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

Africana Studies at Barnard

Introduction to the African Diaspora
Africana Studies BC2006
TR 1:10 – 2:25 pm
Tamisha Navarro

Interdisciplinary and thematic approach to the African diaspora in the Americas: its motivations, dimensions, consequences, and the importance and stakes of its study. Beginning with the contacts between Africans and the Portuguese in the 15th century, this class will open up diverse paths of inquiry as students attempt to answer questions, clear up misconceptions, and challenge assumptions about the presence of Africans in the ‘New World.’

Art History & Archaeology

Rome, Michelangelo to Bernini
TR 2:40 – 3:55 pm
Michael Cole

This course will look at highlights of Roman art and architecture from the late fifteenth to the late seventeenth centuries, considering the works in relation to the conditions in which they were originally produced and viewed.

Early Modern Architecture, 1400-1750
MW 1:10 – 2:25 pm
Eleonora Pistis and Michael Waters

This course examines the history of early modern architecture, roughly between 1400 and 1750, from a European perspective outward.  It begins by addressing a number of transhistorical principle issues and analytic approaches and then moves on to a series of roughly chronological thematic studies, which build on this conceptual framework.

Saints, Relics, and the Dead in Medieval Europe
W 12:10 – 2 pm
Joseph Ackley

This seminar addresses one of the most fundamental questions of the Middle Ages: what happens to the dead, what happens to “the very special dead,” (i.e., the saints), and what role did medieval art play in negotiating these concerns?  Christianity had burdened human beings with fleshly, decaying, corruptible bodies; the possibility of overcoming such a fallen state and assuming a heavenly, immortal body was, understandably, one of the central organizing principles of the Church, its rituals, and its art.  This seminar, accordingly, will explore medieval cults of the dead, including the saints, within the visual, material, and architectural traditions of the medieval West.

Medieval Manuscripts
M 12:10 – 2 pm
Joseph Ackley

The decorated medieval manuscript is one of the richest and most complex historical phenomena of the Middle Ages.  A dense, considered interweaving of text and luxurious image, the medieval manuscript both crystallizes and comments upon many of the key intellectual, religious, and aesthetic foundations of medieval society.  In a world of rarified and limited literacy, illustrated books were significant and costly achievements; the choices of content and style contained therein both reveal and tantalize.  This seminar will systematically explore the making, function, and layout of the medieval book, including its historical and art historical development across centuries, as well as broader questions of interpretation.


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.

English and Comparative Literature

Shakespeare I
TR 4:10 – 5:25 pm
Rachel Eisendrath

A critical and historical introduction to Shakespeare’s comedies, histories, tragedies, and romances.

Shakespeare II
TR 4:10 – 5:25 pm
Natasha Korda

Shakespeare II examines plays from the second half of Shakespeare’s dramatic career, primarily a selection of his major tragedies and his later comedies (or “romances”).

Shakespeare’s Poetry
M 10:10 am – 12 pm
James Shapiro

In this seminar we will examine Shakespeare’s plays alongside those written by his fellow playwrights Christopher Marlowe, Ben Jonson, Thomas Kyd, and John Lyly. Shakespeare is in some ways sui generis, yet he was very much a part of the London theatre scene. He both inspired and was shaped by these writers — he saw their performances, acted in their plays, and co-wrote dramas with them. To understand better Shakespeare’s idiosyncratic craft we will read his plays grouped with those of other writers. For explorations of revenge tragedy, for instance, we will read Hamlet after Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy; for portrayals of Jews, The Merchant of Venice with Marlowe’s The Jew of Malta; the hazards of kingship, Richard II and Marlowe’s Edward II; the perils of ambition, Macbeth and Dr. Faustus. Reading Shakespeare in context will also enable us to see how different Renaissance dramatists contributed to an evolving stagecraft of ghosts, disguises, war, the supernatural, the exotic- and to the maturity of blank verse itself. The course will be limited to fifteen students and will require regular participation, response postings each class, a review of a play, a presentation, and a fifteen-page seminar paper. Application instructions: E-mail Prof. Shapiro ([email protected]) with your name, school, major, year of study, and relevant courses taken, along with a brief statement about why you are interested in taking the course. Admitted students should register for the course; they will automatically be placed on a wait list from which the instructor will in due course admit them as spaces become available.

Early Indigeneities
M 12 – 2 pm
Cristobal Silva

This seminar seeks to understand how historians and literary critics can position themselves to better understand indigeneity in the early colonial era (ca. 1580–1790). Specifically, we will identify a number of primary texts through which we can begin to apprehend indigenous epistemologies and modes of signification, and build new modes of literacy in the twentyfirst century. We will draw on a range of material—historical and contemporary, “textual” and non—produced by European and Indigenous sources. As we read this material, we will inquire into their formal and thematic legacies, strategies for producing and effacing knowledge, and we will continually revisit the fundamental terms of our own analysis, including “authorship,” “memory,” “textuality,” “writing,” “reading,” “signification,” and “communication.” Finally, we will consider how these terms shape our understanding of literary history, settler colonialism, and indigeneity.

Medieval Drama: Diabolical Dramas in the Middle Ages
W 12:10 – 2 pm
Aled Roberts

Hell bursts onto European the stage at the end of the Middle Ages. Satan and his attendant devils, although present in earlier forms of Christian drama, become a defining feature of the dramatizations of Christian history and morality in Late Medieval England. The devils of these plays are disruptive, anarchic, seductive and repulsive. They are rhetorically bewitching and morally dangerous. This course will pay close attention to these devils and their devilry. What to they do? How do they speak? What do they know and what choice do they have in being so diabolical? Rather than viewing devils simply as spiritual antagonists, instead we will investigate them as complex creatures doing serious theological work in the difficult and spiritually tumultuous towns of late medieval England. Through close critical inquiry, contextual reading and some of our own imaginative stagings, we will explore the central role of the ‘diabolic’ in late medieval drama and its sometimes troubling vision of Christian life.

Medieval English Texts
M 10:10 am – 12:00 pm
David Yerkes

Prerequisites: the instructor’s permission. (Seminar). Application Instructions: E-mail Professor David Yerkes ([email protected]) with the subject heading “Sir Gawain seminar.” In your message, include basic information: your name, school, major, year of study, and relevant courses taken, along with a brief statement about why you are interested in taking the course. Admitted students should register for the course; they will automatically be placed on a wait list from which the instructor will in due course admit them as spaces become available.

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.

17th Century English Literature
MW 8:40 – 9:55 am
Alan Stewart

Canterbury Tales
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.

French and Romance Philology

Montaigne, Descartes, Pascal
TR 2:40 – 3:55 pm
Pierre Force


Daily Life in Medieval Europe
HIST UN 2072
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.

Early Russian History to 1800
MW 10:10 – 11:25 am
Catherine Evtuhov

The course, Early Russian History, casts an introductory eye over 1000 years of history and, eventually, over a vast swath (1/6) of the earth’s surface. Early Russian History is the first semester of a full-year survey of Russian history; the second semester, Modern Russian History (Since 1800), will be offered in 2017-18. During this semester, we will first look at societies in the Black Sea region and Eurasian plain – their formation, evolution, and sometimes demise – until the emergence of an early modern empire centered in Moscow.

Family, Sex and Marriage in Premodern Europe
HIST UN 3104
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 UN 3120
M 10:10 am – 12:00 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.

Byzantine Encounters in the Mediterranean and the Middle East
HIST UN 3152
T 12:10 – 2 pm
Alexandre Roberts

This seminar examines Middle Eastern and Latin Western encounters with Byzantine society and culture, focusing on the 6th-15th centuries. When merchants, pilgrims, scholars, diplomats, and soldiers visited the lands of the Greek-Christian-Roman empire of the Eastern Mediterranean (today called Byzantium), what did they see? And what did the rest of the world look like to the Byzantines? We will study primary sources left by medieval Greeks, Arabs, Latins, and others, critically examining the hermeneutical acts involved in each cultural encounter, in order to probe the meaning and significance of these encounters in western Eurasian society and culture. Interested students can apply to take the seminar here:

Composing the Self in Early Modern Europe
HIST UN 3189
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.


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

Romance Epics: Boiardo and Ariosto
W 4:10 -6 pm
Jo Ann Cavallo

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

Latin American and Iberian Cultures

Public Intellectuals (Before Modernity)
SPAN UN 3488
W 10:10 am – 12 pm
Jesús R. Velasco

Were there public intellectuals before the advent of modernity? What was it like to be a public intellectual before the existence of the public sphere as we know it today —including the media, mass communication, etc.? Who were there? Where were they located? How public were their interactions? What kind of impact did they expect form their interlocution with power? How did they “speak truth to power”? In this course we will explore these and other questions. For this purpose, we will be reading works from Christine de Pizan, a 14th-15th century woman political scientist; Teresa de Cartagena, a 15th century nun interested in the intellectual value of women in a man’s world; Averroes, a Muslim intellectual from the 12th century who went into exile because of his ideas before the dynastic changes taking place in al-Andalus; Maimonides, a 12th century Jewish lawyer and thinker who challenged the way in which global legal scholars studied the Jewish law; Juan Hispano, a 16th century professor and poet of African descent (son to black slaves) who wrote poems about the wars in the Mediterranean; Diego de Valera, a 15th century plebeian intellectual who spoke truth to power with the purpose of stop the civil war; Mancebo de Arévalo, a morisco from the 16th century who engaged in an ethnographic trip across the Iberian Peninsula in order to rebuild the moorish culture after the processes of geographical displacement undertaken by the Spanish monarchy; Olivia Sabuco de Nantes Barrera, a sixteenth century woman who engaged in philosophical research; etc. In addition to that, we will be reading critical and theoretical work of Michel Foucault, Judith Butler, Gayatri Spivak, and others. In this course, we intend to create an #inclusivesyllabus. This course will be cross-listed with the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society.

Hispanic Cultures I: Technologies of Learning in Spain and the Americas Before 1700
SPAN 3349
Multiple sections

Prerequisites: Completion of language requirement, third-year language sequence (W3300). Provides students with an overview of the cultural history of the Hispanic world, from eighth-century Islamic and Christian Spain and the pre-Hispanic Americas through the late Middle Ages and Early Modern period until about 1700, covering texts and cultural artifacts from both Spain and the Americas.

Seeing and Describing: Early Modern Arts and Their Accounts in the Iberian Worlds
SPAN W3690
MW 11:40 am – 12:55 pm
Alessandra Russo


Topics in Early Modern Philosophy
Philosophy GR4900
W 2:10 – 4 pm
Christia Mercer

Open to undergraduates with previous work in the history of philosophy and to graduate students. Focuses either on an important topic in the history of early modern philosophy (e.g., skepticism, causation, mind, body) or on the philosophy of a major figure in the period (e.g., Descartes, Leibniz, Spinoza, Gassendi, Conway).


Pre-Modern Christianity
Religion UN2304
MW 4:10 – 5:25 pm
Robert Somerville

Survey of Christianity from its beginnings through the Reformation. Based on lectures and discussions of readings in primary source translations, this course will cover prominent developments in the history of Christianity. The structure will allow students to rethink commonly held notions about the evolution of modern Christianity with the texture of historical influence.

Judaism: Translation in the Medieval Mediterranean
Religion UN3303
MW 10:10 – 11:25 am
Isabelle Levy

The course explores both the practice of translation (the rendering of texts from one language to another) and the idea of translation (as a medium of cultural transmission) in the medieval and early modern Mediterranean.