First Year Program - Medieval and Renaissance Studies Skip Navigation

Medieval and Renaissance Studies (MARS)

Director: C. Guile

The Medieval and Renaissance studies minor (MARS) enables students to explore the richness and variety of civilization from the late Roman era through the Renaissance and Reformation. Broadly interdisciplinary, it is intended as a supplement to traditional majors. Spanning the humanities and social sciences, MARS covers history, art, literature, music, philosophy, science, and religion from the 4th to the 17th centuries.

Chronological parameters define the Middle Ages as beginning with the rise of Christianity in the 4th-century Roman Empire. The Renaissance encompasses the humanism of 15th-century Italy, the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century, and its aftermath in the 17th-century Counter-Reformation. Due to the difficulty of assigning absolute chronological limits to these diverse periods, some courses necessarily include material that crosses these boundaries; moreover, the emphasis in MARS is on creating interdisciplinary bridges across the curriculum, and the program is structured in a way that encourages students to explore a cross section of traditional fields. To this end, MARS courses can center on a topic area proposed by the student and agreed upon in consultation with a faculty adviser. However, courses in the minor should complement each other.

Students may elect to minor in either the medieval or Renaissance period or in a combination of both. In order to declare a minor, prospective students must write a statement of purpose (at least one page), explaining how the choice of courses in their minor will coalesce. This should normally be submitted to the program director by the spring term of the junior year. In order to take full advantage of course offerings and advising, students are urged to enroll in the program as early as possible in their undergraduate career. MARS students also have the opportunity to study at Oxford University for a term.


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ARTS 216, Nature's Mirror: Art 1400-1550
Considers painting and sculpture of Europe ca. 1400–1550, examining major artists and regional practices within their social, political, and cultural settings. Themes include the development of linear perspective, the inheritance and interpretation of classical tradition, technologies of art, Renaissance “self-fashioning,” and narrative strategy as approached through visual analysis, primary source readings, and recent critical literature.

ENGL 200, Major British Writers
Works by prominent British writers, from Geoffrey Chaucer in the fourteenth century to Seamus Heaney in the twenty-first. The course emphasizes the development of reading and analytical skills. Required of all majors, normally in their first or sophomore year.

FSEM 161, Major British Writers
Faculty Profile for Professor Staley

This seminar is designed to introduce students to the major works of English literature, to prepare students in the techniques of literary analysis, and to offer a survey of British poetic traditions from the Anglo-Saxon period through the 20th Century, a sense of the history of poetic authority, language, and endeavor. The course involves readings, discussion, and writing.

Though Major British Writers is the gateway course to the English major, required of all majors and intended to be taken in the first or second year, it is not simply a course for potential English majors but for anyone who would like the opportunity to explore major works by major authors such as Geoffrey Chaucer, William Shakespeare, Alexander Pope, William Blake, William Wordsworth, Lord Byron, and Robert Browning. Students who successfully complete this seminar will receive course credit for ENGL 200 and satisfy one half of the Human Thought and Expression area of inquiry requirement.

Lynn Staley, professor of English, teaches courses in English literature. Her specialty is medieval literature, medieval women writers, and medieval culture.

LATN 121, Elementary Latin I
The first semester of an introductory study of the elements of the Latin language. A thorough and methodical approach to the basics is supplemented, as students progress, by selected readings of works by ancient authors.

RELG 282, Islamic Traditions
Conceives of Islam as a cumulative tradition beginning with the event of the Qur'an and the paradigmatic example of Prophet Muhammad. The unfolding of this religious tradition is traced through the formation of Shi'a and Sunni schools of Islamic thought, the schools of law, the subtleties of Islamic mysticism, nuances of philosophical thought, and creative artistic expression in the form of calligraphy, music, and poetry. Concludes with two sections: an overview of the multi-faceted responses of Muslims to the challenges of modernity and post-colonialism, and the contemporary debates about the status of Muslim women and their self-understandings.

SPAN 351, SpanLit: Knights & Troubadours
Offers an introduction to Spanish literature from its medieval origins through the 15th century, with emphasis on the relations among literature, culture, and civilization. Works from different genres are studied, including epic poetry, Hispano-Arabic poetry, folk ballads, early theater, historical works, and short stories. Students explore issues of authorship, as well as the cultural, religious, and historical contexts that produced each work. Language Placement Guidelines