For the most recent course information, please refer to the directory.

This is the complete list of Medieval & Renaissance Studies graduate courses offered in Spring 2017. For the list of undergraduate courses, please click here.

For students only in the Medieval & Renaissance Studies M.A. Program:

Medieval & Renaissance Philology II
MRST G6021

Medieval & Renaissance Studies MA Thesis
MRST G6999

Art History & Archaeology

Mediterranean Trade and Exchange (ca. 900-1400)
AHIS GU 4582
R 4:10 – 6 pm
Heather Ecker

This seminar will explore trade in the Mediterranean over nearly half a millennia using a variety of disciplinary approaches and a trans-cultural framework. Bordered by three continents and a variety of states, the Mediterranean has been conceptualized as an ecological, economic and cultural region. We will examine a variety of historical models as we explore the mechanisms (ships, navigation, maps, and currency) and objects of trade (luxury goods and commodities) as well as trade in the Mediterranean as a conduit of ideas, materials, and forms between cultures. We will consider matters of control over resources in the movement of raw materials such as ivory, gold, rock crystal and silk in the Mediterranean region and their transformation into works of art in both Christian and Muslim spheres. We will also examine the documentation of trade and its interpretation for a critical understanding of issues of patronage, consumption, and display of luxury goods in the medieval period.

Medieval Metalworking
AHIS GR 8202
T 12:10 – 2 pm
Joseph Ackley

A seminar examining precious-metal objects, and metalworking in general, within the medieval West and Byzantium. Questions of medium, discursive definition, technique, function, interpretation, method, and historiography will structure a rigorous, historically grounded exploration of objects made of gold, silver, copper-alloy, and other glorious media. How substance, form, material, and process are entwined (inextricably?) within the precious-metal object will be a driving concern, as will the concept of metal as a medium, both for medial and modern subjects, and especially in contrast to other, more commonly discussed artistic media. Application required.

15th Century Art in the Netherlands
AHIS GR 8310
T 4:10 – 6 pm
David Freedberg

This course, often taught under the rubrics of “Early Netherlandish Painting” or even “Northern Renaissance Painting” might also be described as “Art in the Age of Van Eyck” or “Painting from Van Eyck to Bosch”.   It will begin with manuscripts, and deal with the contribution of great sculptors like Sluter as well.    The claim implicit in the title is that the techniques pioneered and perfected by the Van Eycks affected all the other arts too –  even though the most original and compelling achievements of the century are probably those of painting, which will form the chief focus of this class.  Attention will also be paid to the social and historical contexts of the main works discussed. Several museum visits will be included. Application required.

Center for Comparative Literature and Society

Microliteratures: The Margins of the Law
CPLS GR 6335
W 2:10 – 4 pm
Jesús R. Velasco

In this seminar, we will explore, in historical terms, the development of the legal discipline, legal discourse, and legal vocabularies from the microliterary margins of legal manuscripts and printed books from the Middle Ages to the Early Modern Period. While many marginal interventions are of a textual nature, others fall under the category of “jurisgraphisms,” that is, images and designs that may have legal value or that engage in legal thinking. The examination of these manuscripts and printed books will allow us to advance theses and conclusions about the uses of the margins to develop new kinds of legal literacy and a specific strand of critical thought that is central to the marginal commentary of the law and the legal discipline. Among the primary sources we will engage with are works by Averroes, Maimonides, the Corpus Iuris Civilis, the Corpus Iuris Canonici, the glosses and commentaries of authors from Bartolo de Sassoferrato to Christine of Pizan, and then from Francisco de Vitoria to the Siete Partidas (in several editions with different sets of glosses). We will also read muslim fatawa or legal resolutions, as well as other documents with microliterary elements. In terms of theoretical readings, we will engage with Michel Foucault, Judith Butler, the cognitive legal scholar Steven L. Winter, Andreas Philippopoulos-Mihalopoulos, Yan Thomas, Judith Revel, Bernard E. Harcourt, and others.


Medieval Latin Literature: Poetry
The Bible and the Fathers

Latin GU 4152
TR 2:40 – 3:55 pm
Carmela Franklin

Prerequisites: the instructor’s permission. This course will focus on poetic compositions related to the Bible, from late antiquity to the 12th century, including, for example, Proba’s Cento, typological poems, and Abelard’s Planctus.

East Asian Languages and Cultures

Japanese Visual / Popular Culture
East Asian GR 8050
R 2:10 – 4 pm
Hikari Hori

This graduate seminar reads canonical medieval poems against their relevant counterparts in leishu (compendiums arranged by classification systems that served as writing handbooks). We examine these compendiums as thresholds—lying outside the poems as their ostensible background material, these thesholds not only frame questions of genre and genealogy but also mediate the borders of poems.

English and Comparative Literature

The Renaissance in Europe
ENGL GU 4122
MW 10:10 – 11:25 am
Kathy Eden

Major works of the European Renaissance–featuring Petrarch, Erasmus and Montaigne and including Lorenzo Valla, Alberti, Castiglione, Thomas More and others–with an eye to a developing rhetoric of intimacy that energizes the genres of the letter, the dialogue, and the essay.

Literature of the Seventeenth Century
ENGL GU 4263
MW 8:40 – 9:55 am
Alan Stewart

This lecture course surveys the non-dramatic literature of seventeenth-century England, with particular attention to its prose writings.   The course will focus on topics including the new politics of the Jacobean court; the tensions leading to the civil wars; the so-called “scientific revolution” and its discontents; and the challenges of the Restoration, including plague and fire.    Authors studied will include Ben Jonson, Francis Bacon, John Donne, Aemelia Lanyer, George Herbert, Thomas Browne, Robert Burton, John Milton, Andrew Marvell, Margaret Cavendish. Abraham Cowley, and Katherine Philips.

Canterbury Tales
ENGL GU 4729
TR 4:10 – 5:25 pm
Eleanor Johnson

Beginning with an overview of late medieval literary culture in England, this course will cover the entire Canterbury Tales in the original Middle English.  We will explore the narrative and organizational logics that underpin the project overall, while also treating each individual tale as a coherent literary offering, positioned deliberately and recognizably on the map of late medieval cultural convention.  We will consider the conditions—both historical and aesthetic—that informed Chaucer’s motley composition, and will compare his work with other large-scale fictive works of the period.  Our ultimate project will be the assessment of the Tales at once as a self-consciously “medieval” production, keen to explore and exploit the boundaries of literary convention, and as a ground-breaking literary event, which set the stage for renaissance literature.

The Intelligence of Affect
ENGL GR 6032
TR 12:10 – 2 pm
Patricia Dailey

English Theatre Arts

Early Modern Theater and Performance Archives: History, Theory, Practice
W 12:10 – 2 pm
Natasha Korda

This seminar will re-examine the methods and aims of early modern theater and performance historiography in light of recent, cross-disciplinary theorizations of the archive. We will consider how the disciplinary parameters of theater historians shaped the early modern stage as an object of knowledge, and what new forms of knowledge might emerge if we look beyond the traditional contours of the field. Through a critical and creative investigation of both traditional and heterodox archives, we will attend in particular to the trans-medial dimensions of plays and other performance events, and their ephemeral material remains. In addition to engaging critically with archival theories and methods, students will work with primary evidence in a range of media, conducting their own revisionist, archival projects, while thinking creatively about how we use archives in our research, writing, pedagogy, and public presentations.

French and Romance Philology

French Literature of the Sixteenth Century
FREN GR 4203
M 2:10 – 4 pm
Jenny Meyer


Daily Life in Medieval Europe
HIST GR 6998 section 008
MW 2:40 – 3:55 pm
Neslihan Şenocak

This course is designed as traveller’s guide to medieval Europe. Its purpose is to provide a window to a long-lost world that provided the foundation of modern institutions and that continues to inspire the modern collective artistic and literary imagination with its own particularities. This course will not be a conventional history course concentrating on the grand narratives in the economic, social and political domains but rather intend to explore the day-to-day lives of the inhabitants, and attempts to have a glimpse of their mindset, their emotional spectrum, their convictions, prejudices, fears and hopes. It will be at once a historical, sociological and anthropological study of one of the most inspiring ages of European civilization. Subjects to be covered will include the birth and childhood, domestic life, sex and marriage, craftsmen and artisans, agricultural work, food and diet, the religious devotion, sickness and its cures, death, after death (purgatory and the apparitions), travelling, merchants and trades, inside the nobles’ castle, the Christian cosmos, and medieval technology. The lectures will be accompanied by maps, images of illuminated manuscripts and of medieval objects. Students will be required to attend a weekly discussion section to discuss the medieval texts bearing on that week’s subject. The written course assignment will be a midterm, final and two short papers, one an analysis of a medieval text and a second an analysis of a modern text on the Middle Ages.

Family, Sex and Marriage in Premodern Europe
HIST GR 6999 section 002
R 4:10 – 6 pm
Martha Howell

Prerequisites: the instructor’s permission. This course examines the meaning of marriage in European culture from the early Middle Ages until the eighteenth century, concentrating on the period from 1200 to 1800. It begins with a study of Jewish and Christian teachings about marriage – the nature of the conjugal bond, the roles of men and women within marriage, and marital sexuality. It traces changes in that narrative over the centuries, analyzes its relationship to actual practice among various social groups, and ends in the eighteenth century with an examination of the ideology of the companionate marriage of modern western culture and its relation to class formation.

Censorship and Freedom of Expression in Early Modern Europe
HIST GR 6999 section 003
M 10:10 am – 12 pm
Elisheva Carlebach

In this course we will examine theoretical and historical developments that framed the notions of censorship and free expression in early modern Europe. In the last two decades, the role of censorship has become one of the significant elements in discussions of early modern culture. The history of printing and of the book, of the rise national-political cultures and their projections of control, religious wars and denominational schisms are some of the factors that intensified debate over the free circulation of ideas and speech. Indexes, Inquisition, Star Chamber, book burnings and beheadings have been the subjects of an ever growing body of scholarship.

Composing the Self in Early Modern Europe
HIST GR 6999 section 004
T 2:10 – 4 pm
Charly Coleman

This course explores manners of conceiving and being a self in early modern Europe (ca. 1400-1800). Through the analysis of a range of sources, from autobiographical writings to a selection of theological, philosophical, artistic, and literary works, we will address the concept of personhood as a lens through which to analyze topics such as the valorization of interiority, the formation of mechanist and sensationalist philosophies of selfhood, and, more generally, the human person’s relationship with material and existential goods. This approach is intended to deepen and complicate our understanding of the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Scientific Revolution, the Enlightenment, and other movements around which histories of the early modern period have typically been narrated.

Craft & Science: Crafting Objects in the Early Modern World
HIST GR 8906
M 10:10 am – 2:25 pm
Pamela Smith

This course will study the materials, techniques, settings, and meanings of skilled craft and artistic practices in the early modern period (1350-1750), in order to reflect upon a series of issues, including craft knowledge and artisanal epistemology; the intersections between craft and science; and questions of historical methodology and evidence in the reconstruction of historical experience. The course will be run as a “Laboratory Seminar,” with discussions of primary and secondary materials, as well as text-based research and hands-on work in a laboratory. This course is one component of the Making and Knowing Project of the Center for Science and Society. This course contributes to the collective production of a transcription, English translation, and critical edition of a late sixteenth-century manuscript in French, Ms. Fr. 640. In 2014-15, the course concentrated on mold-making and metalworking; in 2015-16, on colormaking. In 2016-17, it will focus on natural history, researching the context of the manuscript, and reprising some color-making and moldmaking techniques. Students are encouraged to take this course both semesters (or more), but will receive full credit only once. Different laboratory work and readings will be carried out each semester.

Law & History
HIST GR 8943
W 10:10 am – 12 pm
Adam Kosto & Madeline Zelin

What Is a Book in the 21st Century? Working with Historical Texts in a Digital Environment
HIST GR 8975
W 4:10 – 6 pm
Pamela Smith and Terence Catapano

Note: Students must also register for the accompanying lab, HIST GR8976

This course will introduce humanities and social science graduate students, with little to no experience in digital platforms, to the Digital Humanities. In the process of equipping them with the digital skills to collectively create a minimal digital edition using content from the Making and Knowing Project, it will also give them a foundation in digital scholarly methods and approaches, and a project exhibiting their acquired competencies for their professional portfolio.  The edition will consist of a full English translation of Ms. Fr. 640, an anonymous 16th-century compilation of technical recipes. The Making and Knowing Project has “disassembled” this manuscript through research seminars and workshops involving multidisciplinary teams of students and faculty, and is now creating the final critical digital edition as a “reassembly” of this manuscript for the 21st century.  In the course, students will be active participants in the Project’s exploration of technologies that allow not just a reading of the text but an interaction with its content.  This is in direct resonance with the ways that this 16th-century recipe collection moves from text to knowledge when the techniques contained within it are practiced, whether in the 16th century or in the Making and Knowing Laboratory reconstructions today.  Through this exploration, we aim to foster reflection on the constraints of the book as a framework and vehicle for the production of knowledge, and to re-think the technology of the book and the reading of a text. To this end, in the second half of the semester, students will work with collaborators from Professor Steven Feiner’s Computer Graphics and User Interfaces Lab.


Petrarch’s Canzoniere
ITAL GU 4089
R 4:10 – 6 pm
Teodolinda Barolini

This course presents a reading of Petrach’s Canzoniere and a theory of the lyric sequence as a genre. In this course we examine Petrarch as he fashions himself authorially, especially in the context of Ovid, Dante, and previous lyric poets. We bring to bear ideas on time and narrative from authors such as Augustine and Ricoeur in order to reconstruct the metaphysical significance of collecting fragments in what was effectively a new genre. We will consider Petrarch’s lyric sequence in detail as well as read Petrarch’s Secretum and Trionfi. Lectures in English; text in Italian, although students from other departments who can follow with the help of translations are welcome.

Romance Epics: Boiardo and Ariosto
ITAL GU 4192
W 4:10 – 6 pm
Jo Ann Cavallo

This course offers a close reading of two major Italian Renaissance romance epics, Boiardo’s Orlando Innamorato (1495) and Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso (1516, 1532), with special attention to the poems’ engagement with the world outside Christian Europe, from eastern Asia to the Middle East to northern Africa. In focusing on the narratological strategies that both authors use to depict characters and sites, both imaginary and historical, in the most disparate regions of the globe, we will be investigating how Boiardo’s and Ariosto’s portrayal of the geographical and religious other offers a blueprint both for reading their respective poems and for relating to the geopolitical realities of their day. The course will be taught in English; graduate students and Italian majors would be expected to read the assigned texts in Italian, but other students without advanced knowledge of Italian could read the texts in English.

Studies in Dante: Dante’s Lyric Poetry
ITAL GR 6077
T 4:10 – 6 pm
Teodolinda Barolini

Variable content course. Open to qualified graduate students with the instructor’s permission. Prerequisites: knowledge of the Commedia. This year the topic will be Dante’s lyric poetry.

Latin American and Iberian Cultures

Theories of Art in the Iberian Worlds
SPAN GR 6343
TR 2 – 4 pm
Alessandra Russo

In recent decades scholars have focused their attention on a precise aspect of the Iberian expansion between the fifteenth and the seventeenth centuries: the vast circulation of overseas objects as “goods,” with the consequent enrichment of the European collections, the birth of the Wonder Cabinets etc. Beyond these physical movements of new items, from Peru, Brazil, India, New Spain, Sierra Leone, or the Philippines, however, another parallel and equally significant process took place: the production and circulation of texts documenting, describing and analyzing the diversity of these creations, the qualitative exceptionality of their creators´ abilities, their mythologies, their material specificities, and their possible aesthetic, theological, or political links as well as their key role in the Iberian domination process itself. These two movements between texts and images are intimately intertwined: as more items were being produced overseas, more texts were being devoted to their existence and production; then as more texts were being written,published, and read, more objects were being desired, commissioned, invented, and shipped. The seminar will explore the variety of these sources -variety of genres (chronicles, histories, inventories, grammars, dictionaries, legal or inquisitorial processes), variety of authorships (conquistadors, missionaries, ambassadors, travelers, visitadores, cronistas, naturalists, historians, collectors, artists) etc.- in order to examine the relationship between textual and visual production in Early Modernity. The study of this unexpected “literature of art” will be continuously accompanied with the discussion of the actual artifacts commented in the sources. We will also consider if there are local specificities in the production of such texts: for instance, is the impressive amount of sources exclusively related to the “American” (New Spain, Brazil, Perú…) artistic processes understandable within a broader Iberian perspective or is there something specific in the observation and examination of the “American” aesthetics?


Seminar in Historical Musicology: Renaissance and Baroque Venice
Music GR 8106
W 2:10 – 4 pm
Giuseppe Gerbino

Throughout its history, Venice cultivated an idealized image of its political and civic identity. Music played a central role in the construction of the myth of the “Most Serene Republic” both through the prestige of the Venetian music establishment and as a symbol of social harmony and cohesion. The seminar explores the history of this unique bond between Venice and its musical self-fashioning. We will also investigate the way the musical past of Venice is marketed today as a form of musical tourism. The seminar is organized in conjunction with Carnegie Hall’s concert series devoted to the Venetian Republic in February 2017 ( This unique event will give us an opportunity to investigate the issue of how to forge a dialogic relationship between past and present through a convergence of scholarship and performance. To this end, students in the seminar will receive free tickets to five concerts at Carnegie Hall.


Topics in Early Modern Philosophy: Ultimate Knowledge and How to Get It
Philosophy GU 4900
W 2:10 – 4 pm
Christia Mercer

What is ultimate knowledge, how is it acquired, and who is capable of having it? The seminar begins with a contrast between the optimist epistemologies of Plato and Plotinus and the more pessimistic one of Augustine. Where the former tradition emphasizes the power of human understanding to grasp ultimate truths, the latter assumes that such truths are (mostly) beyond human capacity. Given how pathetically weak, selfish, and proud human beings are, the problem of ultimate knowledge seems particularly acute: how can such wretched creatures attain any such knowledge? After setting the ancient and medieval stage, we will turn to writings by Teresa of Ávila, Montaigne, Leibniz, and Anne Conway to see how they answer these questions.


Seminar in Law and Medieval Christianity
Religion GR 8303
F 12:10 – 2 pm
Robert Somerville

Prerequisites: the instructor’s permission. Gratian’s Decretum and the Decretals of Pope Gregory IX: Parts 1 & 2 of the Corpus Iuris Canonici.