Fall 2020 Courses

All courses crosslisted with Global Medieval Studies can also be found on MyAccess. To find courses for registration, log in, go to “Schedule of Classes,” and then use the attribute menu to assist in your hunt. First, select ALL subjects in the subject menu, by hitting ctrl-A. Then, under “Attribute Type,” find and select “X-List: MVST.” Click “search,” and all crosslisted courses will appear.

And to find courses on Classy, just select “Medieval Studies” for “Department” when searching for courses. You may also select “MVST” under X-List to get the same result.

Find below our course offerings for the fall 2020 semester:

ARAB 201: Intro to Islamic Civilization (TR 5:00 pm – 6:15 pm) — Instructor TBA

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 Arab and Muslim world from the pre-Islamic time 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 the pre-modern time, 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. 

ARAB 370: Justice in the Islamic Tradition (TR 12:30 pm – 1:45 pm) — Prof. Felicitas Opwis

What is justice and how do Muslim intellectuals articulate their vision of justice throughout the ages? These questions are a common thread in this course which introduces students to various types of literature from the Islamic tradition that address issues of justice, including political, legal, historical, and literary texts. The course explores the theoretical and practical dimension of how to achieve justice, looks at the way conceptions of justice may change over time, and what factors drive changes in the articulation of justice. The course is taught in English; all readings are in English.

ARAB 537: The Law of the Quran (M 2:00 pm – 4:30 pm) — Prof. Jonathan Brown

This course will focus on exploring the Quran as the main source or vector for the elaboration of Islamic law, using a mixture of primary source texts and secondary source scholarship on the Quran and Islamic law. The course will also focus on building up primary-source research skills and how to design and carry out research projects.

ARTH 101: Ancient to Medieval Art (WF 11:00 am – 12:15 pm) — Prof. Barrett Tilney

Major monuments of western art from the prehistoric birth of representational art through the thirteenth century, with an emphasis on ancient and medieval civilizations of Europe and the Mediterranean basin. Only in unusual circumstances and with the approval of the department may a student with AP credit (ARTH 01) be permitted to take ARTH 101 or 102 for credit.

ARTH 122: Art and Architecture of Med/Early Renaissance Italy — times and instructor TBA

This course is taught at Villa Le Balze, Georgetown’s program in Florence, Italy.

ARTH 171: Buddhist Art (MW 11:00 am – 12:15 pm) — Prof Michelle Wang

This course will survey the Buddhist art and architecture of Asia through selected case studies of artworks and sites in South Asia, Southeast Asia, and East Asia. Among the topics to be studied include: representations of the historical Buddha’s life, rock-cut architecture, monastic complexes, painted mandalas, Zen portraits, as well as the roles played by patronage, pilgrimage, and ritual. Our focus upon the Buddhist art and architecture of Asia will allow us to think through not only the historical development of the religion and its visual and architectural forms, but also issues of cross-cultural transmission. In the process, students will gain familiarity not only with the religious and historical context of the artworks and sites and with the basic iconography of Buddhist deities, but also with methods of visual analysis that form the basis of art historical methodology. No prior knowledge of Asian art or religions is required or assumed.  

ARTH 467: Arts of Zen Buddhism (M 2:00 pm – 4:30 pm) — Prof Michelle Wang

Zen Buddhism is one of the major traditions of Buddhism in East Asia and was moreover an instrumental force in shaping modern perceptions of Japan in the west. Over the course of the semester, we will analyze how the perceived distinctiveness of Zen Buddhism – as marked by concepts such as mind-to-mind transmission, master-disciple lineage, and sudden enlightenment – was constructed through the visual arts and how the arts in turn contributed to monk-patron relations and the cultural lives of monks outside the monastic walls. Among the weekly topics to be covered are: ink landscape paintings, portraits of Zen masters, the tea ceremony and ceramic tea wares, as well as Beat Zen and the impact of Buddhism upon postwar artists in the United States. No prior knowledge of Asian art is required or assumed.

CHIN 362: Intro to Classical Chinese (TR 3:30 pm – 4:45 pm) — Prof. Philip Kafalas

Classical Chinese is the language of the bulk of the Chinese textual tradition from early historical and philosophical writings down to the early twentieth century. This course introduces the basic structures and vocabulary of that language, which still has a large influence on the formal written prose of modern newspapers and documents. Course is taught in English; all readings are in Classical Chinese. Prerequisite: CHIN 212 or permission of instructor.

CLSS 220: Fall of Rome (TR 2:00 pm – 3:15 pm) — Prof. Justin Haynes

What was it like to witness the fall of Rome? How do we tell if a civilization is collapsing and what insights can be applied to our own society? How does the conflict between Christianity and paganism color our interpretation of the transition from the classical world to the Middle Ages? This course will explore such questions primarily through the lens of the Roman literature of late antiquity (fourth to sixth centuries) but with an eye to the transformations that occurred in the seventh and eighth centuries, the so-called Dark Ages. Assigned readings in translation will be drawn from a host of sources ranging from well-known Church Fathers, such as Augustine and Jerome, to lesser-known secular masters such as Macrobius and Rutilius Namatianus. All readings will be in English; there are no language prerequisites for the course.

ENGL 91 (sections 1 & 2): Literary History I (TR 12:30pm – 1:45pm, TR 3:30pm – 4:45pm) — Prof. Lindsay Kaplan

A two-semester survey of Anglophone literary and cultural history. Literary History I focuses on texts from the medieval period through the eighteenth century; Literary History II focuses on texts from the nineteenth century to the present. These courses will highlight a number of critical and/or representative texts, debates, developments, and crises illustrative of the time periods studied. (These courses will NOT fulfill the HALC requirement).

ENGL 108: Chaucer & the 14th Century (TR 12:30 pm – 1:45 pm) — Prof. John Hirsh

A reading and discussion of Chaucer’s great (if unfinished) master-work, the Canterbury Tales, a work of first importance to anyone who reads (or writes) narrative fiction. Students will read the work in original Middle English in which Chaucer wrote it, and discuss it in small and in large groups, focusing upon the work’s narrative strategies, intellectual constructions, and artistic accomplishment. They will also write, in a variety of ways, about those aspects which particularly take their interest.

ENGL 513: Critical Approaches to World Literature (R 12:30 pm – 3:00 pm) — Prof. Sarah McNamer

In this seminar, we will read a wide range of classics world literature — including the Thousand and One Nights, the Kebra Negast, the Shanameh, the Tale of Genji, the Popol Vuh, and the Song of Roland– while engaging with contemporary critical debates about world literature by critics and theorists such as David Damrosch (How to Read World Literature), Lawrence Venuti (The Translator’s Invisibility), Zhang Longxi (From Comparison to World Literature), and Emily Apter (Against World Literature). We will also consider connections between literature and material culture; to that end, our weekly seminars will be supplemented by several excursions to area museums, including the Freer/Sackler Gallery, the National Museum of African Art, and Dumbarton Oaks. 

Open to undergraduates for MVST credit with permission of instructor.

FREN 363: The Beastly Middle Ages (MW 2:00 pm – 3:15 pm)  — Prof. Joseph Johnson

From a wolf who gets flayed alive as part of a treatment prescribed by a phony fox ‘doctor’ to a lion who decides to commit suicide by balancing a sword against a tree and charging it, the beastly Middle Ages are full of surprises — some funny, some bizarre, others downright horrifying. Through the lens of these unruly beasts and the myriad contexts in which they appear, this course will offer an introduction to medieval culture. No prior knowledge of the Middle Ages is required. The course will be taught in French.

GERM 043: Witches (TR 9:30 am – 10:45 am) — Prof. Ekaterina Soloveva

The course investigates what is clearly one of the most disturbing and inexplicable occurrences in human history. Unlike the Holocaust, to which the witch hunts are frequently compared, the persecution of witches cannot be viewed as a relatively brief and unusually violent historical anomaly, since it continued over several hundred years; they cannot be explained in the context of national specificity since they spanned almost the entire European continent and migrated to early America; nor can these events be blamed on any single “madman”. As such then, witch persecution defies simplistic explanations and thus lends itself particularly well to the kinds of investigation this course intends. This course is taught in English.

HIST 007 (sections 1-4): Intro Early Hist: Europe I (TR 9:00am – 9:50am)

The various sections of HIST 007 have different focuses, for which see below; moreover, each instructor may develop or stress particular themes within her/his focus.  The Europe I sections offer an analysis of the major political, social, economic, diplomatic, religious, intellectual, and scientific developments in European Civilization to 1789. 

HIST 099 (sections 5-8): Italian Renaissance 

The general aim of HIST 099 is to introduce students to various elements of historical work and thinking, within the context of looking at a particular historical period, event, or theme in some depth. Though lectures and discussion will focus on particular topics, there will also be class exercises, assignments, and readings that will allow instructors and students to explore how historians identify, define, and employ primary sources of all types, how historians analyze those sources, how they formulate questions, how they engage with the work of prior historians, and how they aim to reconstruct various elements of the human experience in particular times and places.

HIST 109: The Islamic World (TR 2:00 pm – 3:15 pm) — Prof. Jonathan Brown

From humble beginnings nearly 1500 years ago, to enormous power and prestige in the Middle Ages, to political decline and foreign occupation in the modern era, Islam has developed into a highly diverse, global tradition representing nearly one quarter of the world’s population. Yet it is most widely known through caricatures of terrorists and despots. This course examines that phenomenon. It focuses on the historical development of Muslim communities and their interactions with European and other powers. It emphasizes the impact of those interactions on Islam’s ideological and political developments. The interaction between religion and politics is a major sub-theme of the course.

HIST 122: History of China I (TR 9:30 am – 10:45 am) — Prof. Howard Spendelow

The course is introductory, has no prerequisites, and assumes no prior knowledge of China or its language. The organization of the course is basically chronological, but within that framework we will be approaching China from a wide range of viewpoints, taking up political, economic, social, religious, philosophical, and artistic developments. In this fall semester, we will cover the formation of China’s social, political, and intellectual culture and its development through various dynastic regimes, up through the end of the Ming Dynasty in the late 16th century. In addition, in this semester we will explore the historical roots of several claims made by the People’s Republic of China in the 21st century, including linkages with Xinjiang, Central Asia, and Tibet; the “Silk Road” origins of the 2013 “One Belt, One Road” project, and China’s aspirations for a blue-water navy. The course has two basic goals: (1) to present a basic introduction to the traditions and legacies of the history and culture of China, including conflicting, even contradictory, interpretations of these traditions/legacies; and (2) to use the specific study of China as a means for developing more general skills in the discipline of historical analysis.

HIST 160 (sections 1-6): Middle East I (TRF 9:00 am – 9:50 am) — Prof. Gabor Agoston

Through lectures, readings, class discussion and audio-visual material, this course examines the history of the Middle East from the late sixth to the late seventeenth centuries. The lectures focus on broader topics, such as the emergence of Islam; the history of major Middle Eastern empires; changing geo-strategic and cultural conditions; and the evolution and functioning of classical and medieval Muslim institutions.  Discussion sections will enable students to deepen their knowledge regarding local diversities within the unifying systems of Muslim beliefs, law, and administration; the material and intellectual exchanges and interactions between the Muslim world and non-Muslim communities and polities; and Muslim reactions to the Crusades and the Mongol invasions.

HIST 170: History of Russia I (MW 12:30 pm – 1:45 pm) — Prof. Gregory Afinogenov

The Slavs, Origins of Russia, Kiev, the Mongol period, Muscovy, Imperial Russia to 1825 with special attention to autocracy, serfdom, foreign policy, the Orthodox Church, Westernization, society, culture, and the birth of the revolutionary movement.

HIST 172: East European History I (TR 9:30 am – 10:45 am) — Prof. Christopher Stolarski

A survey of East European peoples and states from the rise of the Medieval Kingdoms to about 1800. The course will trace the influence of the multi-national Jagiellon, Habsburg, Ottoman, and Romanov empires in the region. Topics will include: the formation of ethnically and religiously diverse societies, the role of noble democracy, and the influence of the Enlightenment and Romanticism. 

HIST 230: Europe After Rome (TR 3:30 pm – 4:45 pm) — Prof. Timothy Newfield

Profound political, cultural and environmental transformations occurred in Europe between the fourth and the tenth centuries CE. As the Roman Empire gave way to “Dark Age” kingdoms, the ways of life of ordinary people and elites, within and beyond Rome’s former limits, forever changed. This course draws upon traditional historical sources as well as the material record (bones, buildings, soils and trees) to delve into the human and natural processes that defined the era. Diverse topics are addressed, from saints and popes, to barbarian migrations and recurrent plague, to multiculturalism and Christianization, to climate change and economic fragmentation. Although focused on Europe, the course also considers connections with Rome’s Byzantine and Muslim heirs.

HIST 300: History of Emotions and Senses (R 5:00 pm – 7:30 pm) — Prof. Kathryn de Luna

From raging medieval European kings and falling in love in medieval Japan to tasting God and smelling race and “feeling cool” in twentieth century America, this seminar explores scholarship on the senses and emotions from a range of world regions and time periods in order to explore basic questions about the relationship between the mind and the body, the individual and society, biology and culture. This seminar is intended for history majors. However, students in psychology, cognitive science, anthropology, sociology, economics, and political science will have something to learn from how historians study the relationship between the experience and standards of feeling in particular historical contexts and the motives and actions inspiring historical transformations in experiences of the body.

HIST 321: The Silk Road (T 11:00 am – 1:30 pm) — Prof. James Millward

The silk road (or silk roads) is a term used to describe routes used by travelers, merchants, monks and others across the Eurasian continent, or by sea between Asia and the Mediterranean basin.  More broadly, however, the notion of “silk road” encompasses the longterm trans-Eurasian exchange of goods, crops, art, ideas, religion and other things, starting from when humans first fanned out across the old world.  The question at the center of this course, then, will be “what has been the nature of trans-Eurasian exchanges, and what has been their historical impact?” In investigating this question, we will learn something about the basic dynamics and highpoints of Central Asian history (for a more thorough survey of Central Eurasian history take HIST 108), and tune in at various points to the history of China, India, the Islamic world, Russia and Mediterranean Europe.   The course will be mainly discussion format, and students will develop and present research projects focused on one of the things exchanged cross the silk roads, for example, a disease, a precious material, a religion, or a technology.

HIST 225 (sections 1-4): East Asia I (TR 9:00 am – 9:50 am) — Instructor TBA

Description TBA.

HIST 360: Islam and War (W 9:30 am – 12:00 pm) — Prof. Gabor Agoston

This course examines Islamic warfare from the earliest Muslim conquests through WWI. After discussing classical Islamic conceptions of war and peace, the course examines the early Muslim conquests, the Crusades, the Mongol invasion of the Islamic world, and the wars of the Mamluk, Ottoman, and Safavid Empires. In the second part of the course we consider topics such as land, naval, and siege warfare, military manpower and military slavery in Islam, war financing, military technology, weapons and tactics, logistics and provisioning, fortresses and border defense, and the impact of war upon societies. The last phase of the course studies military modernization attempts of the Ottoman Empire and Egypt in the nineteenth century, and the ultimate defeat of modernized Muslim armies by the combined forces of ethnic nationalism and Great Power imperialism. In this section we also consider the increased destructiveness of modern warfare for non-combatants and the displacement of civilian populations.

MVST 208: Foreign Service in the Middle Ages (TR 3:30 pm – 4:45 pm) — Prof. Laura Morreale

What are the practices, norms, and instruments of modern foreign service, and what traditions are they built upon? This class examines the medieval precedents for modern diplomatic and foreign service practices, and the tools –ideological, textual, material, or otherwise –used to facilitate them. The course meets twice a week, with one lecture- and one discussion-based class. A web-site will accompany the course, to collect maps, object images, texts, and other helpful online resources on the topic. Students will contribute to the class website by examining one instrument used in medieval foreign service and inserting into the online “Medieval Foreign Service” object gallery.

This course is X-listed with the History department. It also fulfills the IHIS and CULP requirements in the SFS.

SPAN 241: SPAIN: Lit & Culture I (TR 11:00 am – 12:15 pm) — Prof. Kevin Michael Murphy

Spanish 241 is an introduction to Spanish literature from the twelfth through the seventeenth centuries and an introduction to the study of pre-modern literatures and cultures.

SPAN 477: Sensory Worlds (W 3:30 pm – 6:00 pm) — Prof. Emily Francomano

Thirteenth- and fourteenth-century Iberian poetry is filled with imagery that appeals to the senses. Poets invite listeners not just to see and listen to what they describe, but also to smell, taste, and feel poetry. Attending to rhetorical synesthesia (mixed sensory tropes) and ekphrasis (vivid description), two closely related and at times intersecting poetic devices, this course will explore the somaesthetic dimensions of medieval Spanish poetry.

Sensory and synesthetic metaphors are continual reminders of the presence of the body as a perceiving object and subject that serves as the conduit of feelings and information to the soul; they reveal medieval literature’s deep preoccupation with human senses, sensuality, and the relationship between body and soul. Further, synesthetic metaphors also attune us, as modern readers, to the essence of poems as performances, brought forth from a speaking or singing body, to be enjoyed through the eyes and the ears. As sensual as medieval poetry can be, the bodies that sing, listen, and interpret it have been overlooked by contemporary criticism. In addition to reading the Libro de Alexandre, the Libro de Apolonio, the Libro de buen amor and selected narrative poems by Gonzalo de Berceo, we will read medieval medicinal, theological, and epistemological works on the senses.

THEO 77: Christian Mysticism (MW 2:00 pm – 3:15 pm) — Prof. Tarmo Toom 

In both its physical and metaphysical dimensions, the question of our “place” in relation to the “world” or “nature” becomes urgent as we argue about anthropocentrism, weigh our individual and social interests against the planetary whole in which we participate, and recalibrate (even reinvent) the values and value hierarchies that ground our decisions.  This module will look at Lynn White’s famous attack on (alleged) Christian anthropocentrism, Max Scheler’s The Human Place in the Cosmos, Erazin Kohák’s “A Human’s Place in Nature.” the film The Journey of the Universeproduced by the Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology, James Cameron’s film Avatar, and Heidegger’s “The Question concerning Technology.” Students will write three brief critical studies (choosing three of five options) and a final analysis relating this module to their work in other modules of this multi-disciplinary study of climate change.

THEO 241: Jews in Spain (TR 9:30 am – 10:45 am) — Prof. Jonathan Ray 

The history of the Jews of Spain represents one of the most varied and remarkable chapters in the history of the Jewish people.  This course will explore the major social, cultural and intellectual trends of Jewish civilization in the Iberian Peninsula through secondary readings and the analysis of medieval religious and literary texts.  A central theme will be the way in which medieval Islamic and Christian society helped to shape that of Iberian Jewry.

THEO 281: History of Christian Thought I (MW 9:30 am – 10:45 am) — Prof. Julia Lamm

This course examines the history and development of Christian thought during its first millennium – from the end of the first century and the organization of early Christian communities, through the alliance between church and empire in the early fourth century and the fall of the Roman empire, to the Carolingian court in the ninth century and the spread of Christianity beyond the borders of the former empire, and ending with the schism between the Eastern and Western churches in 1054. Major issues include the question of theological sources and canonicity, the doctrine of God, Christology, the Trinity, human freedom, heterodoxy, ecclesiology, and ritual. Central focus will be on primary texts, read with an eye toward their historical, cultural, and geographical contexts.