Fall 2014 Courses

Medieval Studies Program

Courses being offered in Fall 2014

(official listing at Cornell University Registrar’s page available here)

Courses for upper-level undergraduates and graduate students:

MEDVL 2170 | Early Modern Iberian Survey (also SPAN 2170, LATA 2170)
8635 | TR 11:40-12:55 | 4 credits | M. Garcés.
Prerequisite: Spanish 2070 or 2090, or CASE Q+, or permission of instructor.

This course explores major texts and themes of the Hispanic tradition from the 11th to the 17th centuries. We will examine general questions on literary analysis and the relationship between literature and history around certain events, such as medieval multicultural Iberia, the creation of the Spanish Inquisition in the 15th century and the expulsion of the Jews in 1492; the encounter between the Old and the New Worlds; the ‘opposition’ of high and low in popular culture, and of the secular and the sacred in poetry and prose. Readings may be drawn from medieval short stories and miracle collections; chivalric romances, Columbus, Lazarillo de Tormes, Cervantes, Lope de Vega, Calderón, and Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, among others.

MEDVL 2217 | History of the English Language to 1300 (also LING 2217, ENGL 2170)
8658 | MWF 10:10-11:00 | 4 credits | W. Harbert.

Explores the development of the English language from its Indo-European beginnings through the period of Early Middle English. Topics include linguistic reconstruction, changes in sound, vocabulary and grammatical structure, external influences, and Old and Early Middle English language and literature.

MEDVL 2740 | Scottish Literature (also ENGL 2740)
8658/8660  | MWF 11:15-12:05 | 3-4 credits | T. Hill and H. Shaw.

Although Scotland, which was long a separate nation, is now politically united with England, it preserves its distinctiveness. This course provides an introduction to Scottish literature, with special emphasis on the medieval period and the 18th through the 20th centuries. The course should appeal to those who wish to learn about their Scottish heritage, and also those who simply wish to encounter a remarkable national culture and the literature it has produced. Some of the texts will be read in Scots, but no familiarity with Scots or earlier English is presumed. We welcome readers of literature who are not English majors.

Those choosing the 4 credit option will complete an additional writing project. May be used as one of the three pre-1800 courses required of English majors.

MEDVL 3110/6110 | Old English (also ENGL 3110/6110)
8659 | MWF 12:20-1:10 | 4 credits | T. Hill.

In this course, we will read and discuss some of the earliest surviving English poetry and prose. Attention will be paid to (1) learning to read the language in which this literature is written, (2) evaluating the poetry as poetry: its form, structure, style, and varieties of meaning, and (3) seeing what can be learned about the culture of Anglo-Saxon England and about the early Germanic world in general, from an examination of the Old English literary records. We will begin by reading some easy prose and will go on to consider some more challenging heroic, elegiac, and devotional poetry, including an excerpt from the masterpiece Beowulf. The course may also be used as preparation for the sequence ENGL 3120/ENGL 6120.

May be used as one of the three pre-1800 courses required of English majors.

MEDVL 3210 | Medieval Philosophy (also PHIL 3210, RLST 3210)
16841 | TR 10:10-11:25 | 4 credits | S. Penner.

A selective survey of Western philosophical thought from the fourth to the 14th century. Topics include the problem of universals, the theory of knowledge and truth, the nature of free choice and practical reasoning, and philosophical theology. Readings (in translation) include Augustine, Boethius, Anselm, Abelard, Aquinas, Scotus, and Ockham. Some attention will be given to the development of ideas across the period and the influence of non-Western traditions on the West.

MEDVL 3308 | Readings in Celtic Languages (also LING 3308)
16390 | TBA | 1 credit | W. Harbert.

Reading/discussion groups in Welsh or Scottish Gaelic.

MEDVL 3315 | Old Norse I (also LING 3315)
17036 | MWF 9:05-9:55 | 4 credits | B. Stefansdottir.

Old Norse is a collective term for the earliest North Germanic literary languages: Old Icelandic, Old Norwegian, Old Danish, and Old Swedish. The richly documented Old Icelandic is the center of attention, and the purpose is twofold: the students gain knowledge of an ancient North Germanic language, important from a linguistic point of view, and gain access to the medieval Icelandic (and Scandinavian) literature. The structure of Old Norse (Old Icelandic), phonology, and morphology, with reading of selections from the Prose-Edda, a 13th-century narrative based on the Eddaic poetry.

MEDVL 3637 | History and Literature of Early Christianity (also NES 3637, JWST 3637, RELST 3637, CLASS 3637)
17998 | TR 1:25-2:40 | 4 credits | K. Haines-Eitzen.

This course traces the historical development of Christianity from its roots in 1st century Palestinian Judaism to the emergence of Islam in the early 7th century, with special emphasis on the period prior to the “conversion” of Constantine in the 4rth century. The focus will be on exploring the rich diversity of Christianity in late antiquity by reading a wide range of primary literary sources, including selections from the New Testament, church fathers, apocryphal writings, gnostic literatures, saints lives, and much more. In addition, we will study the material culture of early Christianity through archaeology, art, inscriptions, and papyri. Special attention will be given to the varieties of Christianity and the ways in which various forms of Christianity in different regions around the Mediterranean interfaced with paganism, Judaism, and Islam.

MEDVL 3750 | Introduction to Dendrochronology (also CLASS 3750, ARKEO 3090, ARTH 3250)
8647 | W 12:20-1:10 plus lab | 4 credits (letter grades only) | S. Manning.

Introduction and training in dendrochronology and its application to archaeology, art history, and environment through participation in a research project dating ancient to modern tree-ring samples especially from the Mediterranean. Supervised reading and laboratory/project work. A possibility exists for summer fieldwork in the Mediterranean.

Permission of instructor required. Limited to 10 students.

MEDVL 4002/6020 | Latin Philosophical Texts (also PHIL 4002/6020, LATIN 7262, RELST 4100/6020)
8652/ 8653 | T 7:30-9:25 p.m. | 1-4 credits | C. Brittain / S. MacDonald.

Reading and translation of Latin philosophical texts.

MEDVL 4180/6180 | The Imaginary Jew: Roots of Antisemitism in Medieval England (also ENGL 4180/6180, JWST 4180/6180)
16555/ 16121 | TR 2:55-4:10 | 4 credits | S. Zacher.

When did anti-Semitism begin? The medieval period invented shocking fictions about Jews–that they killed and ate Christian babies; that they desecrated the Host; that they were the murderers of Christ. In manuscripts Jews were visually compared to beasts, devils, and perverts. By law, Jews were forced to live in ghettos, wear distinctive dress, abstain from certain professions, and suffer exile. Beginning with Shakespeare’s Shylock, we will work our way back through visual and literary treatments of Jews in the Middle Ages, reading texts by Chaucer, chronicles, miracle stories, crusader romances, and mystery plays. Drawing on recent theories of the other we will also consider how medieval representations of Jews and other minorities were used to construct medieval communal, religious, and political identities.

This course may be used as one of the three pre-1800 courses required of English majors.

MEDVL 4350/6350 | Faces of Power (also ARTH 4350/6350, CLASS 4751/7751, VISST 4350, ARKEO 4450/7450)
16384/ 16393 | T 12:20-2:15 | 4 credits | B. Anderson.

The installation and dissemination of portraits of living political leaders (“rulers”) is frequently perceived as a hallmark of twentieth-century regimes, especially those labeled as “totalitarian” or “dictatorial.” Likewise, the mockery or destruction of these monuments is seen as a potent act of political resistance. These phenomena, together with the related concept of “propaganda,” have exerted a strong influence on the interpretation of pre-modern ruler portraits. This course will encourage students to think critically about visual cultures of political rule and to develop an account of the distinctions between ancient, medieval, and modern modalities of ruler portraiture and its reception. Our primary case studies will be the late Roman and Soviet states, with ample comparative material drawn from other polities.

MEDVL 4557 | Desert Monasticism (also NES 4557, JWST 4557, RELST 4557, CLASS 4677)
17999 | T 10:10 – 12:05 | 4 credits | K. Haines-Eitzen.

How and why do landscapes come to inspire the religious imagination? And how do sensory landscapes, more specifically-territories of sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell-inform, inflect, and engage the religious imagination? When and why do religious practices, rituals, traditions, and beliefs inhabit particular landscapes? This seminar treats these questions by focusing on a particular landscape-the “desert,” both imagined and real-as it has shaped religious ascetic practice. Biblical notions of howling desert wastelands and subsequent ideas about deserts inhabited by terrifying and grotesque demons; paradise, a garden where angels’ wings whir and pure light shines; valleys of rattling dry bones, sinews, and skins that breathe with new life; heavens clanging with the sound of war between seven-headed dragons and angels; demons coming in the forms of roaring lions and hissing serpents-the religious imaginary is shaped in striking ways by sensory landscapes. We will read widely from desert Christian monastic literatures, mostly from late ancient Egypt, to explore both the historical development of monasticism in Christianity and examine why the monastic impulse seems so closely tied to the “desert.” In addition to reading saints lives, we will read early monastic rules, the desert fathers, and we will draw from archaeological sources to examine the varieties of ascetic practices in the deserts of late ancient Egypt, Gaza, Sinai, Palestine, and Syria. Throughout the course we will explore ancient and modern ideas about “wilderness” and we will explore parallels between ancient Near Eastern literatures and their nineteenth- and twentieth-century parallels in the American frontier and environmental literatures.

MEDVL 4910/6910 | Approaches to Medieval Violence (also HIST 4910/6920)
17790/17791 | T 2:30 – 4:25 | 4 credits | O. Falk

‘Violence’ has become an unavoidable – and urgently troubling – buzzword in contemporary Western culture. We worry about its manifestations and representations in our own civilization, we scan foreign societies with which we interact for any sign of it, we fantasize about consummating it or construct our utopias around its absence. This course is intended as an opportunity for students working on a variety of topics, periods and areas in premodern Europe to investigate its relevance to their own studies. Through an examination of readings on violence in particular historical contexts, from Late Antiquity to the Early Modern period, we will seek to elicit reflection on what is meant by the concept, to prompt consideration of distinctions among forms of violence, and to sample a variety of analytical approaches and tools.  Graduate Students should sign up for MEDVL 6910 or HIST 6920.

MEDVL 6210 | Seminar in Medieval Philosophy (also PHIL 6210)
16845 | T 4:30 – 6:30 | 4 credits | S. Penner.

A selective survey of Western philosophical thought from the fourth to the 14th century. Topics include the problem of universals, the theory of knowledge and truth, the nature of free choice and practical reasoning, and philosophical theology. Readings (in translation) include Augustine, Boethius, Anselm, Abelard, Aquinas, Scotus, and Ockham. Some attention will be given to the development of ideas across the period and the influence of non-Western traditions on the West.

MEDVL 7777 | Medieval Studies Proseminar
17226 | R 4:30 – 5:45 | 2 credits | A. Galloway.

This course is designed to introduce graduate students to some of the bibliography and approaches available for studying the Middle Ages.

MEDVL 8010 | Directed Study – Individual
6560 / 9659

MEDVL 8020 | Directed Study – Group
6561

GRAD 9001 | Graduate Dissertation Research
13451 | required for Graduate students not taking other courses