Current Courses

Fall 2021

Buddhist Studies

Buddhist Studies C140-001: Readings in Chinese Buddhist Texts

Location: 151 Social Sciences
Time: TuTh 12:30-2
Instructor: NA

This course is an introduction to the study of medieval Buddhist literature written in classical Chinese. We will read samples from a variety of genres, including early Chinese translations of Sanskrit and Central Asian Buddhist scriptures, indigenous Chinese commentaries, philosophical treatises, and sectarian works, including Chan <gongan> (Zen koans). The course will also serve as an introduction to resource materials used in the study of Chinese Buddhist texts, and students will be expected to make use of a variety of reference tools in preparation for class. Readings in Chinese will be supplemented by a range of secondary readings in English on Mahayana doctrine and Chinese Buddhist history.  


Celtic 168-001: Celtic Mythology and Oral Tradition

Location: 108 Wheeler
Time: TuTh 11-12:30
Instructor: Myriah Williams

A queen who is turned into a fly, swallowed, and reborn. Giants whose eyelids need to be raised with forks. Silver-handed warriors. Otherworldly quests, epic battles, and the “winning” of women. What, if anything, can tales of these figures and events tell us of Celtic mythology? Answering this question may not be as straightforward as some would hope, but it will be an aim of this class not only to introduce students to Celtic mythology as we understand it today, but also to demonstrate how recognizing what we do not know may be just as important as what we do. The ancient Celtic-speaking peoples did not leave behind texts describing their pre-Christian belief systems, making it difficult to know with certainty what these may have looked like. Instead, our evidence of Celtic mythology comes from archaeological evidence, the accounts of Classical authors, and later medieval literature and folk traditions. Each of these categories of evidence comes with its own set of difficulties, as will be discussed in this class. With a focus on medieval texts from Wales and Ireland, we will consider different approaches to understanding Celtic mythology and folklore, and will evaluate the merits of these approaches. Students will come away from this class not only with an understanding of what we know about Celtic mythology and how we know it, but also with an appreciation for what medieval audiences and redactors may have thought of this material. 


Chinese 234-001: Texts on the Civilization of Medieval China

Location: NA
Time: NA
Instructor: Robert Ashmore

Description: Course content varies with interests of students.  


English 104: Introduction to Old English

Location: 175 Social Sciences
Time: TuTh 2-3:30
Instructor: Jennifer Miller

Description: Coming soon!


History 156C-001: The Justice of the State in the Middle Ages

Location: 289 Cory
Time: TuTh 12:30-2
Instructor: Geoffrey Koziol

This course has two purposes, both suggested by its ambiguous title. It is in part a history of state formation in the later middle ages (1100–1400) and contemporary ideas about justice and just rule. This aspect of the course concentrates on the judicial systems of France, England, and northern Italian cities, along with some more theoretical treatments of justice and just rule. More important, the course is also an opportunity to think about the justice of the state that was being formed and the justice of the process of its formation. Was the medieval state just? Was a just (or even a more just) state created out of an unjust one? If it was just or became so, how did this happen, and what do we mean by "justice"? If it was not and never was, what good is the state at all?  Readings will be varied: some medieval treatises on the state; some political narratives from chronicles; some case studies of justice in action; some legal treatises from the middle ages; and a number of secondary sources on English, French and Italian communal justice. 

History of Art

History of Art 192A-004: Undergraduate Seminar: Problems of Representation in Ancient and Medieval China

Location: 425 Doe Library
Time: W 2-5
Instructor: Kwi Jeong Lee

The concept of representation assumes a distance between reality and its doubles. Images, symbols, diagrams, events, and acts serve to represent reality deemed inaccessible without such mediating devices. While the validity of the representation is often measured by the degree of its proximity to that which is represented, in ancient and medieval China the assumed distance between the two gave rise to diverse discourses and controversies that brought into focus the philosophical, political, religious, and moral problems of representations. This course explores such Chinese hermeneutics of representation by engaging a selection of classical Chinese texts (in English translation), including, but not limited to, the Book of Changes, Laozi, and Chinese Buddhist scriptures. The goal of the course is to better understand how Chinese intellectual traditions conceptualized representation and how Chinese artistic practices were informed by such intellectual discourses.  


Music 170: Medieval Motets in Manuscript

Location: Morrison 135
Time: Tu 2-5
Instructor: Emily C Zazulia

Saints and sinners, monsters and monarchs, rhetoric and reason: these are all among the topics broached by motets from the late middle ages. These motets, which will be the focus of this course, thwart many preconceptions about what it means to study medieval music. They are often carefully constructed, fantastically complex, and unabashedly non-religious. Some of our activities will be particular to studying very old music: For instance, we will work with medieval manuscripts, both in facsimile and original, paying attention to how such books were made and how they shape the music they transmit. But this repertoire engages many issues that resonate beyond the middle ages: How do—or should—music and text relate? Can music communicate an idea? How does music theory relate to the practice of music making? What kind of a witness is musical notation? How prescriptive are generic conventions? What did it mean to be a composer or musician in the late middle ages? Students will be guided through a semester-long research project into their “own” motet. 

Music 220: Song Masses and the Problem of the Secular

Location: Morrison 242
Time: Th 2-5
Instructor: Emily C Zazulia

Why was the library of the newly formed Sistine Chapel choir full of books of masses based on love songs? As soon as composers began writing polyphonic settings of the Mass Ordinary in the 1440s, they based them not only on plainchant, but also on popular songs of an apparently secular nature. The prominent presence of secular music in the most sacred rituals of the Christian church has long troubled musicologists. But it does not seem to have troubled fifteenth-century clergymen. This seminar begins from the idea that the song mass is not a problem of genre, but one of categorization—specifically the idea of the secular. We will use the song mass to rethink the categories we use to understand music from the late middle ages. But the implications do not stop with music: by putting music in dialogue with other areas of society, we will have occasion to reconsider the category of the secular more generally. And with luck, when we turn back to the music of the period, we will be able to see it with fresh eyes.


Scandinavian 101A: Introduction to Old Norse

Location: 134 Dwinelle
Time: MWF 10-11
Instructor: Katherine Sarah Heslop

This is an undergraduate-level class which will introduce students to the vernacular written language of Iceland and Norway in the Middle Ages. Class time will focus on grammatical lectures, translations, and close-reading exercises of Old Norse texts. By the end of the semester students should be able to read saga-style Old Norse prose texts in normalized orthography with the help of a dictionary. Assignments will include weekly translations, grammatical exercises, quizzes, a midterm, and a final exam. Regular participation is required.

Scandinavian 123-001: Viking and Medieval Scandinavia

Location: 180 Tan
Time: MWF 12-1
Instructor: Katherine Sarah Heslop

Viking and Medieval Scandinavia will explore developments and trends in the areas of social structure, trade and economy, religion, political organization, culture, literature, and technology during the Viking Age and Medieval periods (c. 750–1500). The course will cover the Scandinavian homelands (Denmark, Sweden, Norway) of the Vikings as well as the regions in which Scandinavians settled during the Viking Age. Developments in Scandinavia will be contextualized against broader trends in Europe and western Asia. 

Scandinavian 160-001: Scandinavian Myth and Religion

Location: 179 Stanley
Time: TuTh 12:30-2
Instructor: Jonas Wellendorf

Who were the Norse gods? How do we know? How and why did they meet their end? This course presents a survey of Scandinavian myth and religion from prehistory through the conversion to Christianity in the eleventh century, as illustrated in textual and, to a lesser extent, archaeological materials. The approach will be primarily source-critical, with some use of comparative materials. By the end of the course, students should know the sources well, have an understanding of the major problems involved in the study of Scandinavian myth and religion, and be aware of the more important scholarly trends in the field.


Spanish 107A: Survey of Spanish Literature

Location: 174 Social Sciences
Time: MWF 1-2
Instructor: Nasser Meerkhan

This course will cover literary works in Spanish/romance from 10th c. jarchas to 17th century plays. Medieval and Early Modern Iberia was a place of fervent literary experimentation which has produced texts of high cultural, linguistic and literary value. The general aim of this class is for the students to develop a better understanding of the richness of Medieval and Early Modern Spanish literature and how said literary works both shaped and reflected the heterogeneous cultures that co-existed in Iberia for centuries.