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Current Courses

Here be the current term's graduate-level MEMS courses with descriptions. Additional 400-level courses may be found via the undergrad/current courses links.

MEMS Graduate Courses Winter 2020

* Please note: Upper-level undergraduate courses are open to graduate students by permission.

English 630. The Sensational Renaissance. Mike Schoenfeldt

This class will focus on a range of works exploring the ethical meanings that are lavished on various forms of sensation in the English Renaissance. We will be particularly interested in the sensations of pain and pleasure, and will focus on works that challenge the premium on pain and suffering pervading so much of western Christian culture. By interrogating the privileged status of the expression of suffering, we will challenge those traditions of Christian morality that make self-renunciation and the denial of pleasure into necessary conditions for salvation. We will look at the various ways that early modern writers attempt to make sense of pain and pleasure, these profoundly different but acutely related sensations. And we will not ignore the peculiar pleasures we experience in formally accomplished texts dedicated to the frustrated desires, haunted hearts, and immense pains of others. We will read in a wide range of genres, including lyric, epic, drama, and fantasy. Writers to be studied include Wyatt, Petrarch, Wyatt, More, Spenser, Shakespeare, Donne, Herbert, Wroth, Lanyer, Milton, Cavendish, Rochester, and Philips. Attending to the literary record of the pains and glories of mortal flesh, we will look at how early modern England writers created models for articulating and cultivating inner sensation

English 641 / MEMS 611. Medieval Romance. Cathy Sanok

This course offers both a survey of medieval romance and an introduction to a range of current critical approaches to medieval literature. Romance is a capacious category in medieval narrative culture; it includes retellings of myth (e.g. Sir Orfeo, the Orpheus legend retold with a fairy underworld), historical fiction (e.g. Siege of Jerusalem), stories of religious and cultural contact (e.g. King of Tars; Alexander romances), and a range of Arthurian stories with that explore various conjunctions of sovereignty and sexuality (Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnelle).

In part because of its thematic range and the many different kinds of sources and genres on which it draws, romance has often served as a bellwether text-type for critical approaches to medieval literary culture as a whole. Our primary readings will serve as a forum for exploring recent approaches

to gender and sexuality, race, affect, cultural geography, premodern technologies, and temporalities, as well as touchstone theoretical texts (Bahktin, Frye, Jameson, Parker). We will read widely in the Middle English tradition, with opportunities for students working on later literary traditions and/or romance in other linguistic traditions to develop bibliographies and projects that align with their own areas of inquiry.

History 642. Readings in Premodern European History.  Kit French

This course explores the ways that the recent turn toward global perspectives in historical research and pedagogy have changed the way we think of “pre-modern European” history. In the past few decades, the conventional narratives that long served to connect the broader strands of medieval and Early Modern European history—“dark ages,” “feudalism,” “rise of the Western Church” “overseas expansion,” “Renaissance” and “Reformation”—have come under sustained criticism. In the process, Europe’s place in world history has evolved, and historians no longer think of Europe as the cradle of a universal history, but rather as one global region among others. What do these developments mean for how we study pre-modern European history? Should we look for new narratives to replace those that no longer seem as relevant? How does a more nuanced vision of pre-modern Europe’s past change what we think of Europe and the challenges it faces in the present?

Italian 533. Dante's Divine Comedy. Karla Mallette

Dante’s Divine Comedy is a poem and more than a poem: an encyclopedia of accumulated human knowledge of this world and the next at the close of the Middle Ages and the beginning of the Renaissance; the story of a single man’s life; a daring and deeply thoughtful meditation on the relationship between human beings and God. It is an autobiography, an epic, and a work of science fiction. In this course, we study the three canticles of the Comedy - the Inferno, the Purgatory, and the Paradise - in the context of medieval culture and modern literature, in order to understand Dante's creation and make sense of it in modern terms. No knowledge of Italian necessary.  Assignments for grad students are designed on a case by case basis, taking into consideration your research interests and languages.

LATIN 436/MEMS 449. Postclassical Latin. Donka Markus

The prereq is two years of college Latin or equivalent.

MUSICOLOGY 643 / 506.001. The Castrato. Louise Stein

This research seminar is focused on the history of the castrato singer, on the stage, in the chamber, and in choirs from the 1500s through to the last recorded castrato in the early 20th-centry Papal choir.  We investigate the sites of the castrato’s professional activity, the voices and repertory of individual castrati, their employment, the ways in which singers collaborated and shaped the work of composers, and contrasting cultural understandings of the castrato.  Some readings from fields of study beyond music will be included, but the seminar will focus on music.  The materials for study include both primary sources (photos of unpublished manuscript and unpublished archival documents) and secondary sources (published libretti, scores and modern editions, as well as readings from a class bibliography).

This seminar is open to scholars, performers, singers, accompanists, composers, music theorists, and early music enthusiasts. Students from outside the SMTD, especially those with an interest in early modern culture, are encouraged to enroll.  Attendance is required.  Class participation is important within the format of the seminar.  The work of the course consists of listening to music, studying scores, and reading.

MEMS 898. Dissertation Writing Colloquium. Achim Timmermann
This workshop provides advanced graduate students in medieval and early modern periods with the opportunity to present work in an interdisciplinary context, bringing together participants from all disciplines that engage with medieval and early modern materials. The colloquium supports students in commitments that they are already undertaking, and adds to this the instructive pleasure of responding to the work of peers. The colloquium thus addresses three needs: 1) It helps participants to frame their research and to convey the significance of that research, with the help of a supportive group drawn from a wide range of methodological perspectives and scholarly experience--a range that matches or exceeds the diversity of methodological and theoretical orientations of a dissertation committee. 2) It provides participants with an opportunity to practice articulating ideas in speech, whether from a written statement, from notes, or from spontaneous formulation. 3) It offers an extended occasion for exploring how interdisciplinary dialogue enriches research in the humanities. The MEMS colloquium is an integral part of the Graduate Certificate Program in MEMS, but students do not need to be admitted to the Certificate Program to take the course. The course will meet regularly on a schedule to be determined by the needs of the group. You may register for 1-3 credit by permission of the instructor.

Types of writing welcomed:
– Dissertation chapters
– Conference presentations
– Article manuscripts in draft
– Prospectuses
– Job talks
– Methodological statements
– Research statements
– Project narratives
– Book reviews
– Grant proposals