Spring 2013 Courses

MVST 041 Satire and Social Criticism  

L. Harrison  - MW 6:30 - 7:45 (X-list with ENGL)

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. 

MVST 201 The Age of Dante  (MVST Gateway Course)

J.Moran-Cruz - MW 2:00- 3:15 (Double-list with HIST)

The "Age of Dante" is primarily a readings and discussion course, with some lectures. The central text for the course is Dante's encyclopedic Divine Comedy, which anchors discussions of Dante's other works and his literary, political, ecclesiastical, and philosophical context. At thematically appropriate moments the course discusses Dante’s earlier works, his use of scripture and of classical texts, the writings of his poetic forebears and contemporaries, and contemporary chroniclers who describe the turbulence of late thirteenth- century Florence. Some of the central themes in the course will be Dante's love of Beatrice, his love/hate relationship with the city of Florence, the impact of his exile, his views on the papacy and the empire, his radical re-envisioning of the Christian afterlife, and the choice of personages he encounters on his journey through hell, purgatory and paradise, particularly his strange choice of a pagan guide (Virgil) through hell and purgatory. The course will also discuss the impact of Dante's work, as well as scholarly responses to it.

MVST 234 The Vikings              

S. Zimmers - TTH2:00- 3:15 (Double-list with HIST)

The ravages of the Northmen throughout Europe and beyond have been an area of fascination and of historical interest for centuries. Yet few students understand or are aware of the actual history of the people that had such a tremendous influence. This course will attempt to remedy that gap while at the same time offer a deeper understanding of the Vikings themselves. Throughout the semester we will follow a multi-disciplinary approach to the history of the Vikings in the “Heroic Age.” We will survey the history of Scandinavia and examine the history of the Northmen within both the European and world context. As such we will look at Norse activity in continental Scandinavia, in Western and Eastern Europe, the North Atlantic and beyond examining the many ways in which the Vikings interacted with foreign peoples - as merchants, conquerors, pilgrims, colonists, mercenaries, and as pirates. 

The course will move thematically and chronologically from c. 600 CE to c. 1200 CE examining a range of topics. We will discuss the legendary history of early Scandinavia and the consolidation of the Scandinavian kingdoms. We will attempt to recreate the early Norse world view including the creation of the world and other aspects of the Viking religious experience. Students will be introduced to a wide variety of Norse Gods and heroes and understand how the mythological and cosmological lore of the region helped shape an ethos of the North. The course will also examine the great period of the Viking expansion which in many ways shaped the history of Europe. We will look at, among other things, the Danish invasion of England, the settlement of the Normans in Northern France, the Rus and the origins of Russia as well as the discovery of America around the year 1000. While the course does move chronologically during this period, we will also look at a wide variety of historical themes including the development of Europe’s first parliamentary government (the Thing); the arrival of Christianity in the North; the legal status of feuding; and the role of women in Viking society. 

Within this historical framework, a good deal of attention is devoted to Viking art and archaeology, to the pagan religion of early medieval Scandinavia, and to its system of writing (the celebrated runes) and its literature (including the mythological and heroic poetry of the Edda, the court poems of the skalds, and the Icelandic sagas). 

Finally, the course will address the modern ramifications of the Viking Age as well as the depiction of the Vikings in modern art, music and film.

MVST 332 Pilgrimages: Pious and Profane      

C. Vann - TTH 5:00-6:15 (X-list with ENGL, CATH)

The concept of pilgrimage both preceded and succeeded the medieval period and incorporates a range of religious beliefs, but the efflorescence of Christian pilgrimage occurred in the Middle Ages.  These pilgrimages testify to the human need to be in physical contact with various kinds of objects and places considered sacred, to the belief that these spaces/places/objects afford unmediated contact with the sacred, which contact in turn imbues the pilgrims with their own sacredness.  These objects and places offered and continue to offer thaumaturgical or miraculous healing powers as well.  We will explore some of the most important medieval pilgrimage locations—Rome, Jerusalem, Santiago de Compostela, and Canterbury, but we will also accompany medieval Buddhist, Islamic, and Jewish pilgrims to India, Mecca, and the Holy Land, traveling finally with those who are arguably post-Enlightenment pilgrims to such sites as Star Trek and Anime conventions, Graceland, and the Viet-Nam and 9/11 Memorials. 

MVST 334 Medieval Women: Sisters, Seers, and Scholars

R.Cline - MW 9:30 - 10:45 (X-list with HIST,WGST) 

his course will explore the diverse paths taken by medieval women within families, religious communities, and court life. For many, but not all, religious life offered both protection and opportunities for creative writing and composition, for scholarship and reflection, for meaningful work, for mysticism and prophecy, for companionship and solitude. They include the Roman martyr Perpetua (d. 203), the Saxon canoness and playwright Hrotsvit of Gandersheim (ca. 935-1000), the brilliant Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179), the passionate and gifted Heloise of the Paraclete (1101?-1164), the court writers Marie de France (ca. 1160-1215) and Christine de Pizan (1363-1430), the warrior and martyr Joan of Arc (1412-1431), the mystics Catherine of Siena (1347-1380) and Teresa of Avila (1515-1582), and other noted abbesses and recluses. Some were canonized as saints, some were convicted and slain as heretics, but they all left remarkable records during centuries where most women lived short repressed lives and died in obscurity.  These women were a product of their times, a crucial millennium in European history from the disintegration of the Roman Empire to the emergence of European nation states in the 12th and 13th centuries and the eve of the Renaissance, but they transcended their times and resonate with us today.

MVST 349 Thesis Research

E. Francomano -  Time TBD

MVST 355 The Medieval Mary: Literature, Religion, Art

A. Meyer - T 6:30 - 9:00 pm    (X-list with CATH, THEO,WGST)  

The crowning achievement of the western medieval literary tradition, Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy, begins and ends with images of Mary, the mother of Jesus.  Dante pilgrim sets off on his journey through Inferno by her intercession; he climbs the mountain of Purgatory by responding to her roles as Christian exemplar; and he articulates a beatific vision in Paradise by singing her praises as mystical rose and Queen of Heaven.  Dante’s attention to Mary is a poetic summation of medieval teachings, devotion, and artistic representations of Christ’s mother.  This course traces the development of these Marian cultural expressions in religion, art, and literature, from their biblical foundations through the late Middle Ages in Western Europe.  Scriptural writings prepare us for how medieval thinkers and artists interpreted Mary in relation to Eve and a fulfillment of Hebrew prophecy.  Medieval interpretations of her role in Christian salvation history explore paradoxes she embodies: virgin mother, daughter of her Son, humble maid and Queen of Heaven.  Theological writings on major Marian themes help us appreciate intense spiritual and emotional expressions in art, architecture and literature.  Readings will be supplemented with appropriate images from the visual arts in an effort to understand the full medieval ramifications of Dante’s culminating description of Mary as “the face that most resembles Christ.” 

Mary and Mariology:  Themes for the course:  Immaculate Conception, Incarnation, Virginity, New Eve, Theotokos, Assumption/Dormition, Mater misericordiae, Mater dolorosa, Mater sponsi, Sedes sapientiae, Magistra scholastica

Cross-listed Courses

  • ARAB 470 Intro to Arabic & Islamic Philosophy - Gannage
  • CLSG 002 Ancient Greek - Sens
  • CLSG 291 Christian Greek in the Roman Empire - TBA
  • CLSL 002 Latin II - LaBarbera
  • CLSL 255 Latin Prose: Reading and Writing - LaBarbera
  • CLSL 295 Medieval Latin - Boin
    • Also, if the major project is medieval, and with the permission of the MVST director:
  • ENGL 104   Global Medieval Literatures - McNamer                        
  • ENGL 105  Literature of Medieval Women - Wickham-Crowley              
  • ENGL 307  The Worlds of Beowulf -Wickham-Crowley
  • ENGL 461  Medieval Literatures (Capstone - with permission) -McNamer
  • GERM 201  Love/Warfare in the Medieval Epic - G. R. Murphy
  • HIST 238 = MVST 201  Age of Dante - Moran-Cruz  
  • HIST 231   Middle Ages II - D. Collins
  • HIST 234 = MVST 234  The Vikings - Zimmers
  • HIST 239  The Crusades -  Moran-Cruz  
  • HIST 342  Heresy, Authority, Inquisitions -D. Collins
  • INAF 248  Symbols of Faith - Soltes
  • ITAL 460   Dante - Cicali
  • SPAN 241  Intro to Spanish Literature -  Perry
  • THEO 050 Islamic Religion: Thought and Practice - Sayilgan

Also other advanced-level classical languages for one’s MVST Major or Minor. Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, Turkish, Sanskrit, Chinese, Japanese, if available, with permission of the MVST director.