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Medieval Studies

The minor in medieval studies offers students the opportunity to acquire an understanding of the historical, cultural, and social forces that shaped western civilization during the Middle Ages. Its primary goal is to foster a holistic appreciation of European culture in the period between the end of antiquity and the rise of the early modern nation-states. The culture of the Middle Ages continues to captivate the modern imagination, and opportunities for original, creative, and multi-disciplinary research abound, even at the undergraduate level. In addition, the evolution of the mental, physical, ecclesiastical, and political “maps” of Europe in this period stretches our understanding of cultural identity and expands our perspective of how such identity was constituted in the prenational, pre-modern era. The study of this historical period is not limited to events and developments in European history alone—we encourage students to explore ways that medieval Europeans came into contact with other cultures and how people of various religious perspectives negotiated their spiritual and political boundaries. 

Medieval studies is inherently interdisciplinary because the texts, cultures, and languages it encompasses are not represented by any single department or field of study. The divisions of academic fields as we know them today do not appropriately define or describe this period of history when the border between history and literature was indistinct and when music and the visual arts more often served ideological, rather than purely aesthetic, social, and personal functions. An interdisciplinary minor focused on medieval studies is an especially fitting way to help students approach the rich diversity of cultures and languages encompassed by medieval civilization and to explore the decisive impact that such multiplicity had on modern Western culture. In addition, it provides a fruitful counterpoint to the conventional study of languages and civilizations oriented according to modern cultural and linguistic divisions. This minor serves to introduce students to a range of disciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches to the past in order to enhance their understanding of how knowledge is organized today. The minor’s curricular contribution is two-fold: first, to give undergraduate students who have an interest in medieval studies the benefit of advising about available courses and resources both on and off campus; second, to allow those undergraduates who complete substantial work in medieval studies to enhance their applications to graduate programs (in part by ensuring that they will have embarked on the requisite language study).