Medieval Studies

The medieval studies major is interdisciplinary in nature and enables the student to develop an integrated understanding of medieval civilization through the study of its history, art, music, literature, ways of thought, and religion. Beyond its intrinsic interest, such an understanding of a premodern society provides comparisons and contrasts that shed light on modern values and assumptions, and on the origins of many modern institutions. As is the case with liberal arts majors in general, medieval studies majors finish their course of study well prepared for professional careers that require cultural awareness and critical thinking.

Program Activities

The Center for Medieval Studies sponsors an annual lecture series and conference, and hosts receptions and class visits to medieval exhibits and collections in the area.

For more information

Visit the Medieval Studies program web page. 

Our Courses

MVST 1210. Literature and Society. (3 Credits)

This course explores different literary genres (such as saga and myth, romance, ballads and poetry, drama and devotional treatises) from different medieval cultural contexts (such as Icelandic society, feudal society, the clergy and urban society). The texts chosen for study, as well as the particular societal contexts, will vary from instructor to instructor.

Attribute: MVLI.

MVST 1250. Traditions of Storytelling. (4 Credits)

Comparative study of traditions of storytelling, placing questions of narrative form within global cultural and historical contexts. Selections from ancient forms of storytelling will be considered alongside modern examples from European and American literature. Four-credit courses that meet for 150 minutes per week require three additional hours of class preparation per week on the part of the student in lieu of an additional hour of formal instruction.

Attributes: ACUP, AMST.

MVST 3057. Medieval German Literature: Potions, Passions, Players, and Prayers. (4 Credits)

This course will introduce students to the rich literary and cultural heritage of Medieval Germany. The texts will all be read in English translation, but we will go over some passages in their original languages in class to catch some of the flavor of the Medieval German. Topics covered will include pre-Christian charms, the epic of the Nibelungs, love poetry, and urban carneval plays. Four-credit courses that meet for 150 minutes per week require three additional hours of class preparation per week on the part of the student in lieu of an additional hour of formal instruction.

Attributes: ALC, GERM, MVLI, MVST.

Prerequisite: GERM 2001.

MVST 3102. Medieval Women Writers. (4 Credits)

Four-credit courses that meet for 150 minutes per week require three additional hours of class preparation per week on the part of the student in lieu of an additional hour of formal instruction.

Attributes: MVLI, WGSS.

MVST 3210. King, Court, and Crusade: Writing Knightly Life in the High Middle Ages. (4 Credits)

This course will view the medieval world through a lens provided by the life and writings of one man, John of Joinville (d. 1317). John was a knight, a crusader, and a close friend of King Louis IX of France (canonized as Saint Louis). He wrote a Life of Saint Louis that is rich with information about his own life, as well as the saintly king's. We will use the Life to open an examination of key themes in the knightly experience in the high middle ages, including: power, faith, the crusades, noble culture, family and social relations. It will also consider the usefulness of biography/autobiography in understanding the past.

Attributes: AHC, HIMH, HIST.

MVST 3215. Medieval Fashion and Its Meanings. (3 Credits)

In medieval Europe, the importance of dress as a signifier of identity changed drastically over time. Relatively unimportant in the early Middle Ages, by the 14th century dress had become a primary means of expressing individual identity as well as class, gender, status, and other forms of group membership. In this course, we aim to demonstrate the ways in which dress and culture shape and are shaped by one another, illuminating the Middle Ages in a non-traditional way and encountering new tools for historical analysis. Our work will culminate in a research project: students will choose a particular type of medieval garment and trace its evolution, the factors which shaped it, and the effect of that garment or those garments on society.

Attributes: FASH, HIMH, MVAM.

MVST 3500. The Knights of the Round Table. (4 Credits)

In this course, we will look for the traces of King Arthur and his Knights in modern-day London and its environs. Reading the foundational texts of Arthurian literature right where it all happened, we will be able to go to the sites and see the artifacts that remain. We will be reading excerpts from the early annals and chronicles, which laid the foundation for Arthur’s fame in history, and we will follow the exploits of some of the most prominent members of the Round Table as they were depicted in medieval literature: Sir Gawain, the ladies’ man (Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Geoffrey Chaucer’s “Wife of Bath’s Tale), Sir Perceval, the Grail Knight (Chretiende Troyes, Perceval), Sir Tristrem, the knight who fell in love with his uncle’s wife, (Gottfried von Strassburg, Tristen and Isolde) and Merlin the sorcerer (in the modern rendition by Mary Stewart, The Crystal Cave). We are planning excursions that will take us to Winchester to have a look at the tangible, wooden, “Round Table,” Stonehenge, the mythical stone circle associated with Merlin and his craft, and Canterbury, the destination of the most important pilgrimage on English soil. In London, we will visit Westminster Cathedral, the British Library, Museums holding Arthurian artifacts, and the Crypt of St. Martin-in-the-Fields for some brass rubbing and afternoon tea. This immersion into medieval culture will allow us to read Arthurian literature in a way uniquely possible in London. Four-credit courses that meet for 150 minutes per week require three additional hours of class preparation per week on the part of the student in lieu of an additional hour of formal instruction.

Attribute: MVLI.

MVST 3535. Building the Ideal City: Ethics and Economics Foundations of Realizable Utopias. (4 Credits)

This course introduces students to the investigation of the role that economic concepts such as profit, work, utility, and exchange play in defining the ideal city as a realizable political project. Students will explore ethical and economic concepts and their interrelation in the debate on the best form of State and government that developed from antiquity to modern American utopian communities. This course includes texts from various sources - philosophical, theological, juridical, and literary. Through these readings, students will learn how theoretical and practical ideas on the best form of society developed in time and still influence modern political thought. The course also focuses on the impact of the socioeconomic doctrines of the Catholic Church in shaping the idea of a possible, realizable, ideal city. Among the texts and authors included are Plato, St. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Dante, Boccaccio, Thomas More, Leon Battista Alberti, Tommaso Campanella, Francis Bacon. Taught in English with coursework in Italian for credit in Italian. Note: Four-credit courses that meet for 150 minutes per week require three additional hours of class preparation per week on the part of the student in lieu of an additional hour of formal instruction.

Attributes: ACUP, ALC, AMST, APPI, ASHS, ASRP, INST, ISIN, ITAL, ITMO, MVPH, MVST.

MVST 3700. Medicine, Magic, and Miracles: Sickness and Health in the Early Middle Ages. (4 Credits)

This course provides an introduction to the systems of learned medicine of western Europe from Late Antiquity to the High Middle Ages. Using a wide range of sources, including medical texts, hagiography, liturgy, and modern scientific studies, we will explore the distinctions between medical theory and practice, the relationship of secular and ecclesiastical authorities to the compilation of medical knowledge and the fundamental question of what constitutes medicine and what does not. In addition, we will consider the changing definition of illness and health through an investigation of medieval responses to the cataclysm of the Black Death. Four-credit courses that meet for 150 minutes per week require three additional hours of class preparation per week on the part of the student in lieu of an additional hour of formal instruction.

Attributes: AHC, HIMH, HIST.

MVST 3701. Royal Saints of Medieval Europe: Politics, Liturgy and Gender. (4 Credits)

This course investigates how kings and queens became saints during the European Middle Ages, alongside broader debates about medieval notions of sanctity, gender, and power. Using varied sources including hagiography, liturgy, chronicles, and material culture, we will explore the reasons why royal saints were remembered and the ways they were venerated in the celebrations of the Church. Through a series of case studies, we will also consider the uses of royal saints as propaganda by church and secular authorities to legitimize their rule, promote ongoing Christianizing efforts, and engender zeal for the Crusades.

MVST 3800. Cloisters, Castles, and Kings: Medieval Bavaria. (4 Credits)

This course will explore medieval secular and church history as it manifested itself in the literature and culture of Bavaria. Includes a study abroad component. Spring break visit to Regensburg and Munich. Four-credit courses that meet for 150 minutes per week require three additional hours of class preparation per week on the part of the student in lieu of an additional hour of formal instruction.

Attributes: ALC, COLI, GERM, MLL.

MVST 4003. War and Peace: Just War Theory. (4 Credits)

This is a Senior values seminar, usually offered in Philosophy. It is a course in applied ethics. It will involve the application of a normative ethical theory to the moral problems associated with war. Four-credit courses that meet for 150 minutes per week require three additional hours of class preparation per week on the part of the student in lieu of an additional hour of formal instruction.

Attribute: MVPH.

MVST 4005. The Medieval Traveler. (4 Credits)

This course follows the routes of pilgrims, crusaders, merchants, nobles and peasants as they charted a course for lands of promise and hoped-for prosperity. In Medieval Traveler, we will read selections from the diaries, chronicles, and historical literature written by and about travelers in the Middle Ages. We will begin and end with travelers who sought miracles, marvels, and new trading routes on the cusp of the known world. We will focus in particular on the practicalities of medieval travel, and well as the reasons for traveling: the sacred, the profane, and everything in between. This will be an interactive class, be prepared to discuss and debate issues of interest. Four-credit courses that meet for 150 minutes per week require three additional hours of class preparation per week on the part of the student in lieu of an additional hour of formal instruction.

Attributes: ENGL, ENRJ, GLBL, HIMH, HIST, HIUL, ICC, MVLI, OCST, REST.

MVST 4006. Dante's Cosmos: Science, Theology, and Literature. (4 Credits)

This course investigates Dante's cosmos in the Divine Comedy through medieval science, theology, and poetry. Disentangling the context of the Comedy from Dante's encyclopedic culture through reading in the disciplines of his time will lead students to a deeper comprehension of the multidimensionality of Dante's universe than is possible through any singular disciplinary. The course will broaden students perception of the medieval cosmos in contrast with contemporary notions of cosmology. Four-credit courses that meet for 150 minutes per week require three additional hours of class preparation per week on the part of the student in lieu of an additional hour of formal instruction.

Attributes: ICC, ITAL, ITMA, MLL, MVTH.

MVST 4007. The Medieval Foundations of Modernity: Petrarch and the Origins of Modern Consciousness. (4 Credits)

This course retraces the foundations of modern consciousness in Petrarch's works through poetry and philosophy. Students will concentrate on Petrarch's library and philosophical works to explore the passage from a medieval to a humanist vision of the self and of the world. The interdisciplinary approach of the course will provide a deeper understanding of Petrarch's ideas on the educative role of the intellectual, the crisis of scholastic thought, and the emergence of a new perception of the self. Four-credit courses that meet for 150 minutes per week require three additional hours of class preparation per week on the part of the student in lieu of an additional hour of formal instruction.

Attributes: COLI, ICC, ITAL, ITMA.

MVST 4008. Medieval Autobiographies. (4 Credits)

Although writing about oneself is often considered classical or modern, and autobiography was not classified as a genre until the eighteenth century, a handful of medieval clerics, monks, mystics, nobles and merchants wrote about their own lives. These autobiographical accounts, and the conventions and societies that shaped them are the topic of the course. By asking both the questions of genre, narrative voice, subjectivity and authorship usually posed by literary analysis, and the historical questions of what such sources about past authors, audiences and the societies that read and copied the lives, the goal is to understand autobiography and the sources themselves from an interdisciplinary perspective. Four-credit courses that meet for 150 minutes per week require three additional hours of class preparation per week on the part of the student in lieu of an additional hour of formal instruction.

Attributes: HIST, ICC, MVLI.

MVST 4009. Medieval Jerusalem. (4 Credits)

What has made Jerusalem so beloved to - and the object of continual strife for – Jews, Christians, and Muslims? This course will explore the ancient and medieval history of Jerusalem, from its Jebusite inhabitants before the time of King David through Suleiman’s construction of the modern city walls in the 1540s. Students will learn to analyze a variety of literature, through which we will explore the themes of sacred space, conquest, destruction and lament, pilgrimage and religious polemic. Four-credit courses that meet for 150 minutes per week require three additional hours of class preparation per week on the part of the student in lieu of an additional hour of formal instruction.

Attributes: ICC, JSPM, JWST, MEST, OCHS, OCST, REST.

MVST 4010. Medieval Franciscans and the Dream of a Just Economy. (4 Credits)

The medieval Franciscan Order struggled continually to define what poverty meant. This definition impacted them internally, as an order dedicated to renouncing property personally and collectively, but also had implications for the world around them in their capacity as preachers, confessors, and spiritual advisers. In struggling with these questions they became, as Giacomo Todeschini called them, “professionals of poverty,” experts in discerning the true value of things and arbiters of proper economic behavior; some have even gone so far as to claim that they invented capitalism avant la lettre. While this has been strenuously (and rightly) contested, Franciscans provide a useful lens through which to examine the relationship between religion, especially activist religion, and the economy; between economic theory and its sometimes messy practice. By drawing on texts from the medieval Franciscan Order (c. 1220–1517) on a variety of economic problems (especially: trust, contracts, and the just price; theories of interest, condemnations of usury, the ethics of lending, and the obligation to restitution; concerns about consumer society and the proper uses of wealth) supplemented by secondary readings in theology and economics, this course explores the nature of ethically and religiously motivated intervention in the realm of economic activity, and the responsibilities of consumers, producers, and other economic actors to act ethically, which echo down to the present day. Note: Four-credit courses that meet for 150 minutes per week require three additional hours of class preparation per week on the part of the student in lieu of an additional hour of formal instruction.

Attributes: ICC, MVST.

MVST 4100. Modern Sounds, Early Music. (4 Credits)

Medieval and Renaissance music's fragmentary survival has inspired scholars, performers, composers, and artists to realize what remains according to varying creative urges and ideological preoccupations. This course examines the cultures of early music as well as their living legacies. Studying musical traditions from 1000 to 1600, we build a technical vocabulary for discussing music and seek to understand how historical change affects aesthetics, music-making, and listening from 1000 to the present. We also study the reception of medieval music—how it has been rejected, restored, recreated, and reimagined—to consider how "the medieval" is historically produced. No prior musical experience is required. Four-credit courses that meet for 150 minutes per week require three additional hours of class preparation per week on the part of the student in lieu of an additional hour of formal instruction.

Attribute: MVAM.

MVST 4654. Medieval London. (0 to 4 Credits)

This course draws on material and documentary sources to explore the townscape of medieval London-its wards, streets, and buildings- and the social life of its people, including their daily routines, work, and rituals. We will examine such documentary sources as chronicles, charters, and wills, along with material evidence from human skeletons, excavated houses and churches, coins pottery and clothing.

Attributes: HIMH, HIST, ICC.

MVST 4998. Study Tour: Medieval Spain. (4 Credits)

One of the great medieval pilgrimage routes, the Camino de Santiago crosses northern Spain from the passes of the Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostela. This study-tour will consider the legends of the Camino, some of its many surviving monuments, and the modern revival of the pilgrimage by walking for two weeks with the peregrinos/-as from Leon to Santiago de Compostela. This class will meet periodically at Fordham before the walk to discuss reading assignments and prepare. A journal is required at the end of the course. Fees and travel costs not included. Four-credit courses that meet for 150 minutes per week require three additional hours of class preparation per week on the part of the student in lieu of an additional hour of formal instruction.

Attributes: HIMH, HIST, HIUL, ICC, LALS, LAUH.

MVST 4999. Independent Study. (1 to 9 Credits)

Courses in Other Areas

The following courses offered outside the program have the MVST attribute and count toward the Medieval Studies major and minor:

Course Title Credits
AMCS 3535Building the Ideal City: Ethics and Economics Foundations of Realizable Utopias4
ANTH 3111New World Archaeology4
ARHI 2230Islamic Art4
ARHI 2250Ancient American Art4
ARHI 2320The Fall of Ancient Rome: A Material Culture Investigation4
ARHI 2341Medieval Desire and Devotion4
ARHI 2360Illuminated Manuscripts4
ARHI 2365Medieval Art and the Museum4
ARHI 3350Age of Cathedrals4
CLAS 3050Pagans and Christians4
CLAS 5050World of Late Antiquity: Introduction to History, Art, and Culture4
COLI 3010Politics and Poetry in the Middle Ages: The Rise of Vernacular Culture in the Mediterranean4
COLI 3031Medieval Monsters4
COLI 3123Surviving the Barbarians in Early Medieval Britain4
COLI 3135Irish and British High Medieval Literature: Connections and Comparisons4
COLI 3145Medieval Love in Comparison: Christian, Jewish, and Muslim Perspectives4
COLI 3146Science and Magic in Medieval Literature4
COLI 3440Arabic Literature in English Translation4
COLI 3535Building the Ideal City: Ethics and Economics Foundations of Realizable Utopias4
ENGL 3031Medieval Monsters4
ENGL 3100Medieval Literature4
ENGL 3102Medieval Drama4
ENGL 3103Early English Drama4
ENGL 3104Medieval English Blackness?4
ENGL 3107Chaucer4
ENGL 3109Arthurian Literature4
ENGL 3111Medieval Romance4
ENGL 3113Introduction to Old English4
ENGL 3114The (Medieval) Walking Dead4
ENGL 3115Medieval Women Writers4
ENGL 3121The Pearl Poet and His Book4
ENGL 3123Surviving the Barbarians in Early Medieval Britain4
ENGL 3125Beowulf in Old English4
ENGL 3127Dreams in Middle Ages4
ENGL 3131Medieval Tolerance and Intolerance4
ENGL 3134Love in the Middle Ages4
ENGL 3135Irish and British High Medieval Literature: Connections and Comparisons4
ENGL 3136Medieval Mystics4
ENGL 3140Myth of the Hero: Medieval Memory4
ENGL 3144Other Worlds4
ENGL 3145Medieval Love in Comparison: Christian, Jewish, and Muslim Perspectives4
ENGL 3146Science and Magic in Medieval Literature4
ENGL 3834History of the English Language4
ENGL 4005The Medieval Traveler4
ENGL 4096Hobbits/Heroes/Hubris4
ENGL 4141Death in the Middle Ages4
ENGL 4142Contemplating the Cloisters4
ENGL 4148Medieval Drama in Performance4
ENGL 4151Performing Medieval Drama4
FREN 3040Changing Climate, Changing Culture4
FREN 3100Medieval French Literature4
FREN 3103Medieval Other, Modern Ethics: Christians, Muslims, and Jews in Medieval France4
FREN 3225Hollywood's Holy Grail: Medieval French Literature on the Screen4
GERM 3057Medieval German Literature: Potions, Passions, Players, and Prayers4
GREK 1001Introduction to Greek I3
GREK 1002Introduction to Greek II3
GREK 1004Intensive Ancient Greek4
GREK 1501Intermediate Greek I3
GREK 2001Greek Language and Literature3
GREK 3211Greek Prose Composition4
GREK 5211Greek Prose Composition3
HIST 1300Understanding Historical Change: Medieval3
HIST 1750Understanding Historical Change: Islamic History and Culture3
HIST 1850Understanding Historical Change: Jews in the Ancient and Medieval World3
HIST 3012Medieval France4
HIST 3018Medieval Nobility: Love, War, and Devotion4
HIST 3145Medieval Barbarians4
HIST 3203Medieval Family Life4
HIST 3204Sex & Celibacy in the Middle Ages4
HIST 3205Medieval Medicine4
HIST 3207Late Medieval Religion and Society4
HIST 3208The Medieval Other4
HIST 3209The Origins of Christianity from the Apostles to the 4th Century4
HIST 3210King, Court, Crusade: Writing Knightly Life in the High Middle Ages4
HIST 3211Medieval Sin, Sinners, and Outcasts4
HIST 3212The History of Medieval Christianity4
HIST 3213Monsters, Magic, and the Undead in Medieval Europe4
HIST 3214Plagues and Peoples: Health and Disease in Medieval Europe4
HIST 3215Middle Ages and West4
HIST 3220Medieval Hollywood4
HIST 3260Medieval Ireland to 16914
HIST 3270The Crusades4
HIST 3301Medieval Women's Lives4
HIST 3305Medieval Warfare4
HIST 3364Environmental History of the Atlantic World, 1250-16504
HIST 3638Technology From Antiquity to Middle Ages4
HIST 3700Sickness and Health in Early Ma4
HIST 3983Apocalypticism and Messianism in Islamic Thought and History4
HIST 4007Medieval Autobiographies4
HIST 4308Antisemitism4
HIST 4654Medieval London4
HIST 4705Seminar: Disease in the Middle Ages4
HIST 4998Study Tour: Medieval Spain4
HIST 5204Medieval Environmental History4
HIST 6077The Angevin Empire4
ITAL 2800Italy and the Arts: Politics, Religion, and Imagination in Medieval and Renaissance Italy4
ITAL 3011Dante and His Age4
ITAL 3012Medieval Storytelling4
ITAL 4006Dante's Cosmos: Medieval Science, Theology, and Poetry in the Divina Commedia4
LATN 1001Introduction to Latin I3
LATN 1002Introduction to Latin II3
LATN 1004Intensive Latin4
LATN 1501Intermediate Latin I3
LATN 2001Latin Language and Literature3
LATN 3015Caesar's Commentaries4
LATN 3021Roman Love Poetry4
LATN 3041Ovid4
LATN 3045Livy4
LATN 3051Cicero's "De Oratore"4
LATN 3060Readings in Vergil4
LATN 3061Christian Latin4
LATN 3300Advanced Latin4
MLAL 3010Politics and Poetry in the Middle Ages: The Rise of Vernacular Culture in the Mediterranean4
MLAL 3057Medieval German Literature: Potions, Passions, Players, and Prayers4
MLAL 3203Dante and His Translators4
MLAL 3440Arabic Literature in English Translation4
MLAL 3535Building the Ideal City: Ethics and Economics Foundations of Realizable Utopias4
MLAL 3800Cloisters, Castles, and Kings: Medieval Bavaria4
MUSC 1303Collegium Musicum0-1
MUSC 3110Music Before 16004
MVST 3057Medieval German Literature: Potions, Passions, Players, and Prayers4
MVST 3535Building the Ideal City: Ethics and Economics Foundations of Realizable Utopias4
MVST 4010Medieval Franciscans and the Dream of a Just Economy4
PHIL 3520Philosophy of Aristotle4
PHIL 3525Philosophy of Plato4
PHIL 3530Philosophy After Constantine4
PHIL 3552Medieval Philosophy4
PHIL 3557Confessions of Augustine4
PHIL 3559Dante and Philosophy4
PHIL 3560Philosophy of Aquinas4
PHIL 3565Four Medieval Thinkers4
PHIL 3570Beauty in the Middle Ages4
PHIL 3591Medieval Political Philosophy4
PHIL 3910Shakespeare and Aquinas4
PHIL 4442Fantasy and Philosophy4
PHIL 4473War and Peace: Just War Theory4
SPAN 3540Spain and Islam4
THEA 4148Medieval Drama4
THEA 4151Performing Medieval Drama4
THEO 1006Sin and Salvation in Medieval Theology3
THEO 1050Syriac Language and Literature I3
THEO 3100Introduction to Old Testament3
THEO 3102Book of Genesis3
THEO 3105The Torah3
THEO 3120The Prophets3
THEO 3200Introduction to New Testament3
THEO 3207The First Three Gospels3
THEO 3212Gospel of John3
THEO 3310Early Christian Writings3
THEO 3314St. Augustine of Hippo3
THEO 3316Byzantine Christianity3
THEO 3320Augustine, Aquinas, and Luther3
THEO 3330Medieval Theology Texts3
THEO 3332Christians, Muslims, Jews in the Medieval Period3
THEO 3340Christian Mystical Texts3
THEO 3345The Book of Revelation3
THEO 3620Great Christian Hymns3
THEO 3711Sacred Texts of the Middle East3
THEO 3713Classic Jewish Texts3
THEO 3715Classic Islamic Texts3
THEO 3833Christian Thought and Practice II4
THEO 3849Eschatology4
THEO 3882Comparative Mysticism3
THEO 4420Early Christian Art in Context4
THEO 4430Sex, Gender, and Sexuality in Early Christianity4