BA Program


Students with questions about what courses will be accepted for credit should contact the program director, Jonathan Lyon. Please also consult departmental listings.

Classes have the following labels, to denote their place within major breadth requirements: (H) history, (A) art, architecture, or music, (P/T) philosophy or theology, (L) language or literature, and (M) materials and methods.

For previous course listings, please consult this page.

2017-2018 Courses

Autumn 2017

ARTH 17311. Art of the Book in the Middle Ages. A. Kumler (A)

Many of the greatest works of art from the Middle Ages come in the form of illuminated books. This course will introduce students to the history of the art of the book in the medieval West, exploring what kinds of books were made by medieval scribes and artists, how they were made, and what they meant to the men and women who gazed at their pages. We will meet in the Special Collections Research Center of the Regenstein Library, allowing us to explore the history of medieval book arts through close examinations of original medieval books and rare facsimiles. A wide range of illuminated books will be discussed—from those used in church rituals to those made for private aristocratic amusement.

ARTH 17612. The Art of Michelangelo. C. Cohen (A)

The focus of this course will be Michelangelo’s sculpture, painting and architecture while making use of his writings and his extensive body of drawings to understand his artistic personality, creative processes, theories of art, and his intellectual and spiritual biography, including his changing attitudes towards Neoplatonism, Christianity and politics. Our structure will be chronological starting with his juvenilia of the 1490s in Florence at the court of Lorenzo the Magnificent through his death in Rome in 1564 as an old man who was simultaneously the deity of art and a lonely, troubled, repentant Christian. Beyond close examination of the works themselves, among the themes that will receive attention for the ways they bear upon his art are Michelangelo’s fraught relationship with patrons; his changing attitude towards religion, especially his engagement with the Catholic Reform; his sexuality and how it might bear on the representation of gender in his art and poetry; his “official” biographies during Michelangelo’s lifetime and complex, ambivalent, reception over the centuries; new ideas about Michelangelo that have emerged from the restoration and scientific imaging of many of his works. At the same time, the course will be an introduction of students with little or no background in art history to some of the major avenues for interpretation in this field, including formal, stylistic, iconographical, psychological, social, feminist, theoretical and reception.

ENG 15302. King Arthur in Legend and History. Christina von Nolcken (L)

We will consider the historical origins of the Arthurian Legend and some of the ways in which it has subsequently been reshaped and used in great Britain. We will concern ourselves first with how the legend was treated in the Middle Ages, most importantly by Geoffery of Monmouth in the twelfth century and Thomas Malory in the fifteenth. Then we will turn to the extraordinary revival of interest in the legend that started with the Victorians and which has continued almost unabated to the present. In our discussions we will consider such matters as the various political uses that have been made of the legend as well as some of the reasons for its enduring popularity. We will end with a viewing of the 1975 Film Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

FNDL 20700. Aquinas on God, Being, and Human Nature. Stephen Meredith (P/T)

This course considers sections from Saint Thomas Aquinas's Summa Theologica. Among the topics considered are God's existence; the relationship between God and Being; and human nature.

ITAL 26401. Torquato Tasso. A. Maggi (L)

This course investigates the entire corpus of Torquato Tasso, the major Italian poet of the second half of the sixteenth century. We read in detail the Gerusalemme Liberata and Aminta, his two most famous works, in the context of their specific literary genre. We then spend some time examining the intricacies of his vast collection of lyric poetry, including passages from his poem "Il mondo creato." We also consider some of his dialogues in prose that address essential issues of Renaissance culture, such as the theories of love, emblematic expression, and the meaning of friendship.

NEHC 20030. Introduction to the Qur'an. Yousef Casewit (P/T)

This course introduces the historical context, thematic and literary features, major biblical figures, and exegetical literature on the Qur'an, with a focus on the early (8th-10th century CE) and medieval periods (11th - 15th century CE). We will read select English translations from the Qur'an and its commentators, accompanied by academic secondary literature that emphasize the Qur'an’s literary structure, theological underpinnings, historical, geographical, social, political and cultural contexts in early and medieval Islamic civilization, and the role of the Qur'an as both a fixed and a living and dynamic text in Muslim devotional life. Prerequisite(s): Knowledge of Arabic is not a prerequisite, but general knowledge about Islam or an "Introduction to Islam" course is highly recommended.

NEAA 20522. Archaeology of Islamic Syria-Palestine. D. Whitcomb (M)

This course is an exploration of the cultural patterns in the Levant from the late Byzantine period down to modern times, a span of some 1,500 years. While the subject matter will be archaeological sites of this period in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Israel, the focus will be on the role of medieval archaeology in amplifying the history of economic and social systems. It is this connective quality of Islamic archaeology which contributes to an understanding of the earlier history and archaeology of this region. Prerequisite(s): Introductory course in archaeology

NEHC 20501. Islamic History and Society I: The Rise of Islam and the Caliphate. F. Donner (H)

This course covers the period from ca. 600 to 1100, including the rise and spread of Islam, the Islamic empire under the Umayyad and Abbasid caliphs, and the emergence of regional Islamic states from Afghanistan and eastern Iran to North Africa and Spain.Prophet Muhammad; Qur‘an and Hadith; the Caliphate; the development of Islamic legal, theological, philosophical, and mystical discourses; sectarian movements; and Arabic literature.

NEHC 20601. Islamic Thought and Literature I. Staff (L)

This course covers the period from ca. 600 to 950, concentrating on the career of the Prophet Muhammad; Qur‘an and Hadith; the Caliphate; the development of Islamic legal, theological, philosophical, and mystical discourses; sectarian movements; and Arabic literature.

Winter 2018

ARTH 16709. Islamic Art and Architecture, 1100 to 1500. P. Berlekamp (A)

This course surveys the art and architecture of the Islamic world from 1100-1500. In that period, political fragmentation into multiple principalities challenged a deeply rooted ideology of unity of the Islamic world. The courts of the various principalities competed not only in politics, but also in the patronage of architectural projects and of arts such as textiles, ceramics, woodwork, and the arts of the book. While focusing on the central Islamic lands, we will consider regional traditions from Spain to India and the importance for the arts of contacts with China and the West.

ARTH 20609. Early Christian Art. Karin Krause (A)

This course will focus on the visual arts as ubiquitous, understanding them as an essential part of early Christian culture and identity. Close attention will be paid throughout to interdisciplinary scholarly methods that have been developed in order to approach early Christian art within the larger framework of late antique culture and to decode the symbolism that characterizes it. Some sample questions we are going to discuss include: What do the earliest Christian images in the catacombs and on sarcophagi convey about the hopes and fears of those who commissioned them? In which ways did the design and furnishing of religious architecture respond directly to needs associated with the celebration of the liturgy or other cultic activities? What were the functions and messages of the splendid mosaic programs that survive, for instance, in various churches in Rome and Ravenna? To what extent may they be understood (possibly until today) as an aid to religious imagination and worship? How were visual means employed to provide complex theological exegesis, and what is the relation of the imagery to religious writings? What is the place of early Christian manuscript illumination within the larger context of late antique book culture? What do we know about viewer response to Christian art both in the private and the public spheres?

ARTH 23202. Byzantium: Art, Religion, Culture I. K. Krause (A)

In this introductory seminar we will explore works of art and architecture as primary sources for Byzantine civilization. Through the close investigation of artifacts of different media and techniques, students will gain insight into the artistic production of the Byzantine Empire from its foundation in the 4th century A.D. to the Ottoman conquest in 1453. We will employ different methodological approaches and resources that are relevant for the fruitful investigation of artifacts in their respective cultural setting. In order to fully assess the pivotal importance of the visual arts in Byzantine culture, we will address a wide array of topics, including art and ritual, patronage, the interrelation of art and text, classical heritage, art and theology, Iconoclasm, etc.

ENG 15700. Ethics, Politics and Aesthetics in Medieval Literature. Mark Miller (L)

This course will explore the experimental poetics of Chaucer, Gower, and Langland, with a focus on the relations between aesthetic form and ethical and political forms.

FREN 21700. Le Roman de la rose. D. Delogu (L)

The mid-thirteenth-century Roman de la Rose was arguably the single most influential vernacular text of the (French) Middle Ages. A sprawling, encyclopedic summa composed by two separate authors writing some forty years apart, whether taken as a source of inspiration or an object of condemnation, the Roman de la Rose became an obligatory point of reference for generations of authors. Over the course of the quarter, we will read the conjoined text, each student focusing their reading through a critical optic of their choice (e.g., gender studies, animal studies, ethics and philosophy, reception studies, manuscript studies, etc.). Students will select and read ancillary texts to enrich their understanding of the Rose, and will collaborate with one another to chart a rich and diverse set of interpretive paths through this complex work. Prerequisite(s): FREN 20500 and at least one other literature course taught in French. Note(s): Taught in English, with readings in French.

ITAL 23900. Marsilio Ficino's "On Love". A. Maggi (L)

This course is first of all a close reading of Marsilio Ficino’s seminal book On Love (first Latin edition De amore 1484; Ficino’s own Italian translation 1544). Ficino’s philosophical masterpiece is the foundation of the Renaissance view of love from a Neo-Platonic perspective. It is impossible to overemphasize its influence on European culture. On Love is not just a radically new interpretation of Plato’s Symposium. It is the book through which sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Europe read the love experience. Our course will analyze its multiple classical sources and its spiritual connotations. During our close reading of Ficino’s text, we will show how European writers and philosophers appropriated specific parts of this Renaissance masterpiece. In particular, we will read extensive excerpts from some important love treatises, such as Castiglione’s The Courtier (Il cortigiano), Leone Ebreo’s Dialogues on Love, Tullia d’Aragona’s On the Infinity of Love, but also selections from a variety of European poets, such as Michelangelo’s canzoniere, Maurice Scève’s Délie, and Fray Luis de León’s Poesía. Note(s): Taught in English

NEHC 20502. Islamic History and Society II: The Middle Period. J. Woods (H)

This course covers the period from ca. 1100 to 1750, including the arrival of the Steppe Peoples (Turks and Mongols), the Mongol successor states, and the Mamluks of Egypt and Syria. We also study the foundation of the great Islamic regional empires of the Ottomans, Safavids, and Moghuls.Prerequisite(s): Not open to first-year students.

NEHC 20602. Islamic Thought and Literature II. F. Lewis (L)

This course covers the period from ca. 950 to 1700, surveying works of literature, theology, philosophy, sufism, politics, history, etc., written in Arabic, Persian and Turkish, as well as the art, architecture and music of the Islamicate traditions. Through primary texts, secondary sources and lectures, we will trace the cultural, social, religious, political and institutional evolution through the period of the Fatimids, the Crusades, the Mongol invasions, and the "gunpowder empires" (Ottomans, Safavids, Mughals). Note(s): Taking these courses in sequence is recommended but not required. This sequence meets the general education requirement in civilization studies.

NEHC 20840 Radical Islamic Pieties, 1200-1600. Fleischer Cornell (P/T)

Course examines responses to the Mongol destruction of the Abbasid caliphate in 1258 and the background to formation of regional Muslim empires. Topics include the opening of confessional boundaries; Ibn Arabi, Ibn Taymiyya, and Ibn Khaldun; the development of alternative spiritualities, mysticism, and messianism in the fifteenth century; transconfessionalism, antinomianism, and the articulation of sacral sovereignties in the sixteenth century. Readings will be in English, though some acquaintance with primary languages (Arabic, French, German, Greek, Latin, Spanish, or Turkish) is desirable.

RLST 21601. Saints and Barbarians: The Conversion of Europe. Lucy Pick (H)

How did Europe become Christian, and why? Who were these new Christians, and how did they shape what it meant to be Christian? What happened to those who were left out? And did Europe need to become Christian before it could become Europe? This course will examine these questions and more from the earliest stirrings of the new religion, through the fall of Rome and the barbarian invasions, the expansion of the Carolingian world, and the age of the Vikings. We will consider the relationship between the Church and the Roman state, Christian attitudes toward the barbarians, and the missions to northern Europe, as well manifestations of religion in "popular" Christianity and the emergence of consciously Christian monarchies.

SPAN 21703. Introducción a las literaturas hispánicas: textos españoles clásicos. F. de Armas (L)

This course involves careful reading and discussion of significant works from the Spanish Middle Ages, Renaissance, and the Golden Age, including Juan Manuel's Conde Lucanor, Jorge Manrique's Coplas, the anonymous Lazarillo de Tormes, and the theater of Calderón. Prerequisite(s): SPAN 20300 or consent of instructor

Spring 2018

ARTH 14200. Introduction to Medieval Art. A. Kumler (A)

This course explores the challenging world of medieval art. Beginning with the fourth-century fusion of Imperial and Christian images and ending with the advent of print, we trace how images and art-making took on new roles—and re-invented old ones—over the course of the Middle Ages. We consider architecture, sculpture, wall-painting, manuscript painting, stained glass, metalwork, and textiles in their historical contexts, questioning why medieval objects look the way they do and how message: they were seen and used by medieval viewers. Readings include medieval sources (in translation) and exemplary modern scholarship.

ARTH 24711. Raphael and the High Renaissance. C. Cohen (A)

This course concentrates on Raphael, perhaps historically the most influential figure of the outsized trio (including Leonardo and Michelangelo), who embody the “culminating moment” of the Renaissance. Some attention will be given to the history of the idea and to the style concept “High Renaissance” and its usefulness as a vehicle for understanding three such diverse personalities. While we will try to do justice to the enormously diverse, if short, career of Raphael, the investigation of the High Renaissance will lead us to examine the mature works of Leonardo and Michelangelo’s painting and sculpture through 1520 (including the Sistine Ceiling and the Julius Tomb), which is the part of their careers that overlap with Raphael. Special attention will be given to the writings and drawings of the major artists as a means of interpreting their works.

FREN 23217. La réalité et ses contraires du moyen âge au XVIIe siècle. E. Van Dyke (L)

What if I told you that the real was imaginary and the imaginary was real? This course will explore the concepts of the marvelous, the imaginary, and the real through a selection of French literature from the Middle Ages to the 17th century. The Middle Ages are often perceived as a rigid feudal society. Yet, fairies abound in stories, people shape-shift, and objects magically transform under our eyes. In the 16th century truth appears to harden through advances in science, mathematics, and art. But simultaneously religious schisms, the discovery of the New World, and political anarchy shake the notion of the world’s stable limits to the core. The 17th century is known for Descartes’ rationalism and classical regularity. But even here there is the unexpected, the surprising je ne sais quoi and overwhelming ineffable. Through the literature of each era, we will see how reality often mixes with the marvelous and everything is not always as it seems.Prerequisite(s): FREN 20500 Note(s): Taught in French.

HIST 22407 Medieval England. Rachel Fulton Brown (H)

How merry was "Olde England"? This course is intended as an introduction to the history of England from the withdrawal of the Roman legions in the early fifth century to the defeat of Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field in AD 1485. Sources will include chronicles, biographies, laws, charters, spiritual and political treatises, romances and parodies. Themes will include the conversion of the Anglo-Saxons to Christianity, the Viking and Norman invasions, the development of the monarchy and parliament, monastic, peasant, and town life, the role of literacy and education in the development of a peculiarly "English" society, and the place of devotion, art, and architecture in medieval English culture. Students will have the opportunity to do a research paper or craft a project of their choice based on the themes of the course.

ITAL 26002. Philosophical Petrarchism. R. Rubini (P/T)

This course is a close reading of Petrarch’s Latin corpus. Readings include the Coronation Oration, The Secret, and selections from Remedies for Fortune Fair and Foul, On Illustrious Men, On Religious Leisure, and The Life of Solitude. Special attention is devoted to Petrarch’s letter collections (Letters on Familiar Matters, Letters of Old Age, Book without a Name, etc.) and his invectives. The aim of the course is to familiarize the student with the new and complete Petrarch that emerged in 2004 on the occasion of the 700th anniversary of his birth. Discussion will focus on Petrarch’s self-consciousness as the “father of humanism,” his relationship to Dante, autobiographism, dialogical inquiry, anti-scholasticism, patriotism, and Petrarch’s “civic” reception in the Quattrocento as well as on a comparative evaluation of the nineteenth-century Petrarchs of Alfred Mézières, Georg Voigt, and Francesco De Sanctis. Note(s): Taught in Italian.

NEHC 26016. The Medieval Persian Romance: Gorgani's Vis and Ramin. C. Cross (L)

This class is an inquiry into the medieval romance genre through the close and comparative reading of one of its oldest extant representatives, Gorgâni’s Vis & Râmin (c. 1050). With roots that go back to Late Antiquity, this romance is a valuable interlocutor between the Greek novel and the Ovidian erotic tradition, Arabic love theory and poetics, and well-known European romances like Tristan, Lancelot, and Cligès: a sustained exploration of psychological turmoil and moral indecision, and a vivid dramatization of the many contradictions inherent in erotic theory, most starkly by the lovers' faithful adultery. By reading Vis & Râmin alongside some of its generic neighbors (Kallirrhoe, Leukippe, Tristan, Cligès), as well as the love-theories of writers like Plato, Ovid, Avicenna, Jâhiz, Ibn Hazm, and Andreas Cappellanus, we will map out the various kinds of literary work the romance is called upon to do, and investigate the myriad and shifting conceptions of romantic love as performance, subjectivity, and moral practice. An optional section introducing selections from the original text in Persian will be available if there is sufficient student interest.