Spring 2021

Medieval Studies

Graduate courses:

Medieval Studies 200: Introduction to research materials and methods

Location: Online
Time: Thursdays 3-5pm
Instructor: Jonas Wellendorf

This graduate pro-seminar in Medieval Studies introduces students pursuing the concurrent Ph.D. in medieval studies to problems in interdisciplinary research, contemporary approaches to cross-disciplinary thinking and bibliographical resources within and crossing traditional disciplines. The general theme which will help us explore these areas will be ‘Ethnogenesis and Cultural Memory in the Middle Ages’. This theme is intended to allow wide interpretation so as to address specifics of disciplinary work for individual students and the interdisciplinary nature of medieval studies in general. The semester project will be adapted to the individual: For students expecting to advance to candidacy next year, the final essay should be a complete and polished draft of the field statement required for the concurrent PhD in Medieval Studies. For other students, it should take the form of a term paper facilitating progress towards the field statement.

Readings will be posted on bCourses.



Undergraduate courses:

English 110: Medieval Literature: Love in the Middle Ages

Location: Online
Time: MWF 10-11am
Instructor: Spencer Strub

Set aside the stereotypes: there’s more to medieval love than gallant knights and fair maidens. In this course, we'll traverse the many ways one could write about love before 1400. Some medieval authors cultivated divine love, while others told dirty jokes; some celebrated marriage, while others derided it; some regulated gender expression, while others subverted its norms. And sometimes the same author did all these things at once.

Our focus will fall on works written in France and England during the twelfth and fourteenth centuries. In twelfth-century Paris, a particular idea of romantic love came into being alongside new modes of philosophy and literature. By the fourteenth century, this idea––what we now call “courtly love”––had become the subject of satire and debate across Europe, a shift in temperament that we will explore in the second half of the semester. Because these two moments in the history of love emerge from broader cross-cultural exchange in the Middle Ages, we will attend to their antecedents in medieval Arabic and Hebrew love literature, as well as the classical and scriptural sources all three traditions shared.

As we explore these texts, we will uncover medieval ideas about love, sexual ethics, and gender, but we will also pose transhistorical questions about consent, agency, and desire. In order to do so, we must ask how literary forms from the lyric to the epic condition our understanding of love and its consequences. To that end, you will produce a number of short analytical writing exercises in addition to two longer essays. The class will end with a sustained engagement with Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde––one of the great works of love-literature of any era.

Readings in Middle English will be read in the original; all other readings will be in modern English translation. No previous experience with medieval literature is necessary.

Book List: The Letters of Abelard and Heloise; Capellanus, Andreas: The Art of Courtly Love; Chaucer, Geoffrey: Troilus and Criseyde; de France, Marie: Lais; de Troyes, Chrétien: Arthurian Romances Other Readings and Media.

Further readings to be posted on bCourses.


English 176: Literature and Popular Culture: Medieval Futures

Location: Online
Time: MWF 1-2pm
Instructor: Spencer Strub

We usually think of speculative fiction as forward-looking. But it’s no accident that the most popular modern sci-fi saga narrates the struggles of knights and monks “a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away”: even our most futuristic fantasies look backward, too. This course traces the strangely central role of the Middle Ages in modern genre fiction and popular culture. We begin with the ways in which medieval writers themselves pioneered recurrent features of speculative fiction, from time travel to space exploration. From those early experiments in the fantastic and marvelous, we turn to modern novels and film that borrow form, content, and setting from the Middle Ages, whether as a fantasy of twentieth-century liberation movements structured as a medieval romance or a narration of postapocalyptic life imagined from the confines of a monastery. To supplement our understanding of these works, we will read short excerpts from the medieval texts that inspired them. Throughout the class, we will ask what role the past plays in our fantasies about the future, and what that tells us about attitudes toward race, gender, religion, and the literary imagination. In order to help develop your thinking, you will write two papers, as well as a number of short exercises and a creative assignment.

Book List Delany, Samuel: Flight from Nevèrÿon; Du Bois, W. E. B.: Dark Princess; Herbert, Frank: Dune; Ishiguro, Kazuo: The Buried Giant; Miller, Walter: A Canticle for Leibowitz; Russ, Joanna: Extra(ordinary) People; Strugatsky, Arkady and Boris: Hard to be a God; Willis, Connie: Doomsday Book

Other Readings and Media Further readings -- including Breton lais, excerpts from Chaucer and The Thousand and One Nights, and supplementary texts -- will be provided via bCourses. Films will include Star Wars (A New Hope), among others.



History of Art

Undergraduate courses:

History of Art 151: Art and Society in Late Antiquity

Location: Online
TimeTuesday and Thursdays 3:30–5pm
Instructor: Diliana Angelova

This class has several objectives. The primary one is to teach you about the complex artistic, religious, and cultural transformations that took place in the ancient Mediterranean world in the period between Constantine’s reign (306-337) and the death of the prophet Muhammad (d. 632). The most important artistic change in this period is the emergence of Christian art and architecture, and the transformation and decline of the Classical artistic tradition. It was an uneven process. Christian architecture sprung practically overnight, but Christian iconography took longer. To understand its meandering routes one needs to immerse oneself in the period, to think like a contemporary. In this class therefore you will embark on a journey that will take you to the Roman Senate, Church Councils, battles, the Egyptian and Syrian deserts, mansions, a lot of churches, and cosmopolitan cities. You will read theology and love poetry, plan your own church, and be a Roman Senator for a day.  

The class has three additional goals: to foster your analytical skills and historical thinking, and to help you improve your writing. To this end, the material includes primary sources and scholarly articles, and is presented, as much as possible, chronologically. The material is divided into three parts, one roughly for each of the centuries covered. Each part begins with a historical overview of the period, and covers a selection of the most important artistic developments. Each segment culminates with an exam, a combination between slide identifications and essays that follow the questions discussed in the lectures (there will be no final exam). The only method of becoming a better thinker and a better writer is to practice. Therefore, the class combines reading challenging texts with short writing assignments for many of the assigned readings, as specified below. These short assignments will stretch your mind and help you stay on top of the material and prepare for your exams. 

The class will be held synchronously. All readings will be online. It fulfills areas A and D of the History of Art major.


History of Art 192D: On Unicorns, Lions, Dragons, and Rabbits: Noah's Ark from the Medieval Bestiarium to the Baroque Menagerie

Location: Online
TimeThursdays 2-5pm
InstructorHenrike Christiane Lange


In this seminar, we will consider how our local Berkeley mountain lions, canyon deer, and gophers relate to Dante and Giotto, and what our hummingbirds have to do with the global Baroque age. We will consider a history of animals in art that situates their aesthetics and ascribed symbolism in their changing social and scientific contexts. Collecting examples from late medieval to early modern and Baroque age and relating them to ancient as well as modern images of and ideas about animals, we will analyze their representation in the visual arts in relation to their represented environment, narrative, and human beings in and in front of the image / object. Studying the visual arts alongside the epochal texts that stand in relationships of mutual influence with the artworks, we will dip into a pool of images of “beasts” ranging from the naturalistic to the legendary and mythical in manuscripts, discussing particularly the Franciscan tradition, Dante’s Divine Comedy, animals represented by artists such as Giotto, Pisanello, Donatello, Mantegna, Botticelli, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Titian, Bernini, and Tiepolo - always in tune with the cultural resonance of their images in the arts and the wider world historical context. 

Starting with central fauna iconographies such as the animals represented in Paradise and in Noah's Ark, the seminar will search lesser known imagery and identify animals as peacemakers, placemakers, protectors, speaking coats of arms, threats, punishment, psychic forces, symbols, mottos, messengers, comforting and menacing presences, and in a variety of narrative functions. 

Introducing the theme from a contemporary perspective, we will consider the role of animals in art in the medieval and early modern age with an eye on critical theory and on related historiographies in the arts, philosophy, and biology throughout the centuries, especially the long nineteenth century’s impact on animal studies and current work on animals in the arts and in art history. 

Conducted in English, the class is open to majors from all fields. No previous art history or literature history preparation required. Italian and other non-English texts (such as French, Spanish, and German) will be introduced on a basic level as desired by the students. This course is designed to connect with other and further studies in broad fields including but not limited to Medieval Studies, Renaissance & Early Modern Studies, critical theory, interdisciplinary studies, and literature studies. Students from all backgrounds are welcome; please email Prof. Lange to discuss your interest in the course and potential adjustments for majors outside the arts and humanities. 

This class resonates with Prof. Lange’s Spring 2021 lecture course Italian Studies 30, “Dante 2021: The Elements of Hell, Purgatory, Paradise (Earth, Air, Water, Fire).”


Italian Studies

Undergraduate courses - lower division:

Italian Studies 30: Dante 2021: The Elements of Hell, Purgatory, Paradise (Earth, Air, Water, Fire)

Location: Online
TimeTuesdays and Thursdays 5-6pm
InstructorHenrike Christiane Lange

This new class on Dante Alighieri is an interdisciplinary and cross-historical exploration of the poet and his world through his works and through the reception of his works up to the present day. In the Dante year 2021, we are looking back at over seven centuries of reading Dante, reading with Dante, re-writing Dante, translating Dante, and illustrating Dante in every possible textual and visual medium.

Reading Dante, an author who died in Italy 700 years ago, today in California, at Berkeley, is an act of engaging with the exiled author’s heritage through its most long-lasting and relevant aspects: those of the meaning of language and personal memory for the self, of displacement and exile, resilience and recovery, self-reliance, and endurance of that which makes a human being last beyond their death. Classically, this work is about love and loss, death and redemption, hell and paradise. But its reading is also itself an enactment of purgatory, the realm of the in-between and of work that needs to be done to move oneself from Hell to Paradise when engaging with the author’s deeply personal themes of desire, depression, melancholy, hope, recovery, and personal triumph. 

While Dante has remained relevant as a classic of world literature with bearings on language, history, theology, psychology, and many more fields, this course will take an entirely new angle by focusing simultaneously on questions of ecology and psychology in Dante. Students in this course will embark on researching the meaning of the elements - earth, air, water, fire - in their literal and metaphorical meanings, engaging these elemental components of existence with the medieval cosmos, medieval science, the influence of catastrophic environmental events and the imagery of natural and landscape for Dante in the Divine Comedy and beyond, up to contemporary Dante illustrations and reverberations of Dante in the present-day global art and film scene. 

Conducted in English, the class is open to majors from all fields. No previous art history or literature history preparation required. Italian and other non-English texts (such as French, Spanish, and German) will be introduced on a basic level as desired by the students. This course is designed to connect with other and further studies in broad fields including but not limited to Medieval Studies, Renaissance & Early Modern Studies, critical theory, interdisciplinary studies, and literature studies. Students from all backgrounds are welcome; please email Prof. Lange to discuss your interest in the course and potential adjustments for majors outside the arts and humanities. 

This lecture course resonates with Prof. Lange’s Spring 2021 seminar History of Art 192D, “On Unicorns, Lions, Dragons, and Rabbits: Noah’s Ark, from the Medieval Bestiarium to the Baroque Menagerie.” 


Graduate courses:

Italian Studies 212: Seminar in Dante: Writing the Vernacular Reader, From Dante to Boccaccio

Location: Online
Time:  Mondays 2-5pm
Instructor: Albert R. Ascoli

Course Conducted in English - Reading Knowledge of Italian Desirable but not Required - May be taken for 2 or 4 credits

In the fifth canto of Dante’s Commedia, in one of the most famous episodes of Western literature, Francesca da Rimini blames the adulterous love she shares with her husband’s brother, Paolo, for both their violent deaths and eternal damnation, on an act of reading, solicited by a vernacular book and its author (“Galeotto fu il libro e chi lo scrisse” [A pander was the book and he who wrote it]). Almost half a century later, Giovanni Boccaccio gives his Decameron—whose one hundred novelle closely track, celebrate and parody Dante’s one hundred canto “holy poem”—the subtitle of “Prencipe Galeotto,” implying its possibly seductive function on its readers, defined explicitly to be “women at leisure.” In this course we will place these two pillars of an emergent romance vernacular tradition in the context of reading practices determined by a growing class of subjects literate in Italian, Occitan, Old French, and other “vulgar tongues,” even as we explore the ways in which their texts contribute to defining and shaping this new class of lay readers, both women and men. We will pay attention to the ways in which Dante redefines the author/reader relationship; how Boccaccio establishes himself as the reader, interpreter, and re-writer of Dante; how both look backwards to practices of reading in the medieval Latin and French traditions, and forward to their readers in other tongues (e.g., Chaucer, whose “Pandarus” is modelled on the character of the same name in Boccaccio’s Filostrato; Christine de Pizan whose debts to both the Italian authors are well known; and many, many authors of the 15th and 16th centuries throughout Europe).

Course Requirements: Students are expected to attend and participate regularly. Students taking the course for two credits will do the reading, plus in-class reports and other short assignments. Students taking the course for four credits will also develop one of their shorter assignments into a final research paper of 6000-7500 words (25-30 pages).


Undergraduate courses

Scandinavian 150: Medieval Memory Media

Location: Online
Time: MWF 10-11
Instructor: Kate Heslop

“Father of the Slain, you wished me to declare living beings’ ancient stories, those I remember from furthest back.” (Seeress’ Prophecy, stanza 1)

In Old Norse poem The Seeress’ Prophecy, the female speaker recalls for the god Odin nine worlds, nine giantesses, a cosmic tree, and the creation of the world out of the void. Memory’s power to open such immense vistas fascinates, while its biological basis in the capacities of individual brains makes it a topic of universal interest, as evidenced in the long history of reflections on this mental faculty. Personal memory is only part of the story, though. How did medieval societies and cultures remember together? What functions did these shared memories have? What did they forget?

In this course, we will explore the media of memory in premodern Scandinavia. Christianity and its book culture came to Scandinavia comparatively late, so memories of pre-Christian myth and religion, like those of the seeress, were relatively fresh and available for re-mediation in the new technology of writing. People still lived among older memory media—runestones, burial mounds, ritual landscapes, ancient weapons—and cultivated practices of poetry, performance and story-telling with deep roots in the pre-literate past. They also adopted new media and practices for creating and preserving memory, such as manuscript books, Christian sacred architecture, prayer and pilgrimage, giving rise to novel syntheses specific to the medieval north.

We will consider the interplay between pre-Christian memory metaphors and medieval theories and techniques of memory. Using case studies (of e.g. ritual landscapes, church buildings, place-names, rune carvings, decorative arts, poetic performances, dances, genealogies, manuscript books, maps and diagrams) we will explore how media of memory and forgetting were used in the premodern North to establish cultural norms and form group identities. Memories of the Scandinavian Middle Ages have come to be politically instrumentalized in our own time, and we will also consider founder figures such as the putative Viking discoverer of North America, Leif Erikson, awarded a national day (October 9) by US President Lyndon Johnson in the 1960s, and the recent instrumentalization of a particular memory of Viking culture by white nationalists.

This upper-division elective has no prerequisites and requires no prior knowledge of Old Norse. Readings will be made available on bcourses and all texts will be read in English translation. The class will consist of lecture and discussion, with a mix of synchronous and asynchronous elements.



Graduate courses:

Spanish 285: Women writers of medieval Iberia

Location: Online
Time:  Thursdays 3-6pm
Instructor: Nasser Meerkhan

This course will examine, explore and analyze the literary practices employed by medieval Iberian women writers. Their texts have survived in anthologies, manuscripts and incunables. Readings will include poetry by some thirty-eight Andalusian (Islamic Iberian) women poets; poems by Florencia Pinar and Doña Mayor Arias; Leonor López de Cordoba’s Memorias, the first known autobiography written in Castilian; as well as selections from Isabel de Villena’s Vita Christi, a spiritual manual aimed at fellow nuns in the convent of The Holy Trinity for Poor Clares in Valencia; and selections from Teresa de Cartagena’s religious-philosophical works Arboleda de los enfermos and Admiraçión Operum Dey. 

The class will be conducted in English and all the texts will be available in translation, with Arabic and Spanish speakers having the option to read the texts in their respective original languages.

The class will include presentations on themes related to the primary sources. We will also work together actively to make sure you are on the right track in preparing for the job market. Finally, for the final research paper, students are encouraged to investigate influential works by women within their own fields of investigation.