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Graduate Courses

The wide variety of research interests among the faculty participating in the Center for Medieval Studies results in an array of courses available to graduate students in the program. Find out more about current course offerings below as well as upcoming and past courses from the links on the left.

Notice: The Modern Languages and Literatures Department administers Foreign Language Proficiency Assessments for enrolled, degree-seeking graduate students who have a foreign language proficiency requirement as part of their degree program. The assessments are offered as an alternative to coursework (5090 and 5001-5002 reading courses) for those students who have reading proficiency in a language but may not have a documented means of showing it.

Assessments are offered in French, German, Italian and Spanish (they may also be offered in Arabic, Mandarin Chinese and Russian, depending on availability). Assessments are offered twice each semester and once in the summer. Please contact Ms. Maria Totino at or 718-817-2651 for further information.

Spring 2021 | Upcoming Courses | Past Courses

MVST 5050 World of Late Antiquity: Introduction to History, Art, and Culture (4 credit)
M 4:15–6:15 p.m.
Instructor: Cristiana Sogno

This course offers an introduction to the history, art and culture of the Late Antique world from the third to the sixth century. We will explore the older narratives of decline in this period alongside powerful alternatives proposed by scholars more recently, drawing on both primary sources and monuments and critically examining the secondary literature that studies them. 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.

MLAL 5002 Graduate Reading in German II (0 credit)
TF 11:30–12:45 p.m.
Instructor: Susanne Hafner

HIST 6135 Medieval Conflict & Peacemaking (4 credit)
R 5:30–8:00 p.m.
Instructor: Wolfgang Mueller

In the Early Middle Ages (500-1050), judges presiding over courts in the modern sense of the word did not exist in the Latin West.  Written laws were not implemented from above, and disputes involved feuding and voluntary forms of mediation.  The facts of a case were investigated not through painstaking reconstruction of the incriminating event, but rather by way of collective oaths and duels.  Another type of proof was the hot-iron ordeal, in which defendants placed their hand in a pot of boiling water to have guilt or innocence determined by the healing process.  The course will provide a forum for the discussion of recent historiography on the subject.  It will explore what it was that made these forms of peaceful conflict resolution ‘rational’ and reasonable in the eyes of contemporaries.  Fundamental change occurred in the later Middle Ages when new groups in society started to oppose feuding and ordeals, increasingly limiting their use to nobles living in the countryside. 

HIST 8056 Seminar: Medieval Political Cultures (4 credit)
T 2:30–5:00 p.m.
Instructor: Nicholas Paul

In the Spring semester component of the seminar sequence, students work on final projects based on topics identified in the Fall. These projects are intended to be sustained, original research papers of publishable quality. Class meetings will be devoted to honing research, writing, and presentation skills. All aspects of the writing process will be discussed, and students will have opportunities to read and critique each other’s writing. The course will conclude with a mini-conference allowing students to present their work before an audience of other scholars.

PHIL 7012 Plato’s Dialogues (3 credit)
T 2:15–4:15
Instructor: Dana Miller

By most counts, Plato wrote 28 dialogues that are recognized as genuine. These dialogues vary greatly in length, content, and approximate time of composition. Most people, including philosophers, have an acquaintance with only a few of these dialogues, for instance, the Phaedo, Meno, Apology, and Republic, all of which probably belong to one period of Plato’s writing. An accurate understanding of Plato’s philosophy must be based on the study of his entire philosophical corpus. This might be said of any philosopher, but Plato is unique because he never reveals what his own philosophical commitments are. We need all the help we can get to understand him. It would be impossible to study all 28 dialogues in one semester. The Laws, for instance, are 339 tedious Stephanus pages long. It is assumed that some dialogues are familiar to students. The course will therefore cover as many unfamiliar but nevertheless important dialogues as possible from all periods of Plato’s writing. The general content and purpose of each dialogue will be debated, and then central, especially significant passages will be discussed in some detail with the help of secondary literature. Student involvement with what will be covered and how to interpret it is expected.

PHIL 7069 Medieval Logic and Metaphysics (3 credit)
F 12:00–2:00 p.m. 
Instructor: Gyula Klima

This seminar is going to approach medieval logic and metaphysics not as a piece of history, but as genuine philosophy, to be taken seriously by a contemporary philosopher. The course is going to present an extended argument to show that if medieval metaphysical notions are reconstructed against their proper theoretical background (supplied by the sophisticated logical theories of the medievals, as opposed to modern analytic theories or vague historical intuitions), then they can provide us with a comprehensive, unified conceptual framework for discussing our genuine concerns which is unmatched in our fragmented “post-modern” culture. Although this course is primarily offered for philosophers, philosophically-minded medievalists and theologians may profit from it as well, especially if they are interested in tackling the logical subtleties of medieval metaphysical and theological discussions, No previous training in modern (or traditional) logic will be assumed. Main topics of discussion include: meaning (signification) and reference (supposition) in medieval logic; universals and common natures; mental language; nominalism, realism and ontological commitment; the concept of being and theories of the copula; the existence and essence of God; the immateriality of the intellective soul and the hylomorphic mereology of human nature; essentialism, nominalism and skepticism in late-medieval philosophy.

THEO 6196 Early Christian Ritual (3 credit)
R 9:00–11:30 a.m.
Instructor: Michael Peppard

This graduate seminar surveys the evidence for ritual practices in the first four centuries of Christianity. Through engagement with primary sources and theoretical literature on ritual and identity formation, we will explore what can be known about early Christian practices and interrogate our means of knowing it. Much of the course will focus on the foundational rituals of initiation and Eucharist and their diverse interpretations in ancient sources, but other topics will be covered as time allows. We follow a comparative and regional approach to evidence from Syria, Jerusalem, Egypt, North Africa, Italy, etc. Prior study of New Testament or early Christian history will be presumed, but students will have diverse ancient language preparation (or none at all).

THEO 6426 St. Augustine of Hippo (3 credit)
T 4:00–6:30 p.m.
Instructor: Joseph Lienhard

The goal of this course is a critical understanding and appreciation of the life, writings, and thought of St. Augustine. The means to this goal is a guided reading and analysis of some of his writings and, secondarily, of some modern books about him. The following works will be read in their entirety: the Confessions, Soliloquies, On the Free Choice of the Will, Faith and the Creed, On Christian Doctrine, and On the Spirit and the Letter. The class will also read To Simplician I, selections from On the Trinity, and other texts from Augustine’s writings on the questions of grace, free choice, original sin, freedom, and predestination.

Summer I 2021

MVST 5311 Arthurian Literature (4 credit)
TR 1:00-4:00 p.m.
Instructor: Susanne Hafner

This seminar will provide an overview over Arthurian romance themes and adaptations in Europe. Chrétien de Troyes may not have written the very first chivalric romance, but he was the pioneer who defined the genre and created the texts which would set the standard for centuries to come. The central role which Chrétien’s œuvre occupied in the French-speaking world is reflected in a wave of adaptations into many other vernacular languages, set off almost instantly and covering all of medieval Europe.
In this class, we will focus on three literary traditions: the Yvain, Tristan and Perceval stories in their early Old French versions as well as their Middle High German, Middle English, and Old Norse adaptations. The degree to which these translations try to recreate their sources’ original content varies greatly and is determined by a nexus of cultural, political and social factors which we will examine in some detail. Students are expected to read the Middle English versions in well-annotated editions. All other texts can be prepared in English translation while some of the class time will be dedicated to closely reading some crucial passages in the original vernacular languages. Additional texts in other languages (Italian, Latin), in post-medieval renditions (e.g. T.S. Eliot’s Wasteland or Richard Wagner’s Parsifal), other media (films, opera, musicals), and material culture (frescoes, tapestries, book illuminations etc) will be determined based on the interest of the seminar participants.
In addition, we will make use of the rich resources which New York City has to offer and explore some of the spectacular Arthurian artefacts housed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Cloisters and the J. P. Morgan Museum and Library – online if necessary, on site if possible.

LATN 5090  Latin for Reading (0 credit)
Instructor: Matthew McGowan

Summer II 2021

LATN 5093 Ecclesiastical Latin (3 credit)
Instructor: Matthew McGowan