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  Courses - Fall 2010

Classical Studies:

No listings available.

Comparative Literature:

COML 213
Saints and Devils in Russian Literature and Tradition--See Slavic Studies RUSS 213

COML 526
In Defiance of Babel: The Quest for a Universal Language--See Slavic Studies SLAV 526

East Asian Literatures & Cultures:

No listings available.


ENGL 025.001
Chaucer at Large
TR 12:00-1:30
E. Steiner

Fulfills Sector 2: Language, Literature and Culture of the English Standard Major
Fulfills Sector 3: Early Literature to 1660 of the English Standard Major

This course introduces students to medieval English literature and culture through an overview of Geoffrey Chaucer's poetry. We will read a variety of courtly poems such as the Parliament of Fowls (birds get together to discuss love and policy), The Legend of Good Women (women from classical mythology air their complaints), The Book of the Duchess (Chaucer comforts a grieving knight), as well as a number of the Canterbury Tales including the bawdy Miller's Tale (a college student seduces his landlord's wife), the shocking Pardoner's Tale (a preacher confesses publicly that he is fraud), the disturbing Prioress's Tale (Jews ritually murder a Christian boy), and the notorious Clerk's Tale (a despotic lord marries a peasant girl... and then..). Some concerns of the course will include the competing values of aristocratic culture, the relation between poetic genres and social class, Chaucer's historical and mythographic consciousness, his classical and continental inheritance (Dante, Petrarch, Ovid, Boethius), and the peculiarities of fourteenth-century authorship, reading, and performance (translation, the status of English, manuscript traditions). Readings will be in Middle English, and we will spend some time on pronunciation and reading skills, as well as investigating Chaucerian "keywords" such as truth, pity, courtesy, imagination, and intention.

No previous knowledge of the subject or of Middle English required. Just come as you are!

Requirements: participation, short weekly exercises, a mid-term and a final exam.

ENGL 225.301
Chaucer Research Seminar
TR 3:00-4:30
R. O'Neill

Fulfills Sector 2: Language, Literature and Culture of the English Standard Major
Fulfills Sector 3: Early Literature to 1660 of the English Standard Major
Fulfills Pre-1700 or Pre-1900 Seminar Requirement of the English Standard Major
Fulfills Elective Seminar of the English Standard Major

Chaucer's Canterbury Tales is the most experimental, generically diverse poem in the whole history of English literature. At a time when the English language had unmatched plasticity and expressive force, Chaucer chose to write in many genres: classical romance, bedroom farce, Ovidian metamorphosis, saint's life, anti-feminist fable, feminist fairytale, poetic manifesto and prose treatise on the Seven Deadly Sins. By dressing contemporary characters in ancient garb, Chaucer was able to write a kind of science fiction before its time: medieval Londoners, depicted as ancient Trojans, Athenians, or Bretons, address vital and controversial issues of honor, belief, and afterlife.

Chaucer also wrote a poetry designed to be read aloud and appreciated in group settings. In this class we will devote considerable time to reading Chaucer aloud, mindful that each new reading is an act of interpretation. We will also see how later centuries have reacted to or rewritten Chaucer, beginning with a cranky anti-feminist Scottish schoolmaster (Robert Henryson): his coda to Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde exerted major influence upon the mood of Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida. More recent reworkings of Chaucer for consideration include Ted Hughes (and Sylvia Plath), African-American poet Marilyn Nelson, and Chaucer rap artist Baba Brinkman. We may also consider how Chaucer was edited and appreciated in later periods, employing early editions to be found in Van Pelt and other research libraries.

The creative effort of this seminar builds towards one final, independent research paper. Form of assessment: one shorter essay (6pp.), one longer essay, with research component (12 pp. max); no incompletes. One critical reading (pass/pass) at some point in the semester: a reading of c. 20 lines of text, mindful that every reading aloud is an act of interpretation.

Students are invited to bring knowledge of later periods to this class; no prior medievalist experience required.

ENGL 524.401
Piers Plowman
M 12:00-3:00
E. Steiner

This course is devoted to the study of William Langland's masterpiece, Piers Plowman, a 7,000-line alliterative dream-vision in Middle English. Experimental in form and ideologically cutting-edge, Piers Plowman captured the imagination of fourteenth- and fifteenth-century English writers. I like to think of it as the Canterbury Tales of its day. Graduate students from all disciplines and specializing in different periods are welcome to take this course, although participants should have some experience with Middle English.

Undergraduates need to fill out a permit form and receive the approval of the Graduate Chair, their advisor, and the professor for all 500-level courses.

ENGL 705
In Defiance of Babel: The Quest for a Universal Language--See Slavic Studies SLAV 526

Germanic Languages & Literatures:

GRMN 008.301
Superstition & Erudition: Daily Life in the Middle Ages
TR 10:30-12:00
F. Brevart

Cross-Cultural Analysis Course. All readings and lectures in English. No knowledge of German is required.

Individuals in medieval times lived basically the same way we do today: they ate, drank, needed shelter, worked in a variety of ways to earn a living, and planned their lives around religious holidays. They talked about the weather and had sex, they had to deal with cold, hunger, illness, epidemics and natural catastrophes. Those fortunate few who could afford the luxury, went to local monastic schools and learned how to read and write. And fewer still managed to obtain some form of higher education in cathedral schools and nascent universities and became teachers themselves. Those eager to learn about other people and foreign customs traveled to distant places and brought back with them much knowledge and new ideas. The similarities, we will all agree, are striking. But what is of interest to us are the differences, the "alterity" (keyword) of the ways in which they carried out these actions and fulfilled their goals.

This course concentrates on two very broad aspects of daily life in the Middle Ages (12th - 16th centuries). The first part, Erudition, focuses on the world in and around the University. Taking Paris and Bologna as our paradigms, we will discuss the evolution of the medieval university from early cathedral schools, the organization, administration, financing, and maintenance of such an institution, the curriculum and degrees offered at the various faculties, and the specific qualifications needed to study or to teach at the university. We will familiarize ourselves with the modes of learning and lecturing, with the production of the instruments of knowledge, i.e. the making of a manuscript; we will explore the regimented daily life of the medieval student, his economic and social condition, his limited, but at times outrageous distractions, and the causes of frequent conflicts between town and gown. Finally, we will investigate the role of the medieval University in European history.

The second part, Superstition, revolves around astrology, medicine and pharmacy. Taking the German Volkskalender, the medieval predecessor of the modern Farmer's Almanac, as our point of departure, we will gain insights into the ubiquitous role of astrology in the daily life of medieval individuals, for example in activities and decisions concerning farming; slaughtering of animals; personal hygiene; marrying; escaping from jail; conception of a male child; appropriate days to let blood; etc.

Medicine, frequently referred to as astromedicine because of its inextricable dependence on astrology, encompasses a multitude of characteristics. The course will explore the precarious state of medieval medicine and pharmacology, the specific diseases of women (e.g. suffocation of the womb) and their treatments, the use of so-called wonderdrugs by professional physicians and medical charlatans alike produced from exotic plants, precious stones, animal parts, blood or human excrements, and the medieval rationality behind these forms of therapy. Special topics are also planned on the astrological causes and magical treatments of the Black Death; embryology, the seven-chambered uterus and the causes of homosexuality / lesbianism; sex as therapy, etc.


HIST 001
Europe in a Wider World
A. Moyer

This course surveys the formation of European society and culture, from later Roman antiquity through the religious Reformation and beginnings of overseas expansion. It examines the developments in politics, society, and religion that gave Europe its distinct shape and character. It also serves as an introduction to the study of history, with an emphasis on primary sources from the era.

HIST 201.301
Law in the Middle Ages
TR 10:30-12:00
E. Knibbs

HIST 526
In Defiance of Babel: The Quest for a Universal Language--See Slavic Studies SLAV 526

History of Art:

ARTH 101
Intro to Art, Prehistory to Renaissance
MWF 10:00-11:00
R. Maxwell

Fulfills the Arts & Letters Sector.

This is a double introduction: to looking at the visual arts; and, to the ancient and medieval cities and empires of three continents - ancient Egypt, the Middle East and Iran, the Minoan and Mycenaean Bronze Age, the Greek and Roman Mediterranean, and the early Islamic, early Byzantine and western Medieval world. Using images, contemporary texts, and art in our city, we examine the changing forms of art, architecture and landscape architecture, and the roles of visual culture for political, social and religious activity.

ARTH 217
Visual Culture of the Islamic World
TR 12:00-1:30
R. Holod

Fulfills Humanities & Social Science Sector.

The course is a one-semester introduction to visual culture of the Islamic world, beginning with contemporary material. The course will examine how visual culture has functioned and continues to operate within Islamic civilization. Visual culture encompasses but is not limited to specific histories of art and architecture; aspects of crafts and popular art will be discussed also. Material in the course will be drawn from the seventh to the twentieth centuries, and will be presented thematically as well as chronologically. Attention will be given to relationships between visual culture, history and literature, using specific case studies, sites or objects, which may be related to various branches of Islamic literature, including historical, didactic, philosophical writings, poetry, and religious texts. The course is designed to serve non-specialists. All reading will be available in English.

ARTH 241
Byzantine Art & Architecture
TR 9:00-10:30
R. Ousterhout

This course surveys the arts of Byzantium from the fall of Rome to the fall of Constantinople in 1453. Study of major monuments, including icons, mosaics, architecture, and ivories will provide us with an overview of this rich artistic culture. We will pay special attention to the role of the Orthodox Church and liturgy in the production and reception of art works. Weekly recitation sections will focus on selected major issues, such as the relationship of art to the Holy, the uses and abuses of Iconoclasm, and imperial patronage. The course will also grapple with the Empire's relationship to other cultures by looking at the impact of the Christian Crusades and Moslem invasions - as well as Byzantium's crucial impact on European art (e.g., in Sicily, Spain).

ARTH 716.401
Vision and Optic Effects in Islamic Art
T 4:30-6:30
R. Holod

The seminar will explore the function of the visual in classical Islamic civilization. It will deal with scientific studies, such as those of Ibn al-Haytham, and with examples of literary and artistic expression. The aim of the course is to explore the diverse ways in which thinkers, writers, and makers sought to understand and to engage with the ocular. This course is intended as an exploration of art and aesthetic theory as these were developed within mediaeval Islamic civilization, with special attention to the study of vision, and its physical and psychological dimensions.

ARTH 740.301
Seminar in Medieval Art: Cluny, 910-2010
W 2:00-4:00
R. Maxwell

European-wide celebrations mark the 1100th anniversary of the founding of Cluny, the most far-reaching and influential monastic order of the central and late Middle Ages. This course will look closely at the sculpture, manuscripts, and architecture of the motherhouse in Cluny to gain an overview of Cluniac production and evaluate some historiographic chestnuts (was there a "Cluniac art"? does its art project monastic thought particular to Cluny?). The course will also consider the order's reach throughout Europe (what was its influence on art and architecture within the order? beyond the order?), considering its major dependencies in France (Souvigny, Moissac, Vezelay), Spain (Sahagun, Cardena, Najera, San Juan de la Pena), Germany (Hirsau, Alpirsbach), Switzerland (Payerne, Romainmotier), and Italy (Polirone, Rodengo, Vertemate).

Pending funding, this course will include a trip to Burgundy to visit Cluny and several other sites, as well as to visit two important exhibitions and attend an international conference.

Jewish Studies:

JWST 735
Judaism and Christianity Seminar--See RELS 735


No listings available.


MUSC 710.301
Studies in Medieval Music
W 2:00-5:00
Emma Dillon

Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations:

NELC 234
The Mongol Experience
TR 3:00-4:30
Paul Cobb

NELC 337 (also NELC 637)
Age of Caliphs, 600-1100
TR 10:30-12:00
Paul Cobb

Religious Studies:

RELS 213
Saints and Devils in Russian Literature and Tradition--See Slavic Studies RUSS 213

RELS 735
Judaism and Christianity Seminar: Identity and Polemics in the Hellenistic and Roman Near East
M 10:00-1:00
Annette Reed

This course will explore discussions of religious and cultural identity in Israel, Egypt, and Syria in the Hellenistic and Roman periods, focusing on pedagogy and polemics. Reading will include selections from Hellenistic Jewish literature, early Christian apologies, and "pagan" anti-Christian treatises, as well as philosophical discussions about ritual, sacrifice, and the soul across religious lines. Among the themes to be considered are the practice and perception of Greek paideia, attempts to grapple with the "translatability" of local cultures and older Near Eastern traditions in Greco-Roman idioms, and the creative appeal to tropes of "Greek" and "barbarian."

Cross-listed as JWST 735.

Romance Languages & Literatures:

ITAL 232
The World of Dante
V. Kirkham

The Divine Comedy will be read in the context of Dante Alighieri's fourteenth-century cultural world. Discussions, focused on selected cantos of the Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso, will connect with such topics as: books and readers before the invention of printing (e.g, how manuscripts were made from sheepskins, transcribed, and decorated), life in a society dominated by the Catholic church (sinners vs. saints, Christian pilgrimage routes, the great Franciscan and Dominican religious orders), Dante's politics as a Florentine exile (power struggles between Pope and Emperor), his classical and Christian literary models (Virgil's Aeneid, Ovid's Metamorphoses, the Bible), and his genius as a poet in the medieval structures of allegory, symbolism, and numerology. One class will be held in the Rare Book Room at Van Pelt Library to view illustrations of the Comedy, from early illuminated manuscripts to Renaissance printed books, and see first-hand how they trace a history of the forms in which the poem has flourished for seven hundred years. Class conducted in English. The Divine Comedy will be available in a text with facing English and Italian versions. May be counted toward an Italian Studies major or minor.

ITAL 531
Dante's Commedia
K. Brownlee

SPAN 630
Medieval Media and Alfonso the Learned
M. Solomon

This seminar explores Alfonso X (1221-1284) monumental and opulent Codice Rico manuscript of Las cantigas de santa Maria. Drawing on recent concepts from media studies including connectivity, remediation, recursion, augmented space, and the relation between visual sensation and graphic information we will examine the 200 miracles stories and songs, and the more than 1200 image panels in this monumental manuscript. Throughout the course we will consider Alfonso's notion of a Marian Monarchy in which he positioned himself as the prime mediator between the Virgin Mary and Christendom. All students will learn to read medieval Galician-Portuguese, the language Alfonso used to compose the Las cantigas. As a prerequisite, students must have a strong reading knowledge of one Romance language or Latin. The course will be taught in English.

Slavic Studies:

RUSS 213
Saints and Devils in Russian Literature and Tradition
TR 3:00-4:30
J. Verkholantsev

All readings and lectures in English.
Arts and Letters Sector

This course is about Russian literature, which is populated with saints and devils, believers and religious rebels, holy men and sinners. In Russia, where people's frame of mind had been formed by a mix of Eastern Orthodox Christianity and earlier folk beliefs, the quest for faith, spirituality and the meaning of life has invariably been connected with religious matters. How can one find the right path in life? Is humility the way to salvation? Should one live for God or for the people? Does God even exist? In "Saints and Devils," we will examine Russian literature concerning the holy and the demonic as representations of good and evil, and we will learn about the historic trends that have filled Russia's national character with religious and supernatural spirit. In the course of this semester we will talk about ancient cultural traditions, remarkable works of art and the great artists who created them. All readings and films are in English. Our primary focus will be on works by Pushkin, Gogol, Lermontov, Dostoevsky, Chekhov, Tolstoy, and Bulgakov.

Cross-listed as COML213 and RELS 218

SLAV 526
In Defiance of Babel: The Quest for a Universal Language
R 5:00-8:00
J. Verkholantsev

All readings and lectures in English.
Undergraduates require permission to register.

This is a course in intellectual history. It explores the historical trajectory, from antiquity to the present day, of the idea that there once was, and again could be, a universal and perfect language to explain and communicate the essence of human experience. The idea that the language spoken in the Garden of Eden was a language which perfectly expressed the essence of all possible objects and concepts has occupied the minds of scholars for more than two millennia. In defiance of the myth of the Tower of Babel and the confusion of languages, they strived to overcome divine punishment and discover the path back to harmonious existence. For philosophers, the possibility of recovering or recreating a universal language would enable apprehension of the laws of nature. For theologians, it would allow direct experience of the divinity. For mystic-cabalists it would offer access to hidden knowledge. For nineteenth-century philologists the reconstruction of the proto-language would enable a better understanding of human history. For contemporary scholars, linguistic universals provide structural models both for human and artificial languages. For writers and poets of all times, from Cyrano de Bergerac to Velimir Khlebnikov, the idea of a universal and perfect language has been an inexhaustible source of inspiration. Above all, the course examines fundamental questions of what language is and how it functions. Among the course readings are works by Plato, Aristotle, St. Augustine, Dante, Horapollo, Bacon, Giordano Bruno, John Wilkins, Cyrano de Bergerac, Jonathan Swift, and Zamenhof.

Cross-listed as COML526, HIST 526 and ENGL705

La Voie De Povrete

The author joining laborers in the Castle of Works, La Voie de Povreté ou de Richesse. Bedford Master workshop, Paris or Rouen, c.1430
(Free Library, Widener, 1, fol. 61v)


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