Medieval and Renaissance Studies Minor

Are you fascinated by the Medieval and Renaissance periods and their continuing echoes in today’s society?

The medieval and renaissance studies minor is a flexible, multidisciplinary program that allows students to view these historical periods through the perspectives of seven core departments:

Throughout the academic year, seminars are organized and sponsored by the minor to assist students, faculty, and the larger community in acquiring a deeper understanding of issues rooted in the past that continue to resonate in our contemporary world.

Enhance Your Experience

The medieval and renaissance studies minor is a great fit with a variety of majors, including any of the core departments mentioned above, as well as education or theology.


Degree Requirements

A. Both of the following philosophy courses:

PH253 History of Ancient Philosophy: Thales – Aristotle (4 cr.)

This course, the first of four sequential courses in the history of philosophy, is a survey of Greek philosophy from its origins in the thought of Presocratic poets and philosophers to its later development in the dialogues of Plato and writings of Aristotle. Through the close reading of primary sources in their historical context and through a wide variety of other exercises, students gain an appreciation for the major texts, themes and problems that have shaped the Western philosophical tradition. Students also begin to develop a facility with the various tools and terms with which philosophers in the Western tradition have worked.

B. Two of the following literature courses:

E315 Christianity and Its Others (3 cr.)

In this course, students explore the advent and establishment of Christianity as the dominant mode of discourse in the Medieval and Early Modern periods of British Literature. This investigation hinges upon exposure to countercurrents which Christianity operated against as it established its primacy (such as paganism, Judaism, Islam), as well as to tensions within Christianity itself (heresies, humanism, patriarchy v. feminism, and the division between Catholicism and Protestantism). While the course thus is historical and cultural in its overall theme, the emphasis is on close reading and discussion of literary texts.

E316 From Romance to Epic (3 cr.)

In this course students explore the development of medieval British Romance especially from its Celtic and French origins, then proceed to examine Spenser's fusion of romance with epic in the context of the rising vogue of the epic in the Early Modern period, and conclude in a sustained engagement with Milton's Paradise Lost. The course focuses on the development of these two genres, but with attention to the cultural context in which the texts to be explored were produced.

E333 Shakespeare (3 cr.)

This course focuses on a representative group of Shakespeare's sonnets, comedies, histories, and tragedies. Emphasis is placed on close reading of the plays, with the intention of exploring some of Shakespeare's most pressing issues, including love, nature, death, dreams, relationships between parents and children, gender roles, freedom of the will, and reality itself. The course also address the cultural milieu out of which the texts were generated; the meaning of the terms "comedy", "history", and "tragedy"; and the relationship of the written plays to modern adaptations.

C. Two of the following history courses:

H321 From Romanitas to Vikings: The Early Middle Ages (3 cr.)

The first half of a two-semester course sequence that covers the period of history from the later Roman Empire to the demise of the Carolingian Empire.  The course is organized around two ideas.  The first is the creation of Western civilization out of three distinct traditions:  the Greco-Roman, the Judeo-Christian, and the Germanic.  Thus, the early Middle Ages were a time of intense change as this amalgam took centuries to develop.  The second idea is persistence, for example, of the Latin language and the idea of the Roman Empire.  Both ideas reach a temporary synthesis in the guise of Charlemagne, a Frank who is crowned as Emperor of the Romans by the pope.  At the same time the Vikings and the Arabs represent significant challenges to Romanitas or Romanness, and accelerate the internal divisions that undermined the Carolingian monasticism, the creation of barbarian kingdom, the development of the early Byzantine Empire, and the growth of a feudal society.  These topics are explored in particular by close readings of primary sources.

H322 The Age of Holy War and Reason: The High Middle Ages (3 cr.)

The second half of a two-semester course that covers the period of history from approximately 1000 to approximately 1400.  Out of the chaos of the tenth century emerged a mature medieval civilization that still exhibited some paradoxical tendencies.  These include the emergence of the concept of Holy War or Crusade under the leadership of a reformed papacy together with a vigorous revival of classical culture that culminated in the scholastic synthesis.  Other topics include feudal monarchy, chivalry, the revival of towns, and the establishment of the mendicant orders of Franciscans and Dominicans, culminating in the disasters of war, plague, and revolt that mark the fourteenth century and that foretold the end of the Middle Ages.  These topics are explored in particular by close readings of primary sources.

H332 Art, Assassination, and the Individual: The Renaissance (3 cr.)

The Renaissance refers to the greatest outpouring of art in the history of Western civilization.  It also refers to extreme political violence in Italy where war and assassination were regular parts of politics.  The Renaissance was distinguished by a spate of memorable individuals such as Petrarch, Lorenzo de' Medici, and Pope Julius II.  The Renaissance was a time of great religiosity personified by saints such as Catherine of Siena, but also a corruption that pervaded the institutional Church at its highest levels.  All of this happened within the remarkable revival of classical culture and humanism and new theories of education and learning.  Emphasis will be placed on the reading of important Renaissance texts by authors such as Niccolo Machiavelli, and Thomas More.

D. The following course:

MR400 Minor Integration (1 cr.)

Students research and write an integrative paper based on some common feature(s) of Medieval and/or Renaissance culture encountered in their coursework. Students make presentations to faculty and peers based on their paper. Students must complete at least 13 credits of the minor and at least one course in each of areas A, B and C before taking this course.

E. Seminars:

  • Required attendance at three Medieval and Renaissance faculty seminar presentations and completion of a seminar essay.