Spring 2012 Courses

MVST  041 Satire and Social Criticism - (HUMW II ) (3)

L. Harrison
One of the best ways to get a sense of a culture's most cherished values (and its most hotly contested issues) is to consider what its writers choose to criticize and how they attempt to do so. With a goal of making us better interpreters of medieval culture as well as more clever readers, this seminar will examine some of the subtlest, funniest, most scandalous, and most critical literature—prose and verse, fiction and history—from the twelfth to the fifteenth centuries. Our purview will include elaborate philosophical allegory, biting parody, and tales of talking animals. While focusing attention throughout on the complexity and elegance of medieval writers, the course will also encourage perspective on contemporary questions. Fulfills the Humanities & Writing II requirement.

MVST 109 Medieval Latin (3)

J. Osgood 

An introduction to medieval Latin literature through a study of some of its foundational (as well as most enjoyable) texts. Selections from the following works will be studied: Augustine's account of his childhood, student days, and teaching career in the early books of the Confessions; Boethius' Consolation of Philosophy, a sort of prison diary of a sixth century scholar accused of conspiring against the Gothic king Theoderic; Bede's history of the English people; and Einhard's life of Charlemagne. Beyond study of these texts, students will gain some familiarity with the overall range of medieval Latin literature and resources for studying it as well as its importance both for classicists as well as scholars of the Renaissance. Course requirements include weekly preparation of the assigned Latin and a midterm and final exam. 

MVST 202 The Book of Good Love  - (HUMW II ) (3)

E. Francomano

The fourteenth-century Spanish "Book of Good Love" ("Libro de buen amor") is a most perplexing book. Its author, Juan Ruiz, Archpriest of Hita, promises readers that his book will be 1) a manual for salvation; 2) a manual for sexual seduction; and 3) a manual for the composition of poetry. This class will take Juan Ruiz's philosophical, comic, and literary tour de force as a central text for an introduction to medieval studies.  To understand the "Book of Good Love" we will delve into the medieval history, theology, philosophy, and arts of rhetoric that produced it. We will pay special attention to the cultural crossroads of Al-Andalus, where the traditions and languages of Christianity, Judaism and and Islam coexisted. In addition to key works of the Middle Ages by St. Augustine, Boethius, Maimonides, and Ibn Hazm of Cordoba, we will read selections from Ruiz's near contemporaries Boccaccio and Chaucer. In order to better understand medieval texts and to hone their own writing skills, students will do in-class writing exercises that introduce some of the same techniques learned by medieval authors and readers. Readings and discussion are in English.

One of the required gateway courses for the Medieval Studies major, minor, and SFS Certificate, but open to other freshmen, sophomores and juniors; seniors by permission only. Can also count toward the English major and fulfills the Humanities & Writing II requirement.

MVST 215 Women in Arthurian Legend (3)

K. Mudan

The medieval Arthurian landscape is, for the most part, a man’s world but that doesn’t mean that women don’t play prominent roles both within and on the fringes of Arthur’s court. The roles of Queen Guinevere, Morgan le Fay, the Lady of the Lake, and the many other ladies who pose challenges and conflicts to Arthur’s knights will be the primary focus of this class. We will begin with the foundational text of Geoffrey of Monmouth and go on to explore the divergent French and English Arthurian traditions and the role of gender within those traditions. Texts discussed in the French portion (first half of the semester) will include excerpts from Wace’s Roman de Brut, romances of Chrétien de Troyes and Marie de France, and sections of the thirteenth-century prose Vulgate Cycle. The English portion (second half of the semester) will include excerpts from Laȝamon’s Brut and the Alliterative and Stanzaic Morte Arthure poems, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight; and sections from Thomas Malory’s Morte Darthur. Readings for the first half of the semester will be in modern English translation and readings for the second half will be primarily in Middle English. All students should be prepared to read carefully and critically, and to use contextual and secondary material judiciously.

Assignments will include three short response papers, one 8-10 page research paper, and a creative project.

MVST 247 Tolkein & Medieval Roots (3)

K. Wickham-Crowley

J.R.R. Tolkien was a medievalist and a philologist who, by writing fiction and poetry, created a world in which his languages could live. We will read widely in medieval works from Irish, Finnish, Old English, Middle English, Icelandic and French contexts, and examine Tolkien’s biography, letters, critical and scholarly publications, and lesser known fictional works, all to get a better sense of what Tolkien knew and worked with as he wrote. We will read some of his scholarship, poetry, translations, draft work, and unfinished pieces as well as the major works /The Silmarillion/ and /The Lord of the Rings/. Our interests focus on Tolkien as both writer and scholar. The final one third of the course will be spent on careful re-reading of /The Lord of the Rings/ in light of our extensive contextual study. Students can expect to keep a regular critical journal, research and report on supplementary topics on Blackboard, write a paper on medieval texts, and finish with a substantial take-home exam. Everyone taking the course must have read /The Lord of the Rings/ prior to the first day of class, as it is simply too large and complex to come to for the first time in this class. The Jackson movies are definitely not a substitute! Prerequisites: All students must have read The Lord of the Rings prior to the beginning of class.

MVST 330 Monks, Nuns and Hermits (3)

R. Cline

This seminar will explore the development within the Christian church of groups of men and women who rejected the traditional path of marriage, family, and the pursuit of wealth and status in favor of a lifestyle of celibacy and poverty.  It will cover the origins of Christian monasticism in the third century in eastern and trace its development down to the advent of the friars in the thirteenth century in western towns.  Why did men and women withdraw from society  to become hermits and then compose rules for living in communities?   How was the monastic impulse transformed by its encounter with western Europe in the ages of the Irish and Merovingian kings, Charlemagne, and the Vikings?  Why has the Rule of Saint Benedict endured for 1500 years? What accounts for the tremendous variety of monastic orders? Why would pilgrims cross Europe to pray before the relics of Saint James of Compostela? How did preaching against heresy unify modern France? What did women seek and find in monastic life? To explore these questions, we will read some modern historians, but we will rely heavily on primary sources, especially saints’ lives and monastic rules, in an effort to understand how monasticism influenced, and was influenced by, the major historical currents of this crucial millennium in European history. 3 credits

MVST 338  War, Law and Politics in Medieval England (3)

J. Paxton

This seminar will look at the relationship between warfare and the rise of the state in medieval England. Beginning with the Norman Conquest, we will examine how the need to pay for wars fought for dynastic and other reasons led the English kings to bargain with their nobles and knights for taxes in exchange for a greater voice in the running of the kingdom. We will look closely at changes in warfare, the birth of the English Common Law, and the rise of Parliament.

MVST 349 Senior Thesis Seminar (3)

K. Wickham-Crowley

Crosslisted Courses

  • ARAB 370 Justice in the Islamic Tradition - Opwis
  • CLSL 002 Latin II - Greene
  • CLSS 149 Roman History: Empire - Osgood
  • CLSS 275 The Greek Novel: Ancient, Byzantine, Modern - Johnson
  • ENGL 106 Medieval European Literature
  • ENGL 108 Chaucer - Hirsh
  • FREN 362 Literature and Society in French Middle Ages - Dover
  • FREN 492 History of the French Language - Dover
  • HIST 231  Europe from the Millennium to the Black Death - Zimmers
  • HIST 321 Silk Road - Millward
  • INAF 249 Moslems and Christians in Hollywood
  • ITAL 335 Secular & Sacred Love in Medieval Europe
  • RUSS 491 History of the Russian Language
  • SPAN 452 Medieval Genders (in Spanish) 
  • THEO 109 - 62 Jews and Christians across Italian History and Cultures (at Villa le Balze)