Liberal Arts 200B. Culture and Expression: Middle Ages and Renaissance


Candace Gregory-Abbott                                                                 T 5:30 ­ 8:30                                                                                                                                      Office: TAH 3059

Email:                                                             Tel# 278-3824

Homepage:                                  Office Hrs: T 3-4:30

R 10:30-11:30 and by appt.


Course Content and Objectives


Liberal Arts 200B is an interdisciplinary seminar on cultural movements, figures, and art forms of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Focus is on the West with some global comparison. Emphasis is on theoretical perspectives, methods, and research techniques germane to the liberal arts.


Learning Objectives:

1.     Be conversant as to the dates and basic cultural aspects of all of the European Middle Ages and Renaissance.

2.     Illustrate general knowledge of the cultural movements, important figures, and significant art forms of each era, along with sophisticated knowledge of such pertaining to the era(s) of each studentıs special interests.

3.     Be familiar enough with the corpus of primary texts and works of art to know whence comes the general academic understanding of the cultural history of these eras.

4.     Be conversant in the relevant major scholars and their theoretical perspectives.

5.     Be practiced in the techniques of graduate-level research in the liberal arts, particularly with regard to subjects in the medieval period and Renaissance.


Required Texts

Judith Herrin, The Formation of Christendom

Beowulf (trans. Seamus Heaney)

Song of Roland

Chretien de Troyes, Arthurian Romances

Castiglione, Book of the Courtier

Shakespeare, King Lear

Earsmus, Praise of Folly

Marlowe, Doctor Faustus.


Course Format

The course will consist of mainly of seminar discussions of readings and of the visual arts, together with some presentation of research by students.


Course Requirements and Student Evaluation


In addition to the completion of all reading assignments by the dates assigned, formal requirements and their correlative grade percentages consist of the following:

1.     Regular attendance and fruitful contribution to class discussions; inadequacy in these areas will potentially affect course grades. 30%.


Part of participation includes being prepared each class night to start the discussion. For each nightıs reading, select one passage / quote (no more than a page, but longer than a single sentence) to present to the class. I will call on students randomly over the semester to begin discussion by presenting their quote. You may be called on more than once over the course of the semester. Thus, it is important that you be prepared every night to present your quote.


2.     Several short response papers to assigned readings, designed to enhance the quality of both readings and discussions. 40%. You will select four books and write a five-page paper on each of them.

3.     A longer paper focusing on a topic of each studentıs choice. 17-20 pages each. 30%.


Semester Outline


Week 1                       29 January     Course Introduction


Week 2                       5 February     Byzantium

From late antiquity to the Middle Ages.

Readings:          Boethius, Consolation of Philosophy, excerpts

                        Begin reading Formation of Christendom, Parts I and II


Week 2                       12 February   Anglo Saxons

                        Germanic / Christian / Roman fusion.

                        Readings:          Beowulf


Week 3                       19 February   Islam

The rise of Islam. Islamic culture in comparative perspective: Abbasid Spain, Mogul India.

Readings:          Qurıan, excerpts

                        Discussion of Formation of Christiandom


Week 4                       26 February   Carolingians

Art and literature in the age of Charlemagne. Romanesque architecture.

Readings:          Song of Roland


Week 5                       4 March          Chivalry

Feudalism. Chivalry. The literary tradition of King Arthur and the Knights of

the Round Table.

Readings:          Chretien de Troyes, Arthurian Romances.


Paper Topics Due.


Week 7                       11 March        The Crusades

East meets west. The Crusades. Crusader architecture and music.



Week 8                       18 March        High Middle Ages

The High Middle Ages. Gothic architecture. Scholasticism.

Readings:          Peter Abelard, Sic et Non, excerpts.

                                                Moses Maimonides, Guide for the Perplexed, excerpts


Week 9                      25 March Fourteenth Century

                        Black Death and the Hundred Years War. The early Renaissance. The art of Giotto.

                        Readings:          Francois Villon, The Poems of Francois Villon on reserve


                                                ³Ballad: I die of thirst beside the fountain²

                                                ³The Debate Between Villon and His Heart²


Christine de Pisan,
Ditie de Jehanne dıArc, on reserve

                                                Or at


                        1 April            Spring Break


Week 10         8 April            Early Renaissance

                        Literary achievements of the early Renaissance: Francesco Petrarch, Geoffrey Chaucer.

                        Readings: Boccaccio, Griselda, on reserve

                        Or at

                        NB: Griselda is the last full tale of the text, 10th day, 10th Story

                        Francesco Petrarch, on reserve

                        Letter to Boccaccio and Griselda

                        Or at


                        Geoffrey Chaucer

                        Clerkıs Tale: Griselda, on reserve,

                        Or at

                        Legend of Good Women, on reserve

                        Or at

                        Parliament of Fowls, on reserve

                        Or at


Week 11         15 April          Renaissance humanism.

Reading:          Erasmus, Praise of Folly


Week 12         22 April                      High Renaissance

The Italian High Renaissance. Italian masters: Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Michelangelo, Titian.

Readings:          Cunningham / Reich, Chapter 13

                        Castiglione, Book of the Courtier


Week 13         29 April          Renaissance in the North

The Northern Renaissance. Art of Albrecht Durer. Jan van Eyck, Hieronymus

Bosch, and the writings of Martin Bucer and Thomas More.

Readings:          Thomas More, Utopia, excerpts

                        Christopher Marlowe, Doctor Faustus

6 May              No Class



Week 14         13 April          Shakespeare and Elizabethan England.

Readings:          William Shakespeare, King Lear