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The following information is from the 2018-19 Vassar College Catalogue.

Medieval/Renaissance Studies: I. Introductory

101 Civilization in Question 1

(Same as CLCS 101 and GRST 101) In the past, college curricula in this country were often organized around the idea of the "Great Books" of "Western Civilization." Today though, the very idea of a Western literary canon has been challenged as a vehicle for reinforcing questionable norms and hierarchies and silencing other important perspectives. In this class we read well-known ancient, medieval and Renaissance texts with a view to how they themselves question the civilizations from which they emerge. A unique feature of this class is that it is taught by faculty from three different disciplines who bring a variety of interpretive practices to bear on the texts. This creates a classroom environment in which dialogue is the means to discovery. Students are encouraged to be part of the conversation both during class and in weekly discussion sections. Readings may include such authors as Homer, Aeschylus, Plato, Augustine, Chretien de Troyes, and Machiavelli. Nancy Bisaha, Rachel Friedman, and Christopher Raymond.

Not offered in 2018/19.

Two 75-minute periods plus extra periods.

116 The Dark Ages 1Semester Offered: Spring

(Same as HIST 116) Was early medieval Europe really Dark? In reality, this was a period of tremendous vitality and ferment, witnessing the transformation of late classical society, the growth of Germanic kingdoms, the high point of Byzantium, the rise of the papacy and monasticism, and the birth of Islam. This course examines a rich variety of sources that illuminate the first centuries of Christianity, the fall of the Roman Empire, and early medieval culture showing moments of both conflict and synthesis that redefined Europe and the Mediterranean. Nancy Bisaha.

Two 75-minute periods.

117 High Middle Ages, 950-1300 1.0

(Same as HIST 117) This course examines medieval Europe at both its cultural and political height. Topics of study include: the first universities; government from feudal lordships to national monarchies; courtly and popular culture; manorial life and town life; the rise of papal monarchy; new religious orders and spirituality among the laity. Relations with religious outsiders are explored in topics on European Jewry, heretics, and the Crusades. 

Not offered in 2018/19.

Two 75-minute periods.

159 Blood and Faith: The St. Bartholomew's Massacre in Context 0.5

(Same as HIST 159) On August 24, 1572, Catholic troops slaughtered nearly 3,000 Protestant men and women who had arrived in Paris to attend the marriage between the future Henry IV and Marguerite de Valois, sister of Charles IX. It was the most dramatic episode of the French Wars of Religion (1562-1598) during which 2-4 million Catholics and Protestants died.  This course examines the origins of the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre coming out of the Protestant Reformation. Like the larger war, the massacre was not simply initiated by kings and nobles but featured ordinary subjects who sought to defend and define their community. We look at how the war was fought not just with weapons but words, featuring a trip to Special Collections. Throughout the course, we examine the relationship between politics and religion, between faith and community, issues that remain relevant today. Sumita Choudhury.

Not offered in 2018/19.

Two 75-minute periods.

Medieval/Renaissance Studies: II. Intermediate

202 Thesis Preparation 0.5Semester Offered: Fall

220 Medieval and Renaissance Culture 1

Not offered in 2018/19.

Two 75-minute periods.

223 The Founding of English Literature 1

(Same as ENGL 223) These courses, ENGL 222 and 223, offer an introduction to British literary history through an exploration of texts from the eighth through the seventeenth centuries in their literary and cultural contexts. ENGL 222 begins with Old English literature and continues through the death of Queen Elizabeth I (1603). ENGL 223 begins with the establishment of Great Britain and continues through the British Civil War and Puritan Interregnum to the Restoration. Critical issues may include discourses of difference (race, religion, gender, social class); tribal, ethnic, and national identities; exploration and colonization; textual transmission and the rise of print culture; authorship and authority. Both courses address the formation and evolution of the British literary canon, and its significance for contemporary English studies.

Please note that ENGL 222 is not a prerequisite for this course; it is open to all students, including first-year students.

Not offered in 2018/19.

Two 75-minute periods.

235 Old English 1Semester Offered: Fall

(Same as ENGL 235) Introduction to Old English language and literature. Mark Amodio.

Two 75-minute periods.

236 Beowulf 1Semester Offered: Spring

(Same as ENGL 236) Intensive study of the early English epic in the original language. Mark Amodio.

Prerequisite(s):  ENGL 235 or demonstrated knowledge of Old English, or permission of the instructor.

Two 75-minute periods.

246 Music and Ideas I: Medieval and Early Modern Europe: The Power of Church and Court 1Semester Offered: Fall

(Same as MUSI 246) This course introduces major historical and intellectual ideas of music from the Ancient world through 1660. The focus is on essential repertoire as well as the cultures that fostered principal genres of sacred and secular music during the Middle Ages, Renaissance, and early Baroque. Brian Mann.

Includes an additional listening/discussion section.

Prerequisite(s): MUSI 105/MUSI 106 or permission of the instructor.

275 Roots and Branches: Italian Renaissance Authors and Their Impact on Early Modern Western Culture 1

(Same as ITAL 275) The works of Francesco Petrarca (Petrarch) and Giovanni Boccaccio, arguably the greatest authors of Italian Humanism, had a lasting impact on early modern western culture, from the literary, to the philosophical, from the theatrical to the visual. In this course we explore the ways in which Petrarch's poetic style (Canzoniere)  and epistolary writing (Familiar and Seniles Letters) become a canon for sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Italian and European poets (including William Shakespeare), and such essayists as Michel de Montaigne.  Boccaccio's invention of the novella genre and the writing of the Decameron  inspired not only contemporary and Renaissance authors like Geoffrey Chaucer and Marguerite of Navarre, but also theatrical production of the period (Bibbiena, Machiavelli, Shakespeare.  Boccaccio's erudite catalogue of famous women (De Mulieribus Claris) can be read as partial subtext to Christine de Pizan's The Book of the City of Ladies,  and the iconography of Renaissance visual artists, like Botticelli and Titian, can be explored as based on Petrarch's and Boccaccio's texts. Conducted in English. 

Open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors.  May be counted towards the Italian major.

Not offered in 2018/19.

Two 75-minute periods.

288 Medieval Science and Technology 1Semester Offered: Spring

(Same as STS 288) Science and technology: the very words seem synonymous with "modernity." Yet, crucial developments in scientific knowledge and application occurred during the Middle Ages, forming the foundation for the Scientific Revolution. This interdisciplinary course offers an introduction to science and technology in medieval Europe and the Mediterranean world, exploring the influence of classical, East Asian, and Arab learning, and the rise of empiricism and experimentation. Through readings, discussions, and hands-on activities, we examine developments in monasteries, universities, castles, and farms. Topics may include beer making, beekeeping, alchemy, siege warfare, watermills, astrology, plagues, and medicine. Nancy Bisaha, Christopher Smart.

Two 75-minute periods.

290 Field Work 0.5 to 1

298 Independent Work 0.5 to 1

Medieval/Renaissance Studies: III. Advanced

300 Senior Thesis 0.5Semester Offered: Fall

An interdisciplinary study written over two semesters under the supervision of two advisors from two different disciplines.

Yearlong course 300-MRST 301.

301 Senior Thesis 0.5Semester Offered: Spring

An interdisciplinary study written over two semesters under the supervision of two advisors from two different disciplines.

Yearlong course MRST 300-301.

302 Senior Thesis 1Semester Offered: Fall or Spring

An interdisciplinary study written during one semester under the supervision of two advisors from two different disciplines.

339 Shakespeare in Production 1

(Same as DRAM 339) Students in the course study the physical circumstances of Elizabethan public and private theaters at the beginning of the semester. The remainder of the semester is spent in critical examination of the plays of Shakespeare and several of his contemporaries using original staging practices of the early modern theater. The course emphasizes the conditions under which the plays were written and performed and uses practice as an experiential tool to critically analyze the texts as performance scripts. Denise Walen.

Enrollment limited to Juniors and Seniors.

Not offered in 2018/19.

One 3-hour period.

341 Studies in the Renaissance 1

(Same as ENGL 341) Intensive study of selected Renaissance texts and the questions they raise about their context and interpretation. 


Not offered in 2018/19.

One 2-hour period.

399 Senior Independent Work 0.5 to 1