First Year Program - Medieval and Renaissance Studies Skip Navigation

Medieval and Renaissance Studies (MARS)

Director: L. Staley

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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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.

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'i 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.