Fall 2019 Courses

All courses crosslisted with Global Medieval Studies can also be found on MyAccess. In order to find your courses for Registration, 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. Please feel free to contact Global Medieval Studies if you have any questions about this process. 

ARAB 201: Intro to Islamic Civilization (MW 5:00pm – 6:15pm) – 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. Films and Audios will be also solicited. This course fulfills the College HALC (Humanities, Arts, Literature, Culture) requirements for undergraduate students. Required Session: one hour/week discussion session, which will be arranged at the beginning of the semester. Optional Session: one hour/week discussion session in Arabic.   

ARAB 360: 1001 Nights (W 2:00pm – 4:30pm) – Prof. Elliot Colla

Since 1704, the year in which Antoine Galland embarked on his popular translation of a 14th c. Arabic manuscript of Alf layla wa-layla, The Thousand and One Nights (or Les mille et une nuits, or The Arabian Nights’ Entertainments, etc.) has captivated European audiences. In this seminar, we will focus our readings on the only recension of Alf layla wa-layla based primarily on the pre-modern (and pre-colonial) source edited by Muhsin Mahdi. This edition—consisting of only 282 nights—includes the frame tale and the “core stories,” that is, the narratives of “The Porter and the Three Ladies of Baghdad,” “The Hunchback’s Tale,” and so on. At the same time, we will explore one of the other key texts of the Alf layla wa-layla traditions, namely the story cycle of Sindbad the Porter and Sindbad the Sailor. Readings will be in Arabic. 

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

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.  Seats are reserved for freshmen and sophomores.

ARTH 263: Pre-Columbian (Pre-Conquest) Art & Architecture (TR, 12:30-1:45pm) – Prof. Andrea Gallelli Huezo

The course explores the art and architecture of Mesoamerica and the Andes up to the time of the European conquest. Organized chronologically, students analyze and discuss artworks associated with the major cultures of Mesoamerica and the Andes, including Olmec, Maya, Aztec, Chavín, Moche, Paracas, Nazca, Tiwanaku, Wari, and Inka. The course provides students with in-depth knowledge of the history, ritual traditions, and belief systems of ancient Mesoamericans, as displayed in their sculpture, painting, architecture, textiles, and writing systems. While placing particular emphasis on religion, race, gender, politics, and the performative aspects of rituals, the course introduces students to the major theoretical concepts regarding Pre-Columbian (Pre-Conquest) art and its interpretation

ARTH 411-01: Icons and Iconoclasm (M 2:00pm – 4:30pm) – Prof. Andrea Lam Pearson

Bleeding icons. Weeping icons. Smashing icons. Christian images have been a source of enthusiasm and contention from late Roman times on. Was it a holdover from the pre-Christian past? Did the Bible really forbid sacred images? Did Christians believe a presence animated the material icon? What made the sacred portrait such a powerful focus of devotion and the arts? This course will introduce students to the rise of the Christian icon as a new artistic mode of thought and life in the European Middle Ages. We will explore how and why Christians chose to adapt portraiture to their religious, social and personal lives. Course materials will focus on the rise of the icon as an Eastern Roman form out of problematics in late Roman art. It also will explore how the Western half of the former Roman Empire responded to the Byzantine theory of the icon and appropriated the icon for its own ends from the Crusades until the Renaissance. The seminar will focus on major scholarly articles and include a field trip to Dumbarton Oaks. Open to juniors and seniors; seats are reserved for graduate students. 

ARTH 248: Bosch & Bruegel (T 2:00pm – 4:30pm) – Prof. Al Acres

This seminar investigates the work and careers of two of the most original and influential artists of the Renaissance: Hieronymus Bosch (c. 1450-1516) and Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1525-1569). Although they worked in different generations and cities, they have often been regarded in light of each other. In his own time, Bruegel was even referred to as the “second Bosch.” Both artists represented humanity, daily life, and the world itself in unprecedented ways. The seminar will focus especially on how Bosch and Bruegel developed new ways not merely to observe daily life, but also to ponder and perhaps improve it. As we address the art itself and its richly varied history of interpretation, we will also consider the vitality of these paintings, prints, and drawings as instruments of reflection in our own time. We will visit the National Gallery of Art for one or two class meetings. Open to juniors and seniors; seats are reserved for graduate students. 

CHIN 362: Introduction to Classical Chinese  (TR 3:30pm – 4:45pm) – Prof. Phillip 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. Prerequisite: -212 or permission of instructor.

ENGL 091: Literary History I (Sections 01 and 02)- Prof. Lena Orlin (Section 01) Prof. Kelley Wickham-Crowley (Section 02)*

How do we negotiate coverage of 1200 years of literature, c. 600 to 1800, in a single term of study? Students and professors alike have their issues with survey courses – this course, an introduction to the English major, is no exception. We will try to sample significant works in the literature of Britain while avoiding a chronological slog, casting a few glances at material culture, such as architecture and manuscripts, along the way. But what does the word “significant” mean here? New literary forms? Suppressed voices? New influences or styles? Cultural change? Famous writers? Join us and see what we find. Section 01 (MW 3:30pm – 4:45pm) and Section 02 (MW 12:30 pm – 1:45pm)

ENGL 106: Heroes and Vikings (MW 5:00pm – 6:15pm) – Prof. Kelley Wickham-Crowley

Heroes and Vikings come down to us in the present as exceptional characters–good and bad, violent, wise, fated, driven, flawed, poetic, and fascinating. The nature of heroism in the early medieval period differs in many ways from our current views. This introductory course will focus on early medieval materials from Anglo-Saxon/Old English and Norse prose and poetry, supplemented at times with texts from other early cultures such as the Irish.

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

GERM 043-01: Witches (MW 5:00pm – 6:15pm) – Prof. John Forrest Finch

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. Taught in English

HIST 007 (Sections 1-4): Intro to Early History Europe I – Prof. David Collins*

The World I sections examine the history of the human experience from a global perspective. The bulk of the semester concerns societies and states from the time of ancient civilizations to about 1500 AD. The course pays particular attention to political, economic, and social changes, but also considers cultural, technological, and ecological history. The evolving relationship between human identities and their social and material environments forms one of the major points of analytical focus for this course. The overarching goal is to provide a general framework for the history of the world to help students understand the big picture, and to help them to contextualize what they will later study about history, politics, religion–in short, about the human experience. The Europe I sections offer an analysis of the major political, social, economic, diplomatic, religious, intellectual, and scientific developments in European Civilization to 1789. Section timings vary.

HIST 099 (Section 5-8): Italian Renaissance – Prof. Tommaso Astarita*

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 9:30qm – 10:45am) – Prof. Jonathan Andrew and Clevelan 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 122-01: History of China 1 (TR 9:30am – 10:45am) – Prof. Howard Spendelow*

This course begins a two-part sequence offering a general history of China from the earliest records of Chinese civilization through the first four decades of the People’s Republic (“five thousand years ago” to 1979).   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. 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” initiative, and China’s aspirations for a blue-water navy. No prior knowledge of China or its language is assumed. 

HIST 124-01: History of Japan 1 (TR 2:00pm – 3:15pm) – Prof. Howard Spendelow*

This course begins a two-part sequence offering a general history of Japan from the earliest records of Japanese civilization through to the present.  The organization of the course is basically chronological, but within that framework we will be approaching Japan 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 Japan’s social, political, and intellectual culture, including the formation of Japan’s distinctive identity and the tensions between centrifugal and centripetal forces. We will also examine changes in Japan’s relationship to East Asia and, by the 16th century, the rest of the planet. The course ends with the collapse of the last of the shogunal/military governments in the 1860s, paving the way for Japan’s “modernization” in the 19th and 20th centuries.

HIST 131-01: First Year Seminar, Science and Religion – Prof. David Collins

This seminar course is designed for first-year students with advanced placement in history who have an interest in pursuing the study of history at the upper level; some knowledge of European history and any science background will be helpful but is not necessary. Science and religion have played powerful roles in shaping Western civilization: unparalleled resources – human, financial, and natural – have been invested in each of them, and they can be associated with many of the West’s proudest accomplishments and cruelest wrongdoings. Thought of together, science and religion conventionally conjure up images of conflict. They are envisioned as rival forces associated with contending institutions and serving opposing interests. Historical controversies over the structure of the cosmos and modern-day debates over the science curriculum in U.S. high schools offer support to the conclusion that science and religion exist in an unrelenting state of war. The aim of this seminar is to test that generalization by examining the actual history, focusing on key episodes in which scientific and religious interests have intersected.

HIST 160: Middle East 1 (Section 01 5o 06) – 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 exhcanges and interactions between the Muslim world and non-Muslim communities and polities; and Muslim reactions to the Crusades and the Mongol invasions. Section times vary. 

HIST 170-01: Russia I (MW 5:00pm – 6:15pm) – TBA*

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 (MW 5:00pm – 6:15pm) – TBA*

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 3:30pm – 4:45pm) – 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 234-01: The Vikings  (MW 9:00am – 10:45am) – Prof. Zimmers

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.  

HIST 300: History of Emotions and Senses (M 5:00pm – 7:30pm) – 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 304-01: Deep Pasts, New Futures (R 5:00pm – 7:30pm) – Prof. Kathryn de Luna*

From climate change deniers to the Me-Too movement to debates about the roots of social inequality, the most pressing debates of our day mobilize assumptions about the deep past and about what is ‘natural’ in human nature. What if the key to our future lies in the concepts, practices, and possibilities from our species’ deepest pasts? Drawing on archaeology, neuroscience, linguistics, biology, and the paleo-sciences, this course explores case studies from unfamiliar and understudied early human histories that upend deep-seated assumptions about the nature of the world and our species: from the biological underpinnings of sex drive, violence, and emotions, to the roots of economic and political inequality. Together we consider how new interpretations of deep-time human lifestyles revolutionize how we imagine the possibilities of our species’ future and the terms of debate in the present. 

HIST 321: Silk Road (W 12:30pm – 3:00pm) – Prof. James Milward

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 332-01: Mary Through the Ages Prof. Vanessa Corcoran

The goal of this course is to introduce students to the development of Marian beliefs, devotions, practices, and representations within Christianity, as well as in Judaism and Islam from Late Antiquity to the present day. Through examining Marian doctrines, Marian devotions, Mary in art and liturgy, Marian feasts, and principal Marian literary works, students will understand the historical development of this familiar and global figure. By examining the central influence of the Virgin Mary, students will gain a broader historical understanding of the cultures of world Christianities, Judaism and Islam.

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

IDST 001: Sea of Stories – Prof. Emily Francomano and Jonathan Ray

ITAL 375: Boccaccio and the Invention of Storytelling  (TR 3:30pm – 4:45pm) – Prof. Francesco Ciabattoni

The Decameron, one of the most entertaining, beloved and imitated prose works ever written, is an accurate reflection of fourteenth-century life in Italy. Like Dante’s Divine Comedy, this human comedy was written not only to delight, but also to instruct by exploring both our spiritual and our natural environment. Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-1375), considered by some typically medieval and by others one of the first truly modern literary figures to emerge from the darkness of the Middle Ages into the light of the Renaissance, shows himself, as author of The Decameron, to be both a passionate believer and a passionate critic as he reconstructs society, destroyed by the Black Plague, through the perfection of his 100-fold narrative. Class discussions will focus on a close reading of the Decameron. Attention will also be given to Boccaccio’s sources, his imitators and the socio-cultural milieu in which he wrote. The Decameron will be read in English translation. Conducted in English. This course satisfies the Humanities and Writing II requirements of the College.

MVST 348: Advanced Research Seminar in Global Medieval Studies (F 2:00pm – 4:30pm) – Prof. Sarah McNamer

In this seminar, we will investigate key issues and approaches to research in Global Medieval Studies.  Our scope will include Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Americas, ca. 500-1500 C.E.   Topics will include matters related to periodization, historiography, and terminology; the circulation of material and written evidence; tensions between the global and the local; language, communication, contact and exchange between cultures; and literary and artistic expression and adaptation.   This course is required for majors in Global Medieval Studies and serves as the first part of a two-part thesis seminar.  There will be ample opportunity for students to follow their individual interests; short research assignments will culminate in a research paper or final project that will serve as blueprint for the senior thesis.  We will also get out into the city to explore relevant collections at DC museums.  This course is restricted to MVST majors.

PHIL 280: History of Ancient/Medieval Philosophy (TR 3:00pm – 4:40pm) – Prof Neil T Lewis and Katherine A Withy  

The first half of the course is devoted to major figures and themes in Ancient Greek philosophy (from 600 BCE on). We will explore the origins of Western philosophy by reading works by philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle, and examining their answers to questions such as, What is the fundamental nature of reality? What is the good life? What is the relationship between the mind and the body? What is knowledge and how do we acquire it?

The second half of the course is devoted to Medieval philosophy (c. 400-1400 CE), as thinkers of the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths engaged with the Greek philosophical heritage. Primary emphasis will usually be placed on thinkers from the Latin (Christian) West, such as Augustine, Boethius, Anselm, Aquinas and Duns Scotus, but some consideration may be given to Jewish and Muslim thinkers such as Maimonides and Avicenna. Among topics that may be considered are the existence and nature of God, faith and reason, metaphysics, the soul, freedom of the will, and happiness and the good life.

SPAN 241-01: Spain Literature & Culture I (TR 11:00am – 12:15pm) – Prof Martina Thorne

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. Prerequisite: SPAN 102, SPAN 104, or SPAN 110 with a grade of B+ or higher or placement ex

SPAN 407: Medieval Spanish Cinema  (R 3:30pm – 6:00pm ) – Prof. Emily Francomano

Since the beginnings of film, the Middle Ages have been a setting for exploring the deep concerns of modernity, such as ethnicity, gender, and historical memory. Focusing on Spanish twentieth and twenty-first century films and their literary sources, this class will explore how film and television shape our understanding of the past and how films set in the so-called “dark ages” are also always reflections of their own immediate sociopolitical contexts. Taught in Spanish. 

THEO 056: Tibetan and Himalayan Buddhism (MW 12:30pm – 1:45pm) – Prof. Brandon Dotson

This course offers a survey of Tibetan and Himalayan Buddhist traditions from the 8thcentury to the present day. In addition to introducing the main schools of Tibetan Buddhism and the Bön religion, we will consider their interactions with Tibetan popular religious practices. We will work from translations of Tibetan sources, such as the medieval hagiography of the 11th-century Tibetan saint Milarepa, but will also read contemporary ethnographies of Tibetan Buddhist communities. By the end of the course, we will be familiar with the the broad outlines of Tibetan Buddhist traditions as approached from historical, philosophical, and anthropological perspectives.

THEO 077: Christian Mysticism (MW 2:00pm – 3:15pm) – Prof. Tarmo Toom

This course will treat the major themes and some foundational treatises of the mystical traditions of Christianity. Thematic sections will include more “theoretical” topics, such as apophaticism, union with God, and interiority, as well as some “practical” topics, such as solitude, evil thoughts, and prayer. Historical sections will start from the early Egyptian monastic texts, which have shaped both medieval and modern understanding of mystical theology. The course will continue with reading the Mystical Theology by Pseudo-Dionysius and studying its reception-history.

* Students must write a paper on a medieval topic to achieve Global Medieval Studies credit. 

This list contains the currently approved MVST classes for Fall 2019 and is subject to change. If you believe another class should count towards MVST credit, please email Professor Sarah McNamer at medievalstudies@georgetown.edu to discuss its inclusion.