Fall 2019 (Deactivations ONLY)
Discover the Middle Ages
This course offers a broad introduction to the history of medieval Europe roughly from the fourth century CE, when Roman civilization faced a series of crises that led to its eventual fall in the West and ushered in the Middle Ages, to the sixteenth century, when European society entered a new early-modern phase. As this is a long period, we will focus on themes that will help us explore some of the most important historical problems related to the period: why was it that a sophisticated and militarily superior Roman empire could fall to "barbarians"? How did political power transform into a feudal model? What did it mean to be a medeival knight? The Middle Ages are known as "an age of faith" but, at the same time, it was an age of questioning that invented the modern university--what roles did faith and knowledge play in the medieval world? It was also a time where many cultures, races and religions came into contact, both at home and in efforts at exploration and conquest. How did medieval culture handle difference, and how did that influence early-modern and even modern approaches? The class will involve a mixture of lecture and discussion, and will include visits to local museum and manuscript collections to provide students first-hand contact with the visual and material culture of medieval Europe.
Every Other Term
Your department or program fields a variety of courses to meet distinct educational needs. Please explain how this course fits into your department's plan for participating in the general education curriculum of the College. The sector panel will want to know what is distinctive about this course along with the other courses your department lists in the sector that makes them suitable for the sector requirement.
This course serves as a gateway course to medieval history that aims to complicate and challenge the conventional European civilization narrative our students had from high school/AP history courses. The middle ages are not just about faith but also about questioning and exploring. We believe students will take this course and gain a critical view on their historical heritage.
One-term course offered either term
History & Tradition Sector
This is an introductory course to the history of Europe from the fifth to the fifteenth century CE. I will be applying to place it in the general education curriculum, in the History and Tradition sector.
Students will be introduced to a formative period in European history. The intellectual skills the course emphasizes are both oral and written, with a focus on the interpretation of texts, critical thinking, and clear expression and argumentation.
Two papers, six to eight pages each.
One midterm and one final examination. Both include term identifications, primary-source passage identifications and a thematic assessment essay.
Students are also evaluated for participation in discussion.
Sector II - History and Tradition
The class readings are based on a textbook and a variety of primary sources. Indeed, the focus of this class primary-source interpretation. Half of each day of class is reserved for discussion of these sources, and evaluation is also bases on a close reading of primary sources.
Some context will be provided both by lectures and a textbook, but it is really through a comparison of the sources themselves that they will be most able to see their place in history and society.
Half of each class is reserved for the discussion of sources. We discuss specific passages as well as larger themes, navigating between the specific and general as we go along.
I provide much visual material in lecture to help students imagine the medieval world. We interpret illuminations and material objects together throughout the semester. We also go visit the Penn Museum and Penn's manuscript collection.
Students have two paper assignments. Also, both the midterm and final exam involve essay questions that demand wide-ranging and comprehensive interpretation.
As the course covers the very long period from the fifth to the fifteenth centuries, its essence is the analysis of change over time from late antiquity, to the early medieval world (once known as the "Dark Ages"), to the high medieval "renaissance", to the crises of the fourteenth century and finally setting the stage for the early-modern world.
The course does this on may levels. It addresses periodization, historiography and narratives of pre-modernity and modernity. We also look overtly at medieval constructions of knowledge, for instance, faith, the university, time, space and geography. We study how these change over the thousand year history of the period.