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.

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. Please feel free to contact Global Medieval Studies if you have any questions about this process. 

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.

ARAB 421: Islamic Foundational Texts (TR 12:30pm – 1:45pm) – Prof. Suzanne Stetkevych

This course will focus on the close reading, translation, and literary cultural interpretation of selected passages from the foundational texts of Arab-Islamic culture: Qurʾān, Tafsīr, al-Sīrah al-Nabawiyyah, and Poetry. A focus on morphology and syntax aims at developing accuracy and precision in reading and translation, but also to develop an appreciation of their rhetorical and semantic function in the refinement of expression and meaning, whether in classical or modern Arabic. Critical readings will explore the linguistic, literary, and cultural dimensions of these formative texts.

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 375: Art of the Silk Routes (MW, 11:00am-12:15pm) – Prof. Michelle C. Wang

This course focuses on the cultural heritage of the overland and maritime silk routes. The silk routes served as a conduit for commercial trade and cultural exchange between China, Central Asia, India and Southeast Asia, and Europe. In addition to mural paintings in the Buddhist cave shrines of northwestern China, we will also study portable paintings, manuscripts, textiles, ceramics, and architecture. We will put these artifacts into context by imagining how they interfaced with the rulers, monks, traders, and nomads who traveled and lived along the silk routes.

ARTH 418: Mesoamerican Art: Myth Ritual (T 2:00pm – 4:30pm) – Prof. Andrea Huezo

The course examines the arts of Mesoamerica up to the time of the European conquest. Organized chronologically, students analyze and discuss artworks associated with the major cultures of Mesoamerica, including Olmec, Maya, and Aztec. Additionally, by studying Mesoamerican codices (Mixtec, Maya, and Aztec), the course explores Mixtec mythological events and dynastic history; Maya ritual cycles concerned with religion and cosmogony; and Aztec pantheism, historical events, conquests, and daily life. 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 Mesoamerican art and its interpretation. Open to juniors and seniors; a number of seats reserved for graduate students.

ARTH 466: The Body in Asian Art (M 2:00pm – 4:30pm) – Prof. Michelle C. Wang

It has often been assumed that representation of the human form did not play as significant a role in the development of East Asian art as it did in the Western tradition. In this seminar, we will address this issue by exploring various approaches to the issue of corporeality in the art of China and Japan that not only focus upon representation of the human body, but that also question the ways in which discourse about the body was related to larger questions about death and the afterlife, the sacred and the profane, the human and the artificial, and the articulation of national identity. Selected case studies for weekly topics may range from the famed terracotta warriors to imperial portraiture, along with an exploration of calligraphy, cyborgs, and performance art. While the course will focus primarily on premodern art, students are invited to consider issues concerning the body, gender, and personhood in modern and contemporary contexts. No prior knowledge of Asian art is required or assumed.

BIOL 269: Global History of the Plague (W 6:30pm – 9:00pm) – Prof. Timothy Newfield

This course considers the global history of Yersinia pestis, the zoonotic bacterium (a microorganism causing disease in people and other animals) that causes plague. It adopts an interdisciplinary approach to both tease out macro- and micro-histories of the three pandemics associated with the pathogen –the Justinianic Plague, Black Death, and Third Pandemic– and also to pin down transitions in plague’s past –biological, cultural, and ecological– fundamental for understanding the bacterium’s inconstant pandemicity. Students will travel considerable time and space –the sixth century to the present, Alexandria to Buenos Aires– and draw on diverse sources –like Byzantine hagiography, the New York Times, and plague-victim teeth– to engage scholarly debates, unravel plague’s complexity, and assess plague’s impact.

CHIN 354: Reading Chinese Landscape  (TR 12:30pm – 1:45pm) – Prof. Phillip Kafalas

Starting from the basic observation that without humans there is no landscape but only land, this course examines how landscapes were constructed, represented, interpreted, and altered in pre-modern China. What makes a landscape more than just a collection of proximate objects? Course materials will include literature (landscape poetry and travel writing, much of it from the medieval period), visual arts (painting, gardens, and cityscapes), and recent essays that reexamine the intersection of Daoism and ecology, the manipulation of landscapes for geomantic or moral purposes, and the influence on landscape of cosmology, utopias, and political exile. If possible, there will also be a group visit to the Freer-Sackler gallery. All readings are in English, and there are no prerequisites.

CHIN 363: Traditions of Chinese Fiction  (TR 3:30pm – 4:45pm) – Prof. Phillip Kafalas

As it has evolved, this course has come to focus on the rich tradition of Classical Chinese tales of anomalies and marvels, with some extension into the legacy of those tales in early-modern vernacular Chinese. It thus doubles as a second-semester reading course in Classical Chinese. The bulk of the readings will range from early Chinese myths and tales of ghosts and fox spirits to more elaborate and literary medieval (Tang dynasty) tales of remarkable beings (both human and nearly so). There will also be a brief foray into seventeenth-century detective fiction. There is no textbook; texts with glosses will be selected and distributed based on the reading level of the students. There will also be a few modern secondary readings (in Chinese and/or English) for context. Prerequisite: CHIN-362 Introduction to Classical Chinese or equivalent.

CLSL 109: Medieval Latin (R 3:30pm – 6:00pm) – Prof. Dennis McManus

The topic for 2020 is the Latin Literature of slavery. From antiquity to the present day, the enslaving of human beings has been found across many races and cultures. This course will examine the Latin literature of slavery in the West from the late Roman Empire until its abolition in 19th century Europe and America. Political, religious and personal writings of both slavers and those enslaved will be read. Special attention will be given to translating a selection of the recently surfaced letters from the Jesuit archives of the Maryland Province on the sale of slaves connected to Georgetown University.

ENGL 091: Literary History I (Sections 01 and 02) – Prof. Lindsay Kaplan

Literary History I is part of a two-semester sequence that surveys Anglophone literary and cultural history. We will be reading texts from the medieval period through the eighteenth century. The course will highlight a number of critical and/or representative texts, genres, debates, developments, and crises illustrative of the time periods studied.

ENGL 104: Global Medieval Literatures (TR 9:30am – 10:45am) – Prof. Sarah McNamer

Our focus in this course on global medieval literatures will be on the cultural construction of emotion — in particular, romantic love — in the courtly literatures of medieval Europe, Persia, and Japan. Each set of texts will give rise to its own set of issues, but abiding preoccupations will include the relationship between “artificial” conventions and “real” emotion (is this a valid distinction?); the cultural construction of the desiring and desirable body; the role of women as writers, court patrons, or courtly audience; conflicting ideals of masculinity; erotic love as religious experience; love in relation to arranged marriages, incest, and polygamy; the function of “noble” emotions as a marker of aristocratic distinction; love and the poetics of public and private spaces; the place of same-sex desire in relation to heterosexual love; and the use of irony as a destabilizing challenge to the reigning amatory system. Since religious practices and belief systems strongly inflect emotional constructs in each of the three cultures we will be exploring, our work will involve attention to Christianity, Islam, Sufism, Shinto and Buddhism. All readings will be in modern English translation. European texts will include Andreas Capellanus, The Art of Courtly Love, Chrétien de Troyes’ Lancelot, the Lais of Marie de France, and Gottfried von Strassbourg’s Tristan and Isolde. Persian texts will include the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, Nizami Ganjavi’s Layla and Majnun and Khusrau and Shirin, and poems by Rumi and Hafez. Japanese texts will include the abridged version of Murasaki Shikibu’s The Tale of Genji, the poems of Ono no Komachi and Izumi Shikibu, and excerpts from The Pillowbook of Sei Shonagon and similar poetic diaries by women of the Heian court. We will seek to embed these literary works in a wider cultural matrix by reading extracts from additional primary sources such as chronicles and conduct books as well as brief selections from secondary sources. Methods from the anthropology and history of emotion will also guide the kinds of questions we ask about an emotion that seems so “natural”; do our literary texts from different cultures suggest, as one scholar puts it (Lutz), that “emotions are not precultural, but preeminently cultural”?

ENGL 105: Medieval Women’s Lit (MW 5:00pm – 6:15pm) – Prof. Kelley Wickham-Crowley

Do these situations sound like the Middle Ages you know? A medieval girl is raised as a boy. A lady saves a knight instead of the other way round. A mother curses unsympathetic men to suffer labor pains when they are needed in battle. A medieval woman constructs a universal history entirely about women to show that misogynists lie. The roots of our modern gender expectations and debates in the West come mainly from medieval society, but you may not have realized how old some of these contentions are, and that women were actively involved in them. This course looks at the writings of medieval women and writings about them, considering the variety of cultures and cultural influences over the thousand years of the European Middle Ages. Literatures from Ireland, Wales, England, France, Germany, and Scandinavia are contextualized against and within cultural expectations of women under such influences as gender roles, religion, national identities, self identity, and mythology. Outside material on historical backgrounds and literary criticism from multiple perspectives supplement the literature read.

ENGL 304: Medieval Sexualities (MW 2:00pm – 3:15pm) – Prof. Kelley Wickham-Crowley

To what extent do social, religious, and political institutions form and deform erotic choices and definitions? This course aims to understand the variety of medieval sexualities and their impacts from a comparative sampling of varied textual types and social institutions in Irish, Welsh, English, French, and German texts. We will study depictions of sexualities and gender issues they raise, with some background on classical and medieval biological and medical texts, religious thought and law, depictions in art, and the cultural variation present across regions and periods from c. 500-1500. Students might expect, for example, to learn more of Anglo-Saxon attitudes concerning masculinity from penitentials or Beowulf, to think about the implications of Irish monastic attitudes for reading women in Irish myth, to read courtly literature through the lens of contemporary medical knowledge, or to consider the connection between prosecution of heresies and accusations of deviance. Those interested in material culture may extend their work to include art, manuscripts, and archaeological evidence. You will be expected to build up your understanding of medieval contexts and to learn to research sources in medieval studies and in the fields of sexuality and gender studies, working on a shorter paper and research during the term and culminating in a longer, final written project on a topic developed in consultation with the professor.

GERM 043-01: Witches (TR 2:00pm – 3:15pm) – Prof. Astrid Weigert

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 099 (Sections 5-8): Hist Focus: Machiavelli/Medici  – (TR 3:00pm – 3:50pm) Prof. Jo Ann Moran Cruz

This course will focus on Machiavelli’s writings within the context of the history of Florence from the early fifteenth century to Machiavelli’s death in 1527 with sessions on the afterlife of Machiavelli’s writings, and discussion on the debates over his legacy. We will look at the role the Medici played in Florentine politics, humanism, religion and art along with Machiavelli’s interactions with and responses to the Medici. Readings will include Machiavelli’s Prince and selections from his Discourses, The Art of War, his plays and his “Sermon on Penitence,” along with some of his personal and diplomatic letters. We will also look at the negative views on Machiavelli and some of the positive assessments over the centuries. Current views on Machiavelli are in flux, and this course will use the primary source readings to evaluate current debates. For College students, HIST 099 fulfills the core requirement in History for a focused study of one period or topic; these students complete the requirement by taking a broad survey. 099 should ideally be taken in one’s first or second year. Note that students who receive AP or IB credit for History CANNOT take HIST 007, 008, or 099 for credit. Please note that HIST 099 must be taken at GU and cannot be transferred.

HIST 111 (Sections 1-4): Africa I (R 6:30pm – 7:45pm) – Prof. Kathryn de Luna

This course is a general survey and explores the rich history of people living in Africa from very early times through the 19th century. We will focus our attention on several regional case studies, including the early urbanism and medieval states of the West African Sahel, equatorial societies and kingdoms of the southern savannas, the Swahili coast and its hinterland in eastern and central Africa, and the Kongo Kingdom and Atlantic slave trade. We seek to understand transformations common to early human histories, such as the emergence of food production or the rise of centralized states, as well as the situational and contingent nature of ethnicity, slavery, gender, and wealth and poverty in the African context. We will also consider social achievements particular to Africans’ history, such as the multiple inventions of heterarchical forms of governance. We will study how persistent ideas from western cultures shaped what outsiders thought they knew about Africans and their histories at the same time that we try to understand what Africans themselves thought about their own actions and those of their ancestors. We will access these histories by analyzing a range of primary historical sources: archaeological artifacts and site reports, travelers’ accounts, art, oral traditions, photographs, the reconstructed vocabulary of dead languages, and many others. For College students, HIST 111 fulfills the core requirement in History for a broad introductory survey; these students complete the requirement by taking HIST 099.

HIST 140: Charlemagne to Napoleon: HRE (TR 9:30am – 10:45am) – Prof. Amy Leonard

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 Thirty Years’ War, and a look at more general questions, such as German identity and its 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.

HIST 232: History-Legend in Medieval Britain (TR 6:30pm – 7:45pm) – Prof. Jo Ann Moran Cruz

This course looks at the wide sweep of British history through legend; it also asks questions as to why some figures become legendary and others do not. The semester begins with the Druids and their legends and ends with King Richard III (his life, legend and the recent discovery of his remains). It focuses on modern and medieval views of legendary figures while also tracing whatever contemporary historical evidence there is for the person behind the legend. The legends examined in this course include King Arthur, King Alfred, Thomas Becket and legends of saints, Robin Hood and outlaw legends, Braveheart (William Wallace) and Richard III. Final papers can focus on legends from other cultures, depending on one’s interest.

HIST 340: Saints & Society – (TR 3:30pm – 4:45pm) Prof. David Collins

Major Themes: Martyrdom: Dying for the Faith, Desert Fathers and Mothers: Being Countercultural, Monasticism: Institutionalized Counterculture, Royalty: Paying for Holiness, the Crusades: Killing for the Faith, Blood Libel: Jews and Medieval Christianity, Relics: Trading in Body Parts, Pilgrimage: Rituals and the Saints, Sanctity and Insanity, Canonization and Law, Transformations: Renaissance/Reformation/Counterreformation, Contemporary Issues

HIST 449: Food: Rome to Industrial Age (TR 2:00pm – 3:15pm) – Prof. Susan Pinkard

Before the middle of the 19th century, all food consumed by humans was organic and most of it was local, too. Crops were grown without synthetic fertilizers or pesticides according to traditional techniques that became increasingly refined over time. Animals were raised on pasture or roamed free in forests eating diets they had evolved to digest. Wild harvests of foraged plants, game, and fish were crucial to diets. Due to the costs and difficulties of transportation most foodstuffs were consumed in the vicinity where they were produced. Despite these circumstances—and in some cases because of them—European foodways between late antiquity and the Industrial Revolution were full of diversity and innovation. The migrations of peoples, the obligations imposed by different religious traditions, evolving theories of diet, health, and disease, and the global exchange of plants and animals spread new ideas about what to eat and how to cook. The decline and subsequent rebirth of urban life encouraged new habits and patterns of consumption. The hierarchical pomp of court society provoked a reaction that valued simplicity in cooking and convivial informality at mealtimes. By the beginning of the 19th century, the work schedules, living arrangements, and class divisions characteristic of industrial society were beginning to redefine habits of cooking, eating, and drinking in Europe and in North America, too. Please note that the timeframe for History 449 ends in 1860, the point at which the fundamental systems for producing, distributing, and consuming food began a profound transformation thanks to the development of industrial technology. The story of that transformation from 1860 to the present is the subject of a companion course, History 335, Food: The Industrial Age, which is offered in alternate years with History 449. NOTE: Students have to have completed the core hist requirements before taking this class.

IDST 007: The City of Florence – (TBA) Prof. Tina Fallani

This course is taught at Villa Le Balze in Fiesole, Italy Students may enroll by application only. Please visit studyabroad.georgetown.edu to apply and to get further information.

INAF 243/JCIV 241: Kabbalah in Its Contexts – (TR 3:30 – 4:45) Prof. Ori Soltes

This course will address the question of what “mysticism” is, how it differs from “normative” religious experience, and therefore how Jewish, Christian and Muslim mysticism differ from (and are rooted in) normative Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It will also address the question of how Jewish, Christian and Muslim mysticism differ from and share common ground with each other.

The course will follow a two-fold path. One will be conceptual: we will be constantly asking how what we are reading, talking and thinking about is specific or not specific to what Jewish or Christian or Muslim mysticism is. The other will be historical: all three mystical traditions undergo centuries of development and part of grasping them is seeing how they change even as they remain consistently focused on the same essential issues. And those issues, not unique to mysticism or to these three types of mysticism, but uniquely addressed by each of them, include: why are we here? what, if anything, created us? for what purpose, if any? how can we know what It/He/She is and wants of us? how can we grasp that Other without losing hold of ourselves? and so on…

ITAL 460: Dante  (MW 2:00pm – 3:15pm) – Prof. Francesco Ciabattoni

From Dante’s spiritual crisis and descent into the pit of hell, this class covers all three canticas of the Divine Comedy. The pilgrim is lost in the forest of sin, signifying the crisis of entire humankind. Aided by Latin poet Virgil, he will have to rationalize his attitude towards the 7 deadly sins (lust, gluttony, wrath, pride, greed, sloth, envy) before ascending the mountain of Purgatory and be purified to soar to Heaven, where he will meet his beloved Beatrice, lost many years before. From here Beatrice will take him up through the nine heavens to the vision of God.

Personal and civic responsibilities, governmental accountability, church-state relations, economics and social justice, literary and artistic influences, benefits and limitations of interdisciplinarity–these are some of the themes that will frame our discussion of the Divine Comedy. Course is conducted in Italian.

ITAL 361: Monsters and Monstrosity in Medieval Italy (TBA) – Prof. Francesco Ciabattoni

Who is a monster? What defines monstrosity in our culture and in earlier times? Monsters represent complete alterity and challenge the basic notion of self and identity within any given cultural paradigm. Encompassing literature, visual arts, music and other media, this course explores how the notion of monstrosity and complete alterity changed in Italian culture from antiquity to the modern day. If in the classical era monstrosity was essentially seen as a marvel and a transgression of the natural order, today it has become a form of demonization of the Other, seen as the antagonist. Monsters provide a critical lens through which one can look at human nature and monstrosity can be seen as a paradoxical theology capable of subverting established assumptions. As writer Giorgio Manganelli (1922-1990) said, “Non v’è salvezza al di fuori del mostruoso” (“There is no salvation beyond the monstrous”). Course conducted in Italian. Readings in English and Italian.

MVST 349: MVST Thesis Seminar (M 2:00pm – 4:30pm) – Prof. Laura Morreale

Description TBA.

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

This course will take a journey through Spanish literature, from its very beginnings through the end of the 17th century, with the aim of understanding how literature serves as a vehicle for culture and to gain familiarity with various works of art from the diverse literary, artistic, and cultural movements across this time period. We will read a variety of texts, both canonical and popular (oral legends, poetry, stories, and theater). We will also consider examples of later film and text that attempt to represent the premodern world, to see how literary themes and techniques of the past relate to contemporary culture. Throughout the semester, we’ll discuss the ways to approach the literatures and cultures of the premodern past.

Este curso hace un recorrido panorámico de la literatura española desde sus comienzos hasta finales del siglo XVII, con la intención de apreciar cómo la literatura sirve de portadora de la cultura y dar a conocer varias de las obras representativas de los diversos periodos y movimientos literarios, artísticos y culturales de la época. Leeremos para ello textos de variada índole, tanto canónicos como populares, (leyendas orales, poesía, narrativa y teatro). También consideraremos ejemplos narrativos/cinematográficos que intentan representar el mundo pre-moderno para ver cómo los temas y técnicas literarias provenientes del pasado se relacionan con la cultura contemporána. A lo largo del semestre discutiremos las formas de aproximarse a la literaturas y culturas del pasado pre-moderno.

THEO 043: Augustine’s Confessions (MW 3:30pm – 4:45pm) – Prof. Tarmo Toom

This is a course on a masterpiece in world literature, on a late 4th-century text of Augustine. We will read closely the whole Confessions in which Augustine tells his story in the form of sequential conversions to the quest of wisdom (Cicero), Manichaeism, skepticism, neoplatonic philosophy, and Catholic Christianity. The Confessions is the history of the schooling of the author’s heart in the love of God, which is presented simultaneously as a narrative, introspection, theological reflection, philosophical scrutiny, and prayer.

THEO 050: Intro to Islam (MW 12:30pm – 1:45pm) – Prof. Mehmet S Sayilgan

This course aims to provide a comprehensive introduction to Islam, its history, diversity, beliefs, and practices. While the first part introduces the traditional narrative of Muhammad’s life and context, the second part concentrates on the foundations of Islam such as the Qur’an, legacy of Muhammad, and Sharia or Islamic Law. In the last part, we will study various aspects of the tradition including theology, rituals as well as jihad and women in Islam.

THEO 056: Tibetan Buddhism (MW 2:00pm – 3:15pm) – Prof. Brandon Dotson

This course offers a survey of Tibetan and Himalayan Buddhist traditions from the 8th century 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. Stephen Fields

This course examines the nature and development of spiritual consciousness. It uses class Christian texts, film, and “practical” exercises. It explores the paradoxical nature of mysticism by focusing on how and why it challenges the “normal” categories for perceiving and interpreting reality. The course surveys some of mysticism’s principal types and discusses its multi-disciplinary structure (ie, philosophical, theological, psychological). Readings deal, among others, with Ignatius Loyola, Edith Stein, Gregory of Nyssa (a 4th century theologian), William James, John of the Cross, Plato.

THEO 120: Icons & Idols (MW 2:00pm – 3:15pm) – Prof. Rosanne Morici

This course explores a number of historical periods that have been deemed iconoclastic, or particularly hostile to images: Byzantine Iconoclasm; the Protestant Reformation; the French and Russian Revolutions; and the Iconoclasm of Modern Art. What is the meaning of this hostility? Why have religious and political groups alike battled so violently to control the construction and consumption of visual images? Why are pictures so powerful? This course examines the terms of these debates over images, explores what’s at stake in the practices of destruction, preservation, and veneration of images, and considers how the multiple motivations for these practices (political, psychological, aesthetic) intersect with religious ways of being in the world.

THEO 136: Women Mystics (MW 3:30pm – 4:45pm) – Prof. Julia Lamm

Some of the earliest books authored by women were so-called “mystical” texts written in Europe in the Middle Ages. They are amazing feats of rhetoric, beauty, power, and protest. This course focuses on five medieval Christian women mystics: Hildegard of Bingen (German, 1098-1179), Hadewijch of Antwerp (Dutch, early 13 th century), Marguerite Porete (French, d. 1310), Julian of Norwich (English, ca. 1343-1416), and Teresa of Avila (Spanish, 1515-1582). Our analysis of each mystic will be threefold: (1) we will begin with her historical, cultural, and political context; (2) we will consider the theological content of her writings and examine her methodology; and (3) we will undertake a comparative study in which we consider such issues as religious authority, gender, rhetorical strategies, and the role of physicality and the senses in mysticism. We will also look at women “mystics” from the 20th and 21st centuries, comparing them with their medieval counterparts and asking how mysticism is related to activism. The course takes an interdisciplinary and cross- disciplinary approach and so should help deepen or broaden knowledge of students interested in theology and religion, history, literature, languages, music, visual arts, women and gender studies, sociology, psychology, spirituality, and/or political theory.

THEO 167: Intro to Buddhism (MW 11:00am – 12:15pm) – Prof. Brandon Dotson

This course offers an introduction to Buddhism and its various historical and cultural contexts. We examine the foundational doctrines taught by the Buddha, and the manner in which these were transmitted orally and in writing. We also consider the transmission of Buddhism to various countries across Asia and in the West, attending not only to doctrine, but to practice, to processes of reception and adaptation, and to various local traditions. At the end of the course, we will be familiar with the history of Buddhism, including details of its various traditions (e.g., Tibetan Buddhism, Zen), texts, and axial figures.

* 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 2020 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.