Medieval and Renaissance Option

2020 Curriculum

This option is an interdisciplinary study of the religion, literature, art and history of Europe in the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Classroom study and European travel combine to provide a stimulating and integrated approach to the rich cultural diversity of Europe. In Europe, students will be taught by European faculty. The program is designed to appeal to students with a particular interest in the humanities. A total of 18 credits is possible for the successful completion of this option. All courses are approved as meeting major, general or foundational degree requirements in the appropriate department or division as noted.

  1. At Rhodes College or the University of the South: three weeks
  2. At Oxford University, Lincoln College: six weeks (Optional mid-term weekend in Dublin. Its cost is additional to the fees for the program.)
  3. Travel throughout Continental Europe and in London: five weeks

Part I: The University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee. July 12 to 31.

This section provides both an introduction and a background for the remainder of the semester by approaching the medieval period from a historical and religious point of view.

History/Religion: (1 course, 4 credit hours) G3/G4 Credit

History and Religion in Medieval Europe.

This course is intended to introduce students to the history of Europe in the Middle Ages, from about 500 to 1500 CE, and particularly to the rise of Christianity as a world religion within the Roman Empire, including its interaction with medieval Judaism and emerging Islam. The course combines the study of religion with that of history, since one of the features of the Middle Ages was the inextricability of religion from politics, society, and culture.

  • Gail P.C. Streete, B.A., M.A., M.L.S., University at Buffalo, New York; M.Phil., Ph.D., Drew University. Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies, Rhodes College.
  • Benjamin Graham, Ph.D., University of Michigan. Assistant Professor of History, University of Memphis.

Part II: Lincoln College, Oxford University. August 15 to September 26.

This central portion of the program uses classroom study to build on the material taught in Part I. Students take three courses; each is six weeks long and divided into two parts:

Art History: (1 course, 4 credit hours) G2 Credit

Part I: The Art of Western Europe in the Middle Ages

This course provides a broad-based, chronological survey of the art and architecture of Western Europe in the Middle Ages from the early fourth century to c. 1400. It introduces many of the themes and works of art that will be explored on-site during the Continental tour. Lectures will trace the general development of style throughout the period as well as focusing on individual buildings, manuscripts, sculpture, metalwork or paintings as case studies of technique or patronage set within their historical contexts. A visit to the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, will enable students to view at first hand medieval objects studied in the course, in award-winning exhibition spaces that were opened in 2009.

  • Sally Dormer, B.A., University of Durham; M.A., Ph.D., University of London, Courtauld Institute of Art. Dean of the Program.

Part II: The Art of Western Europe in the Renaissance

This course provides a general survey of the art, architecture and sculpture of the Renaissance in Europe during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. It begins with an introduction to the Renaissance, and then considers some of the key challenges facing art historians who study this period. The course is arranged thematically to consider a broad range of issues such as art patronage, the function of images, and the development of the Classical tradition in Italy, all of which are fundamental to our understanding of Renaissance art. Students will be introduced to some of the key stylistic developments, including genres of painting such as portraits and landscape, secular art, and the concept of Mannerism. Particular emphasis is given to the artistic achievements of Florence, Rome, Venice, the Netherlands and Germany.

  • Caroline Brooke, B.A., University of London, Birkbeck College; Ph.D., forthcoming, University of London, Birkbeck College. Freelance tutor for National Gallery, London.

Literature: (1 course, 4 credit hours)

Part I: King Arthur and the Literature of Medieval Europe

This course explores the history of the literary preoccupation with one of the most famous medieval heroes, King Arthur. It will consider the progress of Arthurian writings, which move from describing a relatively obscure chieftain to focusing on Arthur as a powerful king. Among the questions asked: why are tales of Arthur so popular? Do the adventures of the great knights of the Round Table illustrate values of medieval chivalry? What caused the downfall of Arthur’s court, and why does the legend of Camelot continue to influence modern authors and film-makers? The course begins with a study of the earliest story of Arthur in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain and then considers the treatment of the legend in French literature with a focus on the 12th century works of Chrétien de Troyes. Further discussion deals with the vivid evocation of Arthur’s realm created by Thomas Malory in his Morte d’Arthur, and with the vexed representation of Arthur and his symbolic role in British history after the Reformation and into the early modern period. The course concludes with a consideration of the enduring popularity of the story of Arthur in the modern period in both literary and film adaptations.

  • Anna Caughey, B.A., University of Melbourne; M.A., D.Phil., Oxford University. Formerly Fellow in Old and Middle English, Keble College, Oxford University

Part II: Shakespeare and the Elizabethan Theatre

This course will study eight plays written by Shakespeare and his contemporaries, Christopher Marlowe, Ben Jonson, Thomas Middleton and William Rowley. Five of the plays were composed by Shakespeare, three by other playwrights who were equally well known to audiences of the time. Five of the plays were first performed during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, three were written after she had died. Between them they span nearly 35 years of theatrical experience on the London stage between about 1587 and 1622, and include comedies, history plays, and tragedies. Settings range from England and France to Spain, Italy and the Mediterranean world more generally, and in time from the Roman Empire through the Middle Ages and up to the period contemporary with the playwrights. Interludes will offer opportunities to present selected scenes from the plays in dramatized staging. The course aims to introduce different ways of reading Elizabethan and Jacobean plays that are both interesting and challenging. The course will also endeavor to introduce the beliefs, literary fashions and principles which inform the artistry of the plays considered.

  • Glenn Black, M.A., D.Phil., Oxford University. Emeritus Fellow and Senior tutor in English, Oriel College, Oxford University.
History: (1 course, 2 credit hours)

Part I: Social and Political Life in the Late Middle Ages

This course aims to familiarize students with a seminal period in the history of modern Britain and North America: England between 1350 and 1500, a period at the end of which the first voyages to the New World occurred. It will introduce lively debates on the Black Death and its consequences, the apparent decline in population and the controversial question of whether this implied a better standard of living for the survivors; the nature of monarchy and the state, including the effect of England’s attempt to conquer France in the Hundred Years’ War, and the conditions in which parliament and other representative institutions could take root; and the origins of religious dissent in the Lollard movement. It also aims to give students a taste of the first distinctive literature in English, the work of Chaucer and his contemporaries, and of other primary source materials, such as the Paston Letters, which give a unique insight into the lifestyle of the age. Oxford offers some of the most remarkable buildings of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, which include monuments such as New College chapel and surviving ordinary houses like Tackley’s Inn. The course will include visits to some of these sites.

  • Sam Lane, B.A., MSt., D.Phil., Oxford University. Lecturer in History Brasenose College and Christ Church, Oxford University.

Part II: Europe in the Renaissance

This course focusses on various aspects of the social, political and religious history of 16th-century Europe. Students begin by studying Tudor England, considering topics such as Henry VIII and Parliament, Henrician government and related societal issues. Religion before, during and after the Reformation constitutes a core element of the course with opportunities to explore continuity and change in patterns of belief. Continental Europe provides the focus for the latter part of the course, with emphasis upon the development of Humanism, the formation of states and communities, and the Valois and Habsburg dynasties.

  • Leslie Mitchell, M.A., D.Phil., Oxford University. Emeritus Fellow and tutor in History, University College, Oxford University.

The program also includes evening talks by distinguished British speakers and visits to places of particular interest and relevance to course study.

Part III: Great Cities of Western Europe, September 26 to October 29.

A five-week study tour concentrating on the artistic treasures and monuments of Western Europe’s greatest cities. In France: Paris, Chartres, Romanesque and Gothic sites of Burgundy (Dijon, Beaune, Vezelay, Fontenay, and Autun). In Italy: Rome, Siena, Florence, Padua, Venice and Ravenna. The tour returns across the Alps to Munich, Nürnberg, Bamberg and Aachen in Germany, and then travels via Bruges and Ghent in Belgium, to conclude in London.

Art History: (1 course, 4 credit hours)

The Artistic Centers of Western Europe, their Art and Architecture, Museums and Monuments

  • Giulia Weston, B.A., M.A., Sapienza University, Rome; Ph.D., University of London, Courtauld Institute of Art. Lecturer Courtauld Institute.

CREDIT. For satisfactory completion of the fourteen-week semester and all academic requirements, Rhodes College and the University of the South offer eighteen hours of credit: eight in Art History, four in English Literature, two in History, and a choice of either an additional four in History or four in Religion.