CAST, which she describes eloquently in her paper on Educational Strategies (new window).  

This is a remarkable and creative public humanities project deserving of recognition.  

Mentor: Sarah McNamer, Department of English


Rachel Singer, ‘Scandal’ in Poitiers? Three Perspectives on a Sixth-Century Nuns’ Rebellion.  Honors B. A. thesis, Department of History.

This History Honors thesis offers an engrossing and authoritative reassessment of an early medieval rebellion by nuns. This episode, known only through surviving references in Gregory of Tours’ work, comes to life in Rachel’s pathbreaking interpretation.

Rachel’s thesis is a magnificent accomplishment that makes an original contribution to historical scholarship. It is learned and creative. Rachel demonstrates a professional level of competence both in her deft and mature handling of the historiography and in her sensitive and careful navigating of the contradictory primary sources available. Her command over sources in multiple languages and from multiple eras is unwavering. Each chapter takes us through these three different perspectives on the event; her third chapter is a real tour de force in its ability to offer an innovative and persuasive interpretation of Clothild’s and Basina’s experiences before, during, and perhaps after the events at the convent.

This thesis is an exemplary piece of scholarship.

Mentor: Amy Leonard, Department of History


Victoria Peace, « Le message dans les illustrations de La Réponse du Bestiaire ».   Upper-level research paper, Department of French and Francophone Studies.

Victoria Peace’s essay focuses on the manuscript tradition of two texts: Richard de Fournival’s Bestiary of Love, in which the narrator attempts to use the lore of bestiaries as a strategy to woo an unnamed Lady, and especially the Lady’s Response, in which the same Lady responds by rebuking the first narrator’s advances by re-interpreting the same entries from the bestiaries. Drawing on Julia Kristeva’s concept of “abjection,” Peace examined the manuscript BnF, f. fr. 412 to argue that “many illustrations in the Lady’s Response provoke a feeling of unease, of horror, and of suspense in the reader,” and that this disturbing imagery amplifies the force of the Lady’s rebuke. To support her argument, Peace uses her training as an art historian to analyze the framing, staging, and iconography of several illustrations.

This is an excellent paper, an exemplary work of undergraduate scholarship.

Mentor: Joe Johnson, Department of French and Francophone Studies