Fall 2011 Courses

MVST 043 Knights of Old & Harry Potter - Dover

TR 11-12:15 

The objective of this course is to explore the medievalism of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels. To do this we need to go back to their medieval antecedents in the 12th-15th centuries, which will allow us to contrast and compare the old and the new. We will read masterpieces of imaginative storytelling from French, German, and English medieval literature in addition to selected Harry Potter volumes, but we will also consult Plato and Joseph Campbell. The old and the new are linked thematically in that they are all narratives about growing up and finding one’s identity: a complex, mysterious, and sometimes arduous process that the hero/heroine experiences as a magical world where the natural laws governing human existence are suspended, the unexpected is bound to occur, and marvels are reserved for the chosen few. The readings and discussion are in English. 

MVST 221 Apocalypse: Word/Image/Stone - Meyer

T 6:30-9

This course investigates the concept of the New Jerusalem, the City of God, as it is represented in medieval architecture, art, and literature of western Europe.  We begin by examining the biblical, philosophical, and theological foundations of this concept, with selections from the Books of Exodus and Kings, St. Paul’s teachings on allegory, the Book of Revelation, Plotinus, and St. Augustine. We supplement these sources with images, especially manuscript illumination and panel painting, that draw upon architectural motifs. We then turn to examples of great church architecture in France and England to explore how Gothic buildings, through their symbolic programs, serve as apocalyptic landscapes.  A variety of medieval literary works will be read together with selections from the visual arts to demonstrate how architecture and allegory worked together in the medieval effort to represent heaven on earth.  

  • All texts will be read in modern English translations.  
  • No previous knowledge of Biblical, ancient, or medieval materials is required for students. 
  • Examples from the visual arts will be drawn primarily from French and English sources.  Students will have the opportunity, however, to pursue independent work on other, related European traditions.

MVST 230 Magna Carta: Govt & Politics - Cline

MW 2 - 3:15

This seminar will explore the evolution and impact of the most famous document in all medieval history: the Magna Carta of 1215. A critical analysis of its Prologue and 63 chapters will answer some of the following questions: What political thesis does the Magna Carta represent? What socio-economic changes does the Magna Carta imply? What picture comes out of this document of the church, the merchant classes, women, the nobility, the peasants, free and serf? What is the role of the royal forest? What were the contemporary political and financial concerns and grievances that led to its issue? What liberties does it establish? Why was the Magna Carta repealed and reissued? The seminar will conclude by showing the influence of the Magna Carta on English and American law in the evolution toward constitutional government and the rule of law.

MVST 243 History of Ireland Pt. 1 - Paxton

TR 11 - 12:15

Ireland has been invaded repeatedly throughout its history.  Each wave of new arrivals has caused a renegotiation of what it means to be “Irish.”  This course will engage directly with that question by surveying Irish society and culture from pre-Christian times down to the end of the old Gaelic order in 1607.  We will glance at Irish prehistory and then examine “Celtic” society--its social structure, laws and literature.  Next, we will trace the impact of the Christianization of Ireland on this society.  We will look at the effect on Ireland of invasions by the Vikings and the Normans, and the establishment of English rule in Ireland.  We will then study the varying fortunes of the competing groups in Irish society (Gaelic Irish and Anglo-Irish), analyze the advent of the Reformation in Ireland, and examine the final conquest of Ireland in the reign of Elizabeth I and the passing of the old order.  

MVST 315 Malory's King Arthur - Mudan

TR 2 - 3:15

Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte Darthur (c. 1469) is the second full-length treatment of the Arthurian legend in English (the first being Laȝamon’s Brut in the early thirteenth century), and the first to incorporate now-ubiquitous additions such as Sir Lancelot and the Grail quest. Malory himself was a soldier and criminal, writing from prison in the middle of the Wars of the Roses, and his work in many ways reflects that tumultuous backdrop, as well as his own interactions with and adaptations of many and varied source texts. This class will use Le Morte Darthur as a starting point to look at medieval treatments of the Arthurian legend and how Malory uses these different iterations to form a larger, cohesive narrative. Secondary selections include but are not limited to Chrétien de Troyes, Geoffrey of Monmouth, Geoffrey Chaucer, and the Prose Lancelot-Grail cycle. Malory’s text is in Middle English, and secondary texts will be a combination of modern translations from Latin and French and some Middle English. All students should be prepared to read carefully and critically, and to use contextual and secondary material judiciously.

MVST 348 Senior Seminar: Research Wickham-Crowley

(TBD by student schedules)

 This research and reading seminar is required for senior Medieval Studies majors. Minors and SFS certificate students wishing to enroll and write a thesis are welcome to contact the Program Director, Prof. Kelley Wickham-Crowley at wickhamk@georgetown.edu

Cross-listed courses that count towards the major, minor and certificate

ARAB 260 1001 Nights – Colla

Within the classical Arabic literary tradition, the textual variants known as Alf layla wa-layla have a truly ambiguous status, at once influential and marginal to the understanding and practice of adab. This course will engage with critical readings of Alf layla wa-layla, set into conversation with texts such as al-Tanoukhi’s al-Faraj ba‘d al-shidda and al-Ramhurmuzi’s ‘Aja’ib al-Hind. Readings will be in Arabic.

ARAB 380 Introduction to Islamic Studies – Gannage

This course is designed as an introduction to Islamic civilization and thought and requires no prior knowledge of Islam or Middle Eastern History. It will focus on the political, social and religious institutions that shaped Islamic civilization as well as on the intellectual and scholarly traditions which characterized the Muslim world from the foundation of Islam onwards. Beginning with the geographical, cultural and historical context of the rise of Islam, the life of the Prophet, the Qur’an, it will extend through modernity and beyond, with a special emphasis on texts. The readings consist of a selection of translated primary sources as well as complementary background essays. In addition to the political history of this period, we will discuss a wide range of social and cultural themes including the translation movement, science and literature, art and architecture as well as gender issues.

CLSL 235  Adv. Latin: Letters and Letter Collections – Osgood

ENGL 100  Medieval British Literature – Hirsh

This course will involve readings in medieval English literature, both in translation and in the original Middle English. Its readings will range from the Old English epic poem Beowulf, through such Middle English works as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, numerous lyric poems, and selections from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, and including as well works reflecting late medieval religious practices, Julian of Norwich's Revelations, the Cloud of Unknowing, and the Book of Margery Kempe. It will include three papers and a final exam, and there will be a creative option offered for two of the papers. Credits: 3. 

Prerequisites: ENGL 040, 041, 042, or 043

ENGL 108  Chaucer – McNamer

n this course we will undertake a critical study of that brilliant masterpiece, The Canterbury Tales. By turns bawdy and lofty, racy and religious, hilarious and deeply moving, this collection of stories will challenge us to develop ways of reading adequate to its double status as relic of the distant past and as a text that anticipates many contemporary understandings of identity, meaning, and truth. We will read the Tales in the original Middle English, which is really quite easy; no prior exposure to the language is necessary. Requirements: 3 short papers (3 pages each), 1 longer paper (10 pages), frequent quizzes, and active participation in class discussion.Credits: 3

Prerequisites: ENGL 040, 041, 042, or 043  

FREN 362 Lit & Society in Medieval France – Dover

HIST 140 From Charlemagne to Napoleon - Leonard

The “Holy Roman Empire” is best known today because of Voltaire’s contemptuous declaration that it was “neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire.” However, for over a thousand years, the Empire played a key role in the political, cultural, and religious development of European history. Even after it had ended, historians have continued to debate about its importance and function, seeing it as the height of German glory in the Middle Ages, or as a hopelessly anachronistic structure whose continued existence doomed Germany to fall behind such “modern” states as England and France.

In this course, we will examine various aspects of the Empire’s history and culture. This will include investigation of individual figures, such as Charlemagne and Martin Luther, exploration of specific conflicts, such as the Investiture Controversy and the Crusades, and a look at more general questions, such as German identity and their supposed “Special Path” that some say led to Hitler and the Nazis. We will look at religious belief and change, warfare, and witchcraft. As part of this exploration, we will also engage with a variety of themes and different types of historical writing, both primary and secondary. By the end of the semester, you will not only know more about the Holy Roman Empire and its long, complicated history, you will also know more about the craft of writing history and working with a variety of historical sources. Credits: 3.

Prerequisites: None 

HIST 230 Fall of Rome to the Millenium

HIST 340 Medieval Saints and Society – D. Collins

 This course is about how and why saints fascinated medieval people and still fascinate modern historians. We will examine the various kinds of medieval saints: male and female, high-born and lowly, popular and official, aspiring and failed. We will also look at the ways that medieval people reacted to saints and the role that devotion to the saints played in medieval culture. We will study how medieval people honored their saints (and sometimes defamed them) and what was expected from saints in return; what kinds of people became recognized saints, and how this recognition happened (or failed to happen); and what sort of stories were told about saints and how this hagiography took on enormous cultural importance. We will be examining popular (and unusual) practices regarding saints, such as the treatment of saints’ corpses, as well as the development of the juridical process that led to canonization. Our approach to the phenomena of saints and their veneration in medieval society will be historical, anthropological, literary, and sociological. Credits: 3 Prerequisites: None

ITAL 375  Boccaccio: The Invention of Storytelling – Ciabattoni

PHIL 276  Dante and the Christian Imagination

This course will examine the question of the meaning of human freedom on the basis of careful reading of major portions of Dante Alighieri's La Divina Commedia. The study will be an integrated approach that draws together elements from the disciplines of literature, psychology (especially the theories of Jung), philosophy, and theology. Based on an analysis of the text and discussion of selected critical literature, students will be asked to reflect on Dante's interpretation of the nature of freedom, how it functions in the formation of personal identity, and the role of imagination in the formation of culture and worldviews. In this context we will discuss the specifically Christian and medieval character of Dante's imagination as well as the problem of finding appropriate metaphors to situate these issues in the transformed historical context of contemporary life. The basic assumption of the course is that Commedia, while framed in terms of the fourteenth-century medieval culture, can speak vividly and directly to modern readers in terms of human experiences which are universal and fundamental, regardless of differences in time and place. Fall. Credits: 3

Prerequisites: None

SPAN 523 History of the Spanish Language

Detailed study of the diachronic processes responsible for the transformation of spoken Latin into Old and Modern Spanish. What Students Should Know: The course is given in Spanish. Some knowledge of linguistics is required. Credits: 3 Prerequisites: None

THEO 050 Islamic Religious Thought and Practice

THEO 240 Judaism Under the Crescent and Cross