Spring 2021 Courses

All of the courses listed here have received approval for Global Medieval Studies (MVST) credit X-listing. My Access and Classy are not entirely up to date. The Global Medieval Studies program will ensure that you receive MVST credit for these courses. 

How to find X-listed Courses

In MyAccess: Log in to MyAccess, then select the “Student Services” tab. Navigate to “Registration”, choose “Schedule of Classes” from the menu that appears, then select “Spring 2021” from the drop-down menu.  Click on any subject, then hold down Ctrl + A (on PC) or Command + A (on Mac) to select all courses. Near the bottom of the page, select X-List: MVST, then press “Class Search”. The next web page should list all X-listed MVST courses. 

In Classy: Go to Classy | by The Corp and select “MVST” under the drop-down menu “Cross-listed with”.

Please note that all courses offered at Villa Le Balze, Georgetown’s campus in Italy, will be offered online and are available to all Georgetown students.

Find our course offerings for the Spring 2021 semester below.

ARAB 332: Islam, Religious Authority, and Modernity (TR 11:00am – 12:15pm) –– Prof. Felicitas Opwis

Modernity is often seen as a challenge to religious authority. This course investigates how religious authority in Islam changed and transformed under the impact of the modern world, looking primarily at the Arab Middle East and Sunni Islam. The focus is on the role of the ulama’, the traditionally-educated religious scholars of Islam, as bearers of religious authority and the institutional settings in which their authority is constructed, perpetuated, and transformed. After situating the Islamic civilization into general concepts of tradition, modernity, authority, culture, institution, and law, the course focuses on the ulama’ and their interaction with society. The course examines the transformation of the authority of the religious scholars within the context of the end of the empire, the rise of nation-states, the democratization of knowledge to globalization, examining how the role of the ulama’ changed against this background in terms of education and knowledge construction as well as attaining and exercising authority through new modes of communications, such as tv and the internet. Students are exposed to original writings in English translation ranging from modernists’ appeal to rationalism and reform of Islam by traditionally educated religious scholars, such as al-Jaza’iri, Abduh, Rahman, and al-Qaradawi, to calls for reinvigorating an Islamic lifestyle through religious authorities outside of the madrasa education, like al-Banna, Sayyid Qutb, and Amr Khaled. Scholarly writings enable students to learn how to critically evaluate these texts in light of their intellectual and historical contexts and interpret their authors’ understanding of Islam and religious authority. The course is based on close reading and in-class discussion of the assigned texts and requires students to write throughout the semester two short papers (5-7 pages each) on questions raised by the course material as well as a final research paper (15 pages).

INAF/ARAB 412: Sexuality & Power in the Islamic Tradition (T 12:30pm – 3pm) –– Prof. Sara Omar

Whether involving the headscarf, intolerance towards homosexuality or sex slavery, discourse over Islam and Muslims is very often tied to questions of gender and sexuality, from the treatment of women and women’s rights to views on LQBTQ+ issues.  In part, this is because any discussion of ‘Islam and women’ is politicized in the context of globalization and the tensions between perceptions of the globalization of Western norms on the one hand and perceptions of cultural authenticity on the other.  In part, this inevitable political dimension exists because gender and sexuality in human society have always been categories and terms developed and wielded in the context of power, whether concerning the distribution of resources, rights to autonomy and movement, or power to define a community’s identity and history. 

This course will explore the intersection of power and sexuality in the Islamic tradition, examining case studies in law, literature, society, and politics from the early Islamic period to the present day. Students will closely read primary sources in translation, and learn how to critically analyze, evaluate and interpret literary texts, artistic expressions, film, and critical concepts. This course will require students to engage the readings through in-class discussions and written assignments throughout the semester in the form of weekly question posts, three short papers, and a final written essay. Finally, students will be required to engage in a structured in-class debate with their peers. They will deliberate on critical ethical and legal points of view in relation to culture and interpretation. This creative exercise is meant to enable students to both listen and voice their differences while engaging the diversity of thinking across cultures.

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

This lecture course surveys the art and architecture from the Paleolithic period through the Gothic period. Within a roughly chronological structure, we will explore the art of these periods in relation to their broader cultural, intellectual, and historical contexts. In addition to emphasizing the developments that define each historical period, we will consider the aesthetic advances made with the painting materials and methods available at the time.

Students must attend the first class or second class or lose their place. For more information about this and other Spring 2021 courses in the Department of Art and Art History, please visit https://art.georgetown.edu/s21-classes/#

ARTH 228: Northern Renaissance Art (TR 9:30am – 10:45am) –– Prof. Al Acres

This course explores art made in the Netherlands, Germany, and France c. 1300-1575, which includes an amazing variety of work produced for courts, churches, civic bodies, and private individuals among the growing middle classes in the cities. Who paid for art? How was it produced? What roles did it play in society, politics, religion, and daily life? Why did so many new kinds of subject matter emerge in European art of this period? With an emphasis on the highly original and influential work of such leading figures as Jan van Eyck, Albrecht Dürer, Hieronymus Bosch, and Pieter Bruegel, we will consider functions, meanings, and markets of art in a period of dramatic change.  For more information about this and other Spring 2021 courses in the Department of Art and Art History, please visit https://art.georgetown.edu/s21-classes/#

ARTH 271: Chinese Art (MW 11:00am – 12:15pm) –– Prof. Michelle Wang

This class surveys the art and architecture of China from the prehistoric period to the present day. The unfolding of various artistic and architectural traditions in China was marked by regional developments, the emergence of different religious and philosophical systems, as well as by interactions with China’s neighbors. The topics that we will study include bronze ritual vessels, Buddhist cave shrines, landscape painting, ceramics for domestic use and international trade, gardens and literati or gentlemanly culture, the impact of the Jesuits upon Chinese court arts, and the response of modern artists to traditional artistic techniques as well as to the dramatic upheavals of 20th century China. Emphasis will be placed upon the interrelationship between the visual properties of art objects and their materials and techniques, as well as the historical, social, and cultural contexts of their production. No prior knowledge of Asian art is required or assumed.

BIOL 269/HIST 404: Global History of the Plague (W 6:30pm – 9pm) –– 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 the 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. This class counts as IP credits for BGH majors, not Biology elective credits.

CHIN 353: War and Its Legacies in Chinese Literature (TR 12:30pm – 1:45pm) –– Prof. Philip Kafalas

The course uses texts from Chinese philosophy, biography, poetry, and fiction to examine the significance of war in the Chinese cultural tradition. In early philosophical traditions, what are the obligations of rulers facing war? When is warfare justifiable? What aspects of war and individual action are commemorated in later biographies, prose accounts, and the monumental Ming dynasty novel Three Kingdoms? How are individual and cultural memory developed in poetic meditations on battlefields and post-war social landscapes? Texts are in English translation and will emphasize the pre-modern period. Course conducted in English. Prerequisite: None.

CLSL 280: Augustine’s Confessions (MW 2:00pm – 3:15pm) –– Prof. Justin Haynes

In this course we will read an intimate portrait of the life and times of an ancient Roman and saint in his own words, unmediated by any translation. Augustine’s Confessions is often credited with defining the genre of autobiography, and there can be no doubt that its influence on later literature has been profound. It also happens to be highly entertaining and almost novelistic in its characters and unexpected situations, but at the same time disarming in its apparent honesty and realism. Through close reading, students will increase their knowledge of everyday life in the Roman empire while viewing it from the perspective of one of that empire’s greatest minds.

ENGL 091: History of Literature, Culture, and Media (TR 3:30pm – 4:45pm) –– Prof. John Hirsh

Studies in Early Literature, Media and Culture. This course will begin in the early Medieval period, with texts even older than Beowulf (which will be read in modernized versions, as will Beowulf itself), and continue through to Chaucer, to Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra, the seventeenth-century Metaphysical Poets, and deep into the Eighteenth Century. We will consider changing cultural expectations, as well as the requirements imposed by media practices, and seek to ascertain what remains from all of these in more modern times.

ENGL 109: World Literature: Premodern (MW 3:30pm – 4:45pm) –– Prof. Sarah McNamer

This course offers an introduction to the rich and diverse literary traditions of the premodern world during a thousand-year span of time, from about 500 to 1500 C.E.   Beginning in Japan and making our way to China, India, Persia, the Middle East, Africa, and Europe, we will read selections from The Tale of Genji, The Ballad of Mulan, Chandravati’s Ramayana, the Thousand and One Nights, the Shahnameh, the Kebra Nagast, the Decameron, the Lais of Marie de France, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.   We will also consider the ways that contemporary filmmakers, writers, and artists continue to find inspiration in these tales from the distant past, making them new and relevant to our times.   Requirements: short essays, active engagement in class discussion, and a final paper, podcast, or creative adaptation. All readings are in English translation.

GERM 043: Witches (TR 2pm – 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.

HIST 231: Middle Ages: Millennium to Black Death (TR 11:00am – 12:15pm) –– Prof. Jo Ann Moran Cruz

In the period between 1000 and 1450, Europe was transformed from a provincial backwater into one of the most dynamic regions of the world. This course will explore how this transformation took place. It will provide a survey of the second half of the Middle Ages, concentrating on the political, economic, social, ecclesiastical, artistic and intellectual developments of the period. We will examine how some of the most important institutions of western civilization–representative assemblies, universities, and the nation-state, to cite a few examples–developed in this period. Classes will contain a mixture of lectures, discussions, and structured exercises (such as debates and re-creations of historical events), with a focus on analyzing primary sources in their historical context.

HIST 332-02: Madonna and Whore (M 2:00pm – 4:30pm) –– Prof. Vanessa Corcoran

Two of the most memorable biblical women, the Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene, are often cast in stark opposition to one another: one as the “spotless” Mother of Jesus, the other often labeled as a prostitute and repentant sinner. Despite these broad labels, each woman has played complex and distinct roles in shaping Christian religious culture. The goal of this course is to understand the historical development of these familiar and global figures through an examination of scripture and Church doctrine, non-canonical texts, devotional practices, and their appearances in art and liturgy through three periods:  the early Church, (to c. 1000), the Middle Ages (c. 1000–1500), and the modern era (c. 1500–Present). Beyond these two women, this class will also explore how concerns over virginity and sexuality had both religious and socio-cultural implications. No previous history knowledge is required, though a cursory familiarity with European and religious history will be helpful.

HIST 343: Sex and Power 800-1600 (W 5:00pm – 7:30pm) –– Prof. Jo Ann Moran Cruz

This course examines beliefs about and the lived realities of women in Europe between 800-1600. The course traces the power and authority of women rulers, warriors, religious leaders and authors alongside the role of women within family networks and among the dispossessed, servants, and the sexually exploited. It examines theological opinions, legal codes and practices and literary representations, among other sources, in order to address questions regarding the status of women, their power, authority and opportunities or lack thereof. Along the way, the course will examine case studies of particular women and selected texts written by women.

HIST 348: Art and Power in Europe: 1300-1800 (TR 9:30am – 10:45am) –– Prof. Tommaso Astarita

In this seminar course, we will consider how the arts in all their forms have been used to express and strengthen power, in the political, religious, and social spheres of European states from the late Middle Ages to the revolutionary era of the late eighteenth century. We will primarily consider and examine works of painting, sculpture, and architecture, but we will also give some attention to urban planning, practices of collecting, the decorative arts, public rituals and festivals, music, theater, dance, garden design, and other forms of creative expression (including in a few cases literary texts). We will start by examining the historical, intellectual, moral, and theoretical bases for the connection between art and power, and by connecting these ideas and practices with the revival of the study of antiquity. We will then consider several case studies of how these connections were deployed in specific places and times. Many of our materials and case studies will come from Italy, where some of the main elements and language for these ideas were formed in the Renaissance, but we will also look at how these practices spread and were adapted in other parts of Europe and in later centuries. Because the dominant form of political power in Europe in these centuries was monarchical, most of our materials will pertain to the activities and pursuits of monarchs, aristocrats, and Church leaders, though we will also consider, especially at the start and end of the class, examples from different political systems. We will consider evidence both textual (descriptions, theories, biographical sources, etc.), and visual, and we will read the works of modern scholars about these issues and examples. This course is a seminar, and thus most of our class time will be devoted to group discussions of relevant sources (primary and secondary). The writing assignments will give students a chance to practice various forms of academic writing.

IDST 007: The City of Florence –– Prof. Tina Mary Fallani

This required, the one-credit course provides structured engagement for students at Villa Le Balze with their host city, Florence. The history of the city from the Roman foundation is presented in the synopsis. The discussion is included of life in the city today and the problems that its community faces. Students do much of the learning in this course onsite and will also be given an opportunity to explore the community further through an independent project. The overall goal of the course is to give students an intellectual framework for talking about Florence’s past and present, thereby helping students to see connections between their other courses at Villa Le Balze, their academic work as a whole, and their extracurricular experiences during their semester at Florence.

Registration in the class requires department approval. 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.

Update: this course will be offered online to all Georgetown students due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. Find more details here.

ITAL 383: Dante’s Afterlife in Popular Culture (TF 2:00pm – 3:15pm) –– Prof. Francesco Ciabattoni

This course has a twofold goal: reading selected cantos from Dante’s Divine Comedy and exploring its rewritings and adaptations in popular culture including literature, comics, cinema, rock/pop songs, television and the visual arts. The course entertains the question of why and how Dante’s Divine Comedy, written seven-hundred years ago, still continues to inspire creative artists in all fields of the arts and beyond.  From Milton to Dan Brown and Matthew Pearl, from Salvador Dali to Sandow Birk and Go Nagai, and from Chaucer to David Fincher, artists have adapted and referenced the Divine Comedy as the most relevant text depicting the afterlife in all ages and cultures. This course combines close readings of selected passages from Dante’s masterpiece with their analyses vis-à-vis with the many texts, songs, video games, traditional and graphic novels and movies that it has inspired.   Some of the course’s investigative questions include: how does the original text address issues that are still relevant to today’s society and individuals? How do adaptations and rewritings of Dante’s Commedia address issues current to our own world that were not addressed or were addressed differently in the original text? How is Dante still good for you today?  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.

Update: this course will be offered online to all Georgetown students due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. Find more details here.

ITAL 460: Dante (TR 2:00pm – 3:15pm) –– Prof. Gianni Cicali

The course will unfold as a reading of selected cantos of the Divine Comedy (Inferno, Purgatory and Paradise) and will highlight the thematic and conceptual continuity and unity of Dante’s poem. The course will stress the historical context, relations with Middle-Ages arts, the narrative structure of the poem and how it answers the question of spiritual conversion. It will discuss Dante’s involvement with the moral and political values of Florence and Italy and Dante’s political position with regard to the Empire and the Papacy; and it will emphasize both the stages in the pilgrim’s moral reformation and the poet’s deepening sense of his poetic art. It will end with an exploration of Dante’s representation of Paradise. Conducted in Italian.

JCIV 224/INAF 224: Symbols of Faith (TR 12:30pm – 1:45pm) –– Prof. Ori Soltes

This course will consider the common origins and divergent and often convergent directions of the three Abraham faiths; and how those origins and directions affect their respective visual vocabularies. How have all three traditions adopted and adopted visual ideas from pagan art that predates all of them as well as from each other? How have they transformed or reinterpreted the meanings of common symbols in order to express their distinct sense of God and of the relationship between divinity and humanity? How have Judaism and Islam visually expressed God without the possibility of figurative imaging and how has Christianity gone beyond the limits of figurative expression in visually articulating God? How is the legacy of antiquity and the medieval period still palpable in the era of both modern and contemporary art? The course will be overrun with beautiful and colorful images drawn from a large array of times and places–perfect for a satisfying zoom experience!

PHIL 276: Dante and the Christian Imagination (MW 2:00pm – 3:15pm) –– Prof. Frank Ambrosio

Jorge Luis Borges said that no one should deny themselves the pleasure of reading Dante’s Commedia. This course is intended to help the reader discover why this is so.   More specifically, this course will consider the explicitly Christian and uniquely contemporary intellectual relevance of Dante’s Divina Commedia in the context of the questions of human freedom and identity, as well as the role of the imagination in the formation of culture and worldviews.  The basis and substance of the study will be Dante’s Divina Commedia.  The approach of the course to this theme will be interdisciplinary with significant consideration being given to the function of imagination as it operates in poetry, psychology, philosophy, and theology.  The unifying element in this approach would be the role of metaphor in all these disciplines, with special attention to both the similarities and the specific difference of that role in each as it appears in the Comedy. We will read in translation and discuss substantial portions of all three of the Cantiche of the Commedia, Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso.  Students will be asked to make regular use of a website designed specifically for this course incorporating the text of the Commedia in Italian and English translation, as well as images from the rich history of the illustration of the poem by great artists and commentary on the text from a variety of sources. No prior expertise in web technology is required; students will, however, be asked to become familiar with and use a few basic techniques of interactive, web-based learning. Attention will be given to the poetic art of Dante as it is manifest in the original Italian text, but reading knowledge of Italian is not required.  Please note that students must have taken the core Philosophy requirement (two PHIL courses 001-199) before they can take this course.

SPAN 241: Spain: Literature and Culture I (TR 12:30pm – 1:45pm) –– Prof. Molly Borowitz

Prerequisite: SPAN-102, SPAN-104, or SPAN-110 with a grade of B+ or higher or placement exam. Spanish 241 is an introduction to Spanish literature from the twelfth through the seventeenth centuries and an introduction to the study of pre-modern works of literature and cultures.

SPAN 452: Medieval Genders (W 3:30pm – 6:00pm) –– Prof. Emily Francomano

From the Cid’s luxuriant beard to the virile behavior of Isabel the Catholic, medieval Spanish literature continually explores gender and gendered performances. The debate on women’s nature also constitutes a major conflict in the medieval Iberian literary arena, which not only theorizes femininity, but masculinity as well. In this course, we will survey a cross-section of literary works that are emblematic of these deep preoccupations with the construction and representation of gender and sexuality. Through our readings we will follow the debate and the anxiety about gender identity and performance that it reveals across genres, paying particular attention to its influence on Romance. Throughout, we will consider the extent to which contemporary gender and queer theory, as well as poststructuralist and psychoanalytic criticism, can help us to understand medieval constructions of femininity, masculinity, and sexuality.

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 of 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 (TR 12:30pm – 1:45pm) –– Prof. Mehmet 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, the 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 120: Icons and Idols (MW 11:00am – 12:15pm) –– 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 167: Intro to Buddhism (TR 2:00pm – 3:15pm) –– Prof. Brandon B 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.

THEO 282: History of Christian Thought II (MW 12:30pm – 1:45pm) –– Prof. Leo Lefebure

This course examines the history and development of Christian thought and practice from the “high” Middle Ages (twelfth century) through the Reformation (sixteenth century), into the modern world and the turn of the twentieth century. The central focus will be on primary texts, read with an eye toward their historical, cultural, and geographical context. 

The course is divided into three parts:  (1) Middle Ages. We shall begin with the twelfth-century renaissance when cross-fertilization among Muslim, Jewish, and Christian scholars gave rise to new ways of doing Christian theology; we will study scholasticism and medieval mysticism.  We shall also study the Crusades (the motivating factors, how they functioned in the imagination and piety of medieval Christian culture, and their political and spiritual effects) and the fall of Constantinople in 1453. (2) Reformation. We shall study the Protestant and Catholic Reformations of the sixteenth century, studying not only theology but also the social and political repercussions.  We shall start with precursors to the reformation and then focus in particular on Martin Luther, John Calvin, the Council of Trent, and Ignatius of Loyola.  (3) The Modern Period. We shall focus on problems of articulating Christian faith in the context of the modern world, its view of history, which seems inconsistent with revelation; its scientific methods; and its emphasis on individual and individual rights.