Spring 2015 Courses

Medieval Studies Program

Courses being offered in Spring 2015

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

First-year Writing Seminars:

MEDVL 1101 (sem. 101) | Text, Context, and ‘Sext’ in Chaucer’s Wife of Bath
17344 | TR 10:10-11:25 | 3 credits | H. Byland

“In wifehood, I will use my instrument/ As freely as my Maker has sent it.” (Prol. 149-50). So says the Wife of Bath in her famed Prologue. The Wife frequently uses the text to make sexual jokes, or to “sext.” Our seminar will focus not only on those “sexts,” but also on the life of Chaucer and how his experiences appear in the Wife’s Tale. We will learn about late 14th-century England and read many of the source texts Chaucer used. Through vigorous class discussion and six formal writing exercises, including a creative writing piece, this class will engage you in the world of Chaucer, late medieval sexuality and gender, and a literary tradition stretching back to the 5th century C.E.

MEDVL 1101 (sem. 102) | Map Quest:  Space, Place, and Movement in Medieval Society
17345 | MW 10:10-11:00 | 3 credits | J. W. Greenlee

Where are you going?  How should you get there?  The answers to questions like these, so easily found today, were not nearly so definite or available in medieval societies.  This class will look at how medieval people discovered and defined their worlds.  We will look at pilgrim and travel itineraries from wanderers such as John Mandeville, William Wey, and Ibn Battuta, to consider how they saw the spaces through which they traveled.  We will also look at medieval maps, and discuss how shifts in mapmaking suggest broader changes in how people understood the world.  Through class discussions, writing exercises and papers, students will examine these texts and maps to think about different ways that medieval – and modern! – people define and identify their spaces.

MEDVL 1101 (sem. 103) | Medieval Modernities and the Modern Middle Ages
17346 | MW 8:40-9:55 | 3 credits | R. Grabowski

No place is so alien as the past, and Hollywood’s depictions of the Middle Ages—with its skin clad barbarians, pillaging Vikings, and blood thirsty crusaders—make that era seem especially so.  This class will attempt to dispel this foreignness by focusing on large conceptual ideas, such as speech and community, in both the Middle Ages and today to trace the similarities between these two eras as well as to elucidate the indebtedness of modernity to the Middle Ages.  Towards this end, this class will examine a variety of sources, including The Benedictine Rule, Fight Club, Norse myths, and excerpts from the Sandman comics and the television series Firefly. This course will hone students’ writing and analytic skills through class discussion, writing exercises, and formal papers.

MEDVL 1101 (sem. 104) | The Crusades through Arab Eyes
17347 | TR 1:25-2:40 | 3 credits | R. Stepp

This course examines one of the most famous series of events in the Middle Ages – The Crusades.  However, instead of studying the European perspective on the Crusades we will investigate how these events impacted the inhabitants of the Middle East; Arab, Muslim, Jew, and Christian.  We will also examine the impact that the Crusades still have on the modern Arab and Muslim worldview.  We will use our investigation of the Crusades as a springboard to learn and practice skills necessary to succeed in academic writing through a variety of writing and research assignments.

MEDVL 1103 (sem. 101) | The Evolution of Fairy Tales
17348 | MWF 11:15-12:05 | 3 credits | A. Waymack

Incest, murders, strip teases, single mothers, a soulless protagonist—what else is Disney leaving out? This course will trace popular tales back to disturbingly unfamiliar forms and compare them to current trends in telling fairy tales. We will question what defines a fairy tale and why so many authors have felt compelled to adapt these tales into sanitized, religious, queer, feminist, gory, saccharine, parodic, admonitory and sexualized retellings.  Readings will range from medieval texts and Hans Christian Andersen to Angela Carter and 21st century multimedia.  Short responses, analytical essays and a creative writing assignment will strengthen students’ writing and critical reasoning.

Courses for upper-level undergraduates and graduate students:

MEDVL 2170 | Early Modern Iberian Survey (also SPAN 2170, LATA 2170)
8450 | TR 1:25-2:40 | 4 credits | P. Garcia Pinar.
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 2400 | Cultures of the Middle Ages (also LING 2217, ENGL 2170)
15731 | TR 1:25-2:40 | 4 credits | C. Howie.

This course introduces students to one of the major concerns of the literature, art, and religious thought of western Europe between roughly 400 and 1400 AD: transformation. We’ll begin with Ovid and Apuleius, the classical and late-classical myth-makers who literally wrote the books on metamorphosis. We’ll then look at Augustine’s  Confessions – where Christian conversion  becomes an even more startling kind of transformation – before proceeding to the stories of shape-shifters gathered together by the twelfth-century French poet Marie de France.  Then we’ll take a look at Dante’s account of metamorphosis as retribution in Inferno, as well as the kinds of transformations fantasized in the margins of medieval manuscripts, as Michael Camille describes them in Image on the Edge. We’ll finally take the time to engage with both the transfiguration of Christ in medieval thought and its close analogue, stigmatization, as undergone most famously by Francis of Assisi. In the process, we’ll ask what happens when the human is transformed into the divine.

MEDVL 3050 | History of the Book (also ENGL 3050)
16357 | M 2:30-4:25 | 3 credits | L. Ferri

This course provides an overview of the book as a material and cultural artifact. Focusing on the era of the printed book (1450-2000) in Western Europe and America, we will examine the invention and spread of printing and publishing, and the evolution of book design, illustration, and binding. The course will place an emphasis on practical tools for the identification and analysis of books and other printed artifacts, especially for literary students. Investigations and assignments will be built around hands-on interaction with examples of Cornell Library’s rare books and manuscripts.

MEDVL 3120/6120 | Beowulf (also ENGL 3120, ENGL 6120)
8447/8448 | T 11:40-12:55 | 4 credits | S. Zacher.
Prerequisite: one semester of Old English or equivalent.

A close reading of Beowulf. Attention will be given to relevant literary, cultural, and linguistic issues. One semester’s study of Old English, or the equivalent, is recommended.

MEDVL 3140 | Love and Ecstasy: Forms of Devotion in Medieval English Literature (also ENGL 3140)
15467 | TR 2:55-4:10 | 4 credits | S. Zacher.

What do love, torture, and ecstasy all have in common? How could they all be considered spiritual experiences? The thirteenth century brought a new and intense focus on the body of Christ, bloodied, wounded, and tortured. Female and male mystics began to describe Jesus as a lord, lover, and even mother in most intimate—and even sexual—terms. Guides for meditation, memory work, and holy living focused on bodily practices for approaching the divine and replicating the suffering of Christ. In this course we will explore a range of literary texts and artistic representations that illuminate this religious and aesthetic ethos. Readings will be in modern and medieval English, and will also include contemporary theoretical texts.

MEDVL 3190 | Chaucer (also ENGL 3190)
8021 | TR 1:25-2:40 | 4 credits | M. Raskolnikov.

Chaucer became known as the “father of English poetry” before he was entirely cold in his grave. Why is what he wrote more than six hundred years ago still riveting for us today? It’s not just because he is the granddaddy of this language and its literature; it’s because what he wrote was funny, fierce, thoughtful, political, philosophical and, oh yes, notoriously bawdy. We’ll read some of Chaucer’s brilliant early work, and then dig into his two greatest achievements: the epic Troilus and Crisyede, and The Canterbury Tales, his oft-censored panorama of medieval English life. Chaucer will be read in Middle English, which will prove surprisingly easy and pleasant.

MEDVL 3200 | The Viking Age (also HIST 3200)
16618 (lecture) | TR 10:10-11:25 | 4 credits | O. Falk.
16619 (discussion) | R 1:25-2:15
16620 (discussion) | R 2:30-3:20

This course aims to familiarize students with the history of Scandinavia, ca. 800-1100 ad. Although well known as a dramatic chapter in medieval history, this period remains enigmatic and often misunderstood. Our goal will be to set Norse history within its European context, observing similarities with processes elsewhere in the medieval world, the better to perceive what makes the Norse unique. We will examine the social, economic and political activities of the Norsemen in continental Scandinavia, in Western and Eastern Europe, and in the North Atlantic.

MEDVL 3270 | Constantinople / Istanbul, 330-1566 (also ARKEO 3370, ARTH 3270, CLASS 3770, NES 3270, RELST 3270, VISST 3270)
15979 | TR 8:40-9:55 | 4 credits | B. Anderson

Ancient Byzantion, rebuilt and renamed by the Roman emperor Constantine the Great, raised by his successors to be the capital of a “Byzantine” empire, object of desire for travelers and crusaders, crowning conquest of the Ottoman sultan Mehmet: the city on the Bosporus stands at the center of the late antique, medieval, and early modern Mediterranean. We will consider its urban development from ancient polis to modern metropolis, its marvels of religious architecture from the Hagia Sophia to the Süleymaniye, the splendor of its residences from the Great Palace of the Byzantine Emperors to the Topkapı Sarayı, and the daily life of its humbler residents from the games of the Hippodrome to the taverns and brothels.

MEDVL 3316 | Old Norse II (also LING 3316)
8172 | 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.  Extensive reading of Old Norse texts, among them selections from some of the major Icelandic family sagas: Njals saga, Grettis saga, and Egils saga, as well as the whole Hrafnkels saga.

MEDVL 3510 | Machiavelli (also HIST 3510, ITAL 3510)
16645 | TR 2:55-4:10 | 4 credits | J. Najemy

This course presents Machiavelli in a variety of historical and interpretive contexts; European and Italian politics in the early sixteenth century; the decline of the Florentine republic and the rise of the Medicean principate; Machiavelli’s career in government and his, and the republic’s, crisis in 1512-13; the intellectual traditions of Renaissance humanism, political thought, and the revival of antiquity; vernacular literary currents and popular culture; and the political writers and theorists with whom Machiavelli associated and corresponded. Emphasis is placed on a close reading of the major works (including the letters, The Prince, the Discourses, Mandragola, and selections from The Art of War and the Florentine Histories, all in translation) and a critical examination, in the light of that reading, of some major modern interpretations of Machiavelli.

MEDVL 3740 | Medieval Travel and Exploration (also COML 3724, JWST 3740, NES 3740)
15646 | TR 11:40-12:55 | 4 credits | S. Toorawa

In the Middle Ages, people traveled for all many reasons: for adventure, for commerce, on pilgrimage, for conquest. We will read the accounts of medieval travelers in order better to understand the motives and motivations for travel and for exploration. Our travelers will include Christian, Jewish, and Muslim merchants, ambassadors, scholars, geographers, explorers, sailors and soldiers. Readings will include Margery Kempe, Marco Polo, Ibn Battutah, Usama ibn Munqidh, and Benjamin of Tudela. All material in English translation.

MEDVL 4002/6020 | Latin Philosophical Texts (also PHIL 4002/6020, LATIN 7262, RELST 4100/6020)
8399/8400 | TBA | 1-4 credits | C. Brittain / S. MacDonald.

Reading and translation of Latin philosophical texts.

MEDVL 4161/6161 | Literature of the Crusades (also ENGL 4161/6161)
15489/15491 | W 12:20-2:15 | 4 credits | A. Galloway

The Crusades occupied brief periods, with events far from most Western writers, but kept a long hold on European historical, religious, and literary imagination. This provides an opportunity to consider how literature responds to ideological and military conflict. Exploring the ideas leading to the Crusades, and some narratives from those directly involved, from the Chanson de Roland to other French and Latin chronicles and poems, the course will consider a wide span of later Middle English literature from romances to the works of Chaucer and his contemporaries in order to reconsider the imprint of the Crusades on the wider English literary tradition. Goals include gaining proficiency in Middle English and its literature, as well as theories of how narrative responds to cultural and ideological crisis.

MEDVL 4310/6310 | Methods in Medieval: Narratives of Medieval Art (also ARTH 4310/6310, JWST 4310/6310, NES 4700/6700, RELST 4310/6310, SPAN 4570/6590)
16507/9049 | W 2:30-4:25 | 4 credits | B. Anderson / C. Robinson.

MEDVL 6102 | Latin Paleography (also LATIN 7222)
17110 | T 4:30-6:30 | 4 credits | A. Hicks
Prerequisites: A solid understanding of Latin grammar and morphology is a prerequisite for the course, and students in doubt about their readiness should consult with the instructor. 

This course is an introduction to and survey of Latin scripts from Roman antiquity through the early Renaissance, with an emphasis on the identification, localization, and reading of scripts. Class meetings will combine practical study of Latin scripts through medieval manuscripts in the Kroch library, facsimiles, and online digital reproductions with instruction in the cultural-historical background to manuscript production, library practices, and bibliographical resources. Students will also be introduced to basic techniques for codicological description and the principles of textual criticism.

MEDVL 6740 | Medieval Travel Writing (also COML 6725, JWST 6740, NES 6740, SPAN 6740)
15651 | W 2:30-5:30 | 4 credits | S. Toorawa

We will read a selection of medieval travel accounts, paying special attention to the ways in which travelers observed, interacted with, and described the people they encountered and the places they visited. Material will include: Buzurg ibn Shahrayar’s Wonders of the Indian Ocean, Ibn Fadlan’s Mission to the Volga, Evliya Çelebi’sBook of Travels, the anonymous Ottoman History of the New World, and European material including Marco Polo, Sir John Mandeville, and Bartolomeo de las Casas. All material in English and/or Spanish.

MEDVL 7501 | Reading Medieval Latin
18592 | M 4:30-6:00 | 1-4 credits | C. Brittain / A. Galloway

MEDVL 8010 | Directed Study – Individual
6435

MEDVL 8020 | Directed Study – Group
6431

GRAD 9001 | Graduate Dissertation Research
13154/13152 | required for Graduate students not taking other courses