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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 Winter 2018 Graduate Courses

In Winter 2018 MEMS will offer both a Proseminar (see below) and the Dissertation Writing Colloquium (MEMS 898).

MEMS Proseminar / Musicology 606. Early Modern Voices
Louise Stein
T-Th 11:30-1:00, Moore 3213

This seminar about “Voice” in the early modern period looks into voice, voices, and singing as described by writers, depicted by artists, feared by moralists, controlled, suppressed, or censored by authorities, exploited and appreciated at courts, chapels, and in theaters, and presented by composers and performers. How and where were voices heard, and how did singing transform the perception or interpretation of what could also be recited, read out loud, or parsed silently? Seminar participants will learn about how singers sang and why certain voices and vocal types were especially valued. We will read about private versus public voices, gendered voices and prohibited ones, always alert that contrasting cultural understandings, restrictions, and valuations were attached to low and high voices, both male and female, in different cultural and linguistic traditions across the geography of Europe and the Americas. 

A busy marketplace for professional singers developed in the early modern era. We will study the voices and repertory of individual singers, follow their employment in choirs or as soloists, and trace how singers collaborated and shaped the creative work of composers. Materials for scrutiny include both primary sources (unpublished music in manuscript, unpublished archival documents, poetic texts, and printed libretti) and secondary sources (published scores and dramatic texts, as well as readings from a class bibliography that includes pertinent essays from fields beyond music).This seminar is open to all---scholars, early music enthusiasts, performers, singers, accompanists, composers, and music theorists. Graduate students from outside the SMTD with an interest in early modern culture are warmly encouraged to enroll as well. 

Class discussion is essential within the format of the seminar. The work of the course consists of listening to music, studying images and scores, and reading. Grades will be based on written work, seminar presentations, and class discussions.

Asian 585. Technologies of Culture in Early Modern China
SE Kile

This graduate seminar explores what we gain by using technology as an analytical category for the Ming-Qing world. We begin with the primary technology that facilitated the production and dissemination of culture in that world: the woodblock-printed book. From there, we will consider together phenomena that are often studied in isolation: cooking, architecture, decorative objects, bodies, theatrical performance, and playwriting. How were particular cultural forms codified, and how did recognizable genres and styles emerge? What value was placed on aesthetic novelty in a rapidly commercializing but not yet modern cultural sphere? And how did these methodological choices relate to questions around class, gender, and social stratification?

By approaching Ming-Qing expressive culture as an array of technological experiments with the material world, we find that the media artists of that era forged new ways to transmit complex sensuous experiences. The seminar combines close analysis of primary texts in Classical Chinese (with a focus on Li Yu’s Xianqing ouji, 1671) with secondary reading in a range of disciplines.

Comp Lit 750. Media: Materiality, History, Theory
Catherine Brown

Whatever the long-term epistemological effect of the “Digital Revolution,” this much is clear: now print is not the, but rather a medium for written language, and with print’s demotion comes a heightened awareness in world textual communities of the relation between language and its technological supports and, by extension, between language and materiality. 

This seminar aims to direct that heightened awareness of language with materiality into a shared investigation of media theory and the history of the western book. We’ll engage topics theoretical, disciplinary, and historical, addressing questions like: What is the relation between ideas and the media cultures in which they’re born and circulate?  How do we think about and theorize material cultural practices? What are the ways that scholarly work articulates the materiality of its material—and its own materiality?

English 503 Middle English
Thomas Toon

English 641. Arthurian Romance, Then and Now
Karla Taylor

Romance was one of the most widespread forms of imaginative narrative in earlier literatures, and it has continued to occupy a prominent place in modern/contemporary genre and narrative theory. Its stories continue to haunt us: Tristan and Isolde, Lancelot and Guinevere, “le donne antiche e ’ cavalieri” (the ladies and the knights of old whom Dante grieves to see in Inferno V). This course will have a dual focus, plus a coda:

·        Its historical topic is Arthurian romance, starting with the chivalric romances of Chretien de Troyes and the lais of Marie de France as well as selections from Laɜamon’s Brut (12th century), and continuing with major English texts such as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the Alliteratuve Morte Arthure (both 14 th century) and Thomas Malory’s Morte D’Arthur (15 th century), which set the pattern for subsequent retellings in English. 

·        Genre and narrative theory, with medieval romance as the shared—but not only—textual tradition that it seeks to illuminate. As with narrative more generally, the interest of the romances we will read lies not only in their topical subject matter, but also in form, ideology, the problems they address (or evade), and in the social and cultural work they represent and perform. Included in this focus is also the extraordinary degree to which medieval romances tend to articulate self-consciously their own protocols for reading. We will thus also consider the distinctive logics of character and narrative sequence in romance, its modes of constructing the self and of acculturation to aristocratic society, its function as the “inner history” of its (largely aristocratic) medieval readers.

·        Depending on the interests of the class and its individual members, we can reserve some time for Arthurian romance in later retellings (e.g., Spenser’s Faerie Queene, Tennyson’s Idylls of the King, Monty Python’s Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant) and other disciplines (e.g., the visual programs in illustrated manuscripts of Chretien’s romances, or in 19 th -century illustrations of Arthurian stories).

The course is designed to accommodate a variety of interests and disciplinary backgrounds, whether in Medieval and Early Modern Studies, in later historical periods, in history or art history; and with a primary interest in the particular topic—Arthurian literature—or in the theoretical approaches, whose relevance extends well beyond Arthur or medieval literature. Therefore, texts in French and Middle English will be read or available in translation, and students may also choose topics for their term projects in line with their primary temporal, theoretical, and disciplinary interests. (Those who wish to modify the course for English seminar credit will be asked to read Middle English texts in the original language.) No prior knowledge of romance, Arthurian literature, Middle English, or medieval literature required or assumed.

English 842. Approaches to Early Modern Drama: Forms and Conversions of Difference
Steven Mullaney

The public, professional theater of early modern England—the theater of Shakespeare, Marlowe, Kyd, Jonson, Middleton, Webster, Dekker, Ford, Heywood, and others—emerged during a time of significant religious, political, social, artistic, and linguistic transformations. It was a form of popular as opposed to elite art, yet it attracted some of the most skilled and inventive poets of the period, whose dramatic verse played a crucial role in the development of a literary vernacular. It was a highly social and public form of art, massively attended and supported by the population of London, yet it was also a controversial phenomenon, regarded as scandalous (or worse) by a number of civic and religious figures. It was, in short, a theater of contradictions and differences, and it used the dialogic and agonistic nature of theatrical performance to explore the contradictions of, and differences between, the diverse and heterogeneous members of its audience.

In this seminar, we will study a range of early modern plays and genres. We will also explore a broad spectrum of methodological and theoretical approaches to the plays, including major movements of the late twentieth century and trends that are more recent and developments, such as post-humanism. We will do our best, despite the fact that we will be reading rather than attending plays in live performance, to understand and learn from the performative nature of the dramatic arts. And we will never forget, despite the fact that theater is a performative art, that early modern English theater is also a highly textual art, poetically crafted, dense with prosodic and other formal riches.

Thematically, the seminar will seek ways to think collectively about forms and conversions of “difference.” By “difference” I mean to include the range of issues that have shaped literary and social criticism since the 1980s, such as race, gender, class, and nationality, but to allow for ways in which such issues were conceived or constructed in the early modern period. This is the period of the reformation. Differences of belief were extreme and sometimes deadly; they were issues that affected everyday lives and thoughts and emotions as well as national politics and international religious conflicts. It was the period in which new worlds, races, and cosmologies, along with new developments in optics, physics, and biology, challenged established ecologies of thought and prejudice. By “forms and conversions,” I mean to emphasize that the fact that the possibility of change is implicit in the recognition of difference, whether such change is constructed as a negative—a fate to be avoided—or as a positive form of conversion. England had five or six different official, required religions in the sixteenth century, and a great percentage of the population converted more than once; those who did not could be risking death. Does the concept of “conversion” provide a kind of master trope for the period’s confrontations with difference, a way of thinking about a wide range of fraught or controversial issues outside of the strictly religious sphere?

The latter is only one of the many questions we might use to frame our inquiry. It has proved a fruitful one for many UM PHD students already, who have been participants (with me) in “Early Modern Conversions: Religions, Cultures, Cognitive Ecologies.”

HistArt 646 Medieval Urbanism, 350-1550
Achim Timmermann

This seminar offers a multi-faceted investigation of the medieval and early modern city, actual and ideal. We will not only study given cities in Europe and the Levant as functioning social spaces but also consider the city as a concept that fed the popular and literary imagination. In part the course will be historical and archaeological. The expansion of urban centers in the twelfth/thirteenth century will be situated within larger trajectories, and we will study both new foundations and sites with deep and remembered pasts, all the while making an effort to reconstruct the character and quality of urban life. Another aspect of the course will involve analysis of texts and images: descriptions and depictions of cities (past and present), cartographic representations, and literary evocations of real and fictional urban environments. Cities under discussion will be many, including Constantinople, Rome, Jerusalem, Paris, London, Prague, Florence, Lübeck, and Nuremberg. Students from the widest possible range of fields are encouraged to participate. It is expected that research projects will be diverse in terms of chronology, geography, theme, and approach

History 592. Gender and War
Hitomi Tonomura

This course explores what the scholars call “the puzzle of gendered war roles” by introducing concepts and theories on military masculinities, women and war, biology and combat, making of heroes, and sexual exploitation and war, among others. We draw on legendary military conflicts taking place before the advent of modern weaponry, such as the wars of the Japanese samurai and the Amazons, but also address exemplary modern wars. We begin with a question: what is the role of gender in war, and the impact of war on gender? We pursue this large question by asking: 1. What do we mean by “gender” and by “war”? 2. Were most wars fought by men before the invention of modern weapons? Aren’t there historical records of female warriors? 3. If men made better fighters, why? What do scholars say about the relationship between biology and war? 4. How have histories made men into heroes and how are male heroes different from female heroes? 5. What do we mean by militarized masculinity? 6. How do we interpret sexual exploitation and violence in wartime? In addition to reading informative books and articles, we also consider the gendered meanings of recent representations of wars and fighters in films and other visual materials.

History 594. Conversions and Christianities 
Kenneth Mills

Our seminar investigates change of various kinds, especially religious transformations and the ways in which people's identities and allegiances are dynamic and the products of interactive emergence. We explore the points of view of those who carried and promoted religion -- and other would-be universal brands -- to others, but also the perspectives of those on the "receiving end," curious about them not only as users, but also as co-creators and re-makers of local systems of belief and practice.

A predominant focus will be the remarkable proliferation of Catholic Christianities in the expanding Spanish world between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries. But, in order to avoid seeing this phenomena and period in splendid isolation, we also examine mobility of religion and culture in Europe and the circum-Mediterranean in the Late Antique and Medieval periods, and indeed in other far broader geographical and temporal frames.

Along the way, we will also discuss and employ an array of methods and approaches to historical interpretation, with "thinking tools" drawn from an array of disciplines, most notably anthropology and literature. Students will be challenged to consider their own lives and surrounding cultures as emergent, as experiences and tellings and transformations.

History 640. Early Modern Europe
Helmut Puff

The study of early modern Europe is indispensable to conceptualizing modernity – a term whose contested cachet continues to reverberate in contemporary historical writings or influential theories. Not surprisingly, the historiographical landscape of early modernity – roughly the time between 1400 and 1800 – has shifted significantly in recent years. Readings will include field-defining classics as well as the best work in the field at present.

History 698. Indigeneity and British Settler Colonies, 176-1850: North America, Southern Africa, Austrailia and New Zealand
Gregory Dowd

Italian 533. Dante's Divine Comedy
Alison Cornish

This course is dedicated to a guided reading of the Divine Comedy in its entirety. The text will be read in facing-page translation for the benefit of those who know some Italian and those who do not. Lectures and discussion are in English. Students will learn about the historical, philosophical, and literary context of the poem as well as how to make sense of it in modern terms. 

Musicology 507. The String Quartets and String Quartets of Mozart
Steven Whiting

“Haydn showed Mozart how to write string quartets; then Mozart showed Haydn how string quartets ought to be written.” One still encounters this statement; the present course should put students in a better position to judge whether it is true. While due attention will be given to the relevant historical and social contexts, the chief matter of the course will be the string quartets and quintets of Mozart, and the creative “dialogue” between Haydn and Mozart as composers of such chamber music will be an important topic. There is no other textbook than the scores. Our analytical frameworks will range from Leonard Ratner and Charles Rosen to William Caplin and James Hepokoski/Warren Darcy. Grades will be based on in-class participation (performance will be encouraged), analytical essays (two for undergraduates, three for grad students), and a final examination. The course is designed for undergraduates and graduates in music; undergraduates must have completed the core sequences in music history and music theory

Musicology 520. Topics in Baroque Music
Louise Stein

This course will provide an opportunity to engage with selected musical repertories and genres of the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries (roughly 1570-1750). It will not offer a strict or complete chronological survey. Particular emphasis will be given to the invention and definition of musical genres, the development of an expressive musical language and conventions, and the place and function of music (secular and sacred, vocal and instrumental, for court, chamber, church, and theater) in early modern society. In addition to music by such composers as Monteverdi, Lully, Corelli, Vivaldi, Handel, and J. S. Bach, the course will also include two special units: one will focus on the Roman baroque with music by Corelli and Alessandro Scarlatti, while the other will bring in music from Spain and its Latin American colonies. To some extent, our focus will depend on the interests of the students in the class.  The course will also introduce students to writings about music, primary musical sources, aesthetic theories of the period, and issues of performing practice. The work of this course consists of listening and reading. Music will be discussed in class, in some detail. Class attendance is required. Grades will be based on written work and class participation. 

Students from outside the SMTD with an interest in early modern cultures are encouraged to enroll.

Music Theory 543. 18th C Counterpoint

Spanish 676. The Baroque Underkammer
Enrique Garcia Santo-Tomas

This seminar approaches the Hispanic Baroque from the vantage point of a number of objects that populated household spaces in early modern Spain and its colonies, such as hats, gloves, shoes, farthingales, snuff boxes, chocolate cups, telescopes, guitars, and portraits.  We will explore their literal and symbolic valences with the aid of literary, legal, political, medical, and pictorial sources. For the midterm report and final essay the student is required to do a bit of window-shopping and a good amount of reading beyond the confines of the syllabus. Active participation is expected. We will guide the theoretical discussion with readings from Christopher Tilley, Webb Keane et al., eds. Handbook of Material Culture (SAGE 2013).

MEMS 898. Dissertation Writing Colloquium
Christian de Pee

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