About the Program
The Medieval Studies Program at the University of California, Berkeley is an interdisciplinary group that coordinates and sponsors lectures, events, and visiting professorships, promotes scholarly interests common to medievalists of different academic departments, and communicates information of interest among them.
The Committee on Medieval Studies offers a Concurrent Ph.D. program in which candidates have both a home department and training in the core disciplines of Medieval Studies. The Program also offers an undergraduate minor in Medieval Studies.
The Program was established by five professors in the 1960s—Robert Brentano of History, Richard Crocker of Music, Blake Spahr of German, Charles Witke of Classics, and David Wright of Art History—who gathered regularly to share their enthusiasm for the Middle Ages and to dream of uniting with the other medievalists scattered throughout the College of Letters and Science. Believing that an atmosphere of informality would best facilitate the exchange of ideas, they convened weekly meetings throughout the semester at which students, faculty, and other scholars could gather for lunch, a casual presentation by a guest speaker, and discussion. To further the cross-pollination of ideas, the group also hoped to bring to campus every year an influential scholar from outside the U.S. The Distinguished Visiting Professor in Medieval Studies would teach an upper-division course and a graduate seminar in his or her area of expertise. The group proposed the program to Sanford Elberg, Dean of the Graduate Division at the time. Dean Elberg enthusiastically provided the guidance and the finances to make the program a reality.
Today, medievalists from Stanford, UC Davis, and UC Santa Cruz, as well as other teachers and independent scholars from across the Bay Area, join the Berkeley group. For over forty years, Distinguished Visiting Professors of Medieval Studies enriched the UC Berkeley community of medievalists.
While these initiatives invigorate the group with new ideas, the undergraduate and graduate degree programs help to train new medieval scholars. Both programs provide in-depth, "horizontal study" of the Middle Ages. Such an approach is well suited for the Berkeley campus where many top-ranked departments in the College of Letters and Science provide the “vertical training” that supplements richly the more focused investigation of the Medieval period.
The Undergraduate Minor in Medieval Studies is a wonderful opportunity for students with an interest in the Middle Ages. The requirements, five courses in Medieval Studies in two or more departments, gives the minor an inherently comparative flavor. In addition to a wide variety of classes in disciplines such as Art History, Music, Near Eastern Studies, and Religious Studies, the offerings in languages and literature programs are particularly impressive in their variety, including courses in Old English, Old French, Old and Middle Irish, Old Norse, Old Saxon, Old Church Slavic, Medieval Arabic, Medieval Latin, Medieval Welsh, and Middle High German.
The graduate program in Medieval Studies is like no other on campus. A student already admitted into a departmental Ph.D. program at Berkeley may apply to the Medieval Studies Program to pursue a Concurrent Ph.D. The degree granted will be the Ph.D. in "X and Medieval Studies" (e.g. French and Medieval Studies, History and Medieval Studies, etc). Broadly speaking, graduate students pursuing the Concurrent Ph.D. take three courses on medieval topics outside their home departments, demonstrate proficiency in Medieval Latin and paleography, and study as well a medieval vernacular language. The requirements for the Concurrent Ph.D. are designed for both breadth of vision and depth of training.
With continued emphasis on cordial intellectual exchange in an informal atmosphere, a vibrant Graduate Colloquium, and exciting visiting lecturers, the Medieval Studies Program ensures scholarship in the Middle Ages will continue to grow strong at Berkeley well into the future.