Program

Cornell’s Medieval Studies Program is designed to provide students with expertise and professional success in the fields of particular departments, the members of whom will likely form the majority of the students’ Special Committees.  But Medieval Studies also presents graduate students with combinations of scholars in clusters of study that might not be as visible in traditionally defined departmental graduate training.  On the Faculty page are listed just some of the possible clusters of graduate study available in Medieval Studies, with the names of members of the Medieval Studies Graduate Field who regularly teach and mentor students in those clusters, and some information about courses or other resources.

This section also contains information for undergraduates and from Cornell University’s Procedural Guide for the graduate field of Medieval Studies, in addition to a comprehensive list of the Medieval Studies course offerings since 1993. More information on student life is available under the “People” heading.

Program History and Overview

In 1968, when the graduate program began on the initiative of Robert Kaske, the English Department compared us to another then new program in American Studies, saying: “Everyone recognizes the potential of such a field, and Cornell’s peculiar capacity to staff it with distinction.” Eleven faculty signed the new program proposal, noting that “the medieval area is growing everywhere…both here and abroad.” Four of that original faculty remain active; three are retired, but still in Ithaca. Of the 30 odd current field faculty, more than half a dozen are appointments from the last 4 years.

The undergraduate concentration arrived in 1977. Strong enrollments in our classes attest to a continuing ability to attract much undergraduate interest. The half dozen student-taught John S. Knight Writing Program First-Year Seminars frequently draw freshmen and sophomores into upper-level courses and not infrequently also win their instructors teaching awards. Outside lectures often gather audiences of 70+, as do events like the December multi-language Medieval Readings and the students’ own mid-winter Medieval Colloquium.

Faculty in the field guide 12-16 graduate students at any one time toward dissertations with majors in Archaeology, Art History, History (Islamic, East Asian and European), diverse Languages, Literatures and Philologies, Music, and Philosophy. While we train young scholars to operate at the highest specialist levels of their crafts, we also remain determinedly interdisciplinary. The requirement that students study in more than one discipline understates the strengths of this approach, for we encourage students to take a broad approach to their topics, both by personal example and in regular program activities. Cornell’s unique resources (especially its manuscript, rare book, and special collection holdings) and the helpful way in which they are made available to researchers, facilitate postdisciplinarist thoughts and work. All students minor in at least one field different from their major. All take the Toronto Medieval Latin M.A. exam. The dialogue between faculty and students on all aspects of the Middle Ages proceeds apace, at in-house “Medieval Seminars,” through the outside lectures of our student arm, Quodlibet, and in less formal settings like campus cafés and picnics.

Languages covered by the faculty and courses in the Medieval Studies Program include Medieval Latin, Vulgar Latin, Old English, Middle English, Gothic, Old Saxon, Old High German, Middle High German, Old Norse-Icelandic, Old Irish, Middle Welsh, Old Occitan (Provençal), Old French, Medieval Spanish, Medieval Italian, Old Russian, Old Church Slavonic, Classical Arabic, Medieval Hebrew, Classical Chinese, and Classical Japanese.

We are proud of the many distinguished scholars formed at Cornell, happy to meet them at conferences and especially at Kalamazoo, or when they visit over the summer to use the libraries and enjoy the campus once more. We would be grateful for news of any and all of them with whom we may have lost contact. Please see our list of notable Cornell medievalists.