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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 898, the Writing Colloquium will be offered this winter term, led by MEMS Director Enrique Garcia Santo Tomas.

MEMS Graduate Courses, Winter 2023

Thomas Toon
English 408 / Linguistics 408: Varieties of English
A study of the ways our speech reflects personal facts about national and regional origins, race, class, ethnicity, religion, age, gender, and sexual orientation.
When we meet a new person and listen to them speak, we are able to make guesses (sometimes even make judgments) about them.
• Are they local, or from an easily identifiable region (England, Boston area, the deep South, the UP)?
• Are their roots urban or rural?
• What is their educational, social and/or economic level?
• Does their speech reflect facts about their race, ethnicity or national origins?
• Might you guess that the speaker is a member of a fraternity/sorority, an athlete, in the school of engineering, or the program in theater and drama?
This course will explore the ways in which our own varieties of English reflect facts about ourselves, our group affiliations, our backgrounds, the things we do with language and the settings within which we do those things. We will begin close to home within the university/campus environment in which we live, work and learn. We will learn to recognize and analyze features of our own speech, most of which are invisible to us. We will then turn to the British origins of American English examining both the forms and attitudes we inherited from the first speakers of English. This study will enable us to get more personal about our language — how age, class, education, race, gender and sexual orientation influence our daily use of language. Our aim is to understand both how we use our language and, in an important sense, our language uses us.

Thomas Toon
English 504 / German 505: Middle English
This term we will examine works in early Middle English, as well as the better known and more frequently studied major authors—Chaucer, Gower, Piers, the Pearl poet. Readings will include selections from prose and poetic histories, mystical writers, contemporary social and political documents (laws, recipes, medical texts, chronicles, charters). We will examine a wide range of early Middle English texts as we develop an appreciation for the roles written English played in medieval England and the cultural and political consequences of the ability to read and write.

Aileen Das
Greek 870: Mediterranean Theory
This course examines ‘Mediterranean’ as an ideologically meaningful rather than descriptive, neutral designation for the culture areas, peoples and products around and beyond the Mediterranean Sea. The course will contextualize the field of Mediterranean Studies within the disciplinary history of area studies to show its implication in Cold War politics and accordingly mid-twentieth century colonial projects. Furthermore, by interrogating the texts considered to be foundational to Mediterranean Studies, such as Shelomo Goitein’s A Mediterranean Society, students will discover how the field’s prioritization of interconnectivity and cosmopolitanism in the pre-modern period (antiquity and the middle ages, in particular) is an apologetic response to the exclusion and provincialization of Jews and other minoritized groups from European history. Students will also analyze the theoretical potentials and problems with extending the “Mediterranean framework” from beyond the geographical space of the Mediterranean to other land-sea networks (e.g., the Caribbean Sea and Java), to which recent scholarship in the field has cited as evincing the global relevance of Mediterranean Studies.

Ellen Muehlberger
History 698 / Classics XXX: Christianity in Late Antiquity
History 698 introduces students to current scholarship about Christianity in late antiquity, spanning roughly the time period for 300 to 700 CE. In our seminar, we will wonder about both categories in the course title, namely “Christianity” and “late antiquity,” to know more about how these have been used to organize research. We will read writing from multiple disciplines—history, classical studies, religious studies among them—and seek to understand how that scholarship has been designed, how it can be used, and how it can generate new lines of thought. Each week’s readings will include at least one ancient source in translation; students who read in relevant ancient language have the option of setting up a primary source reading session with the instructor and other students.

Hitomi Tonomura
History/Asian 450; Asian 590; History 592: Japan to 1700
This course argues against today's well-packaged "Japan," beginning with its prehistoric past, followed by the age of aristocrats and the rise of the samurai, who dominated the country both in total war and total peace. We examine patterns of transformation along the twin axes of time and theme: continental influence and state-making, ancient aristocrats’ political power and aesthetic authority; medieval militarism supported by land rights, urban economy and sea power; and the early modern consolidation of the status order and overseas relations. Along the way, we visit issues of gender, environment and disasters, blood and pollution, religious devotion and sexuality, militarism, Christianity and trade, death and dying, and more.
We will sample translated primary sources, such as wills, laws, blood pledges, tales, chronicles, and diaries, as well as writings of Asian and European observers, along with scholarly essays, films and video clips. The diversity of ideas and practices that emerged from the Japanese archipelago should present a vision of history that differs from our universalistic assumptions, idealized images and unbroken continuity of "Japanese tradition," much of which was first constructed in the 19th century as the country confronted the West.

Rafe Neis and Aileen Das
History 630 / MEMS 611: Introduction to the Study of the Ancient Mediterranean 
Primarily methodological in approach, this course surveys critical issues that have shaped and continue to shape the study of the history of the ancient Mediterranean and Middle East in particular, as well as other pre-modern culture areas. This iteration of the course not only foregrounds the output of minoritized scholars but also features a strong comparative component that will equip students with a broad theoretical toolkit to think through material in their own periods of historical interest. Course requirements will include reading assigned texts and participating in class discussions. For a final project, students will prepare a draft syllabus for an undergraduate class on an aspect of the ancient world of your choice. Weekly small assignments and in-class collaborative workshops will guide you through the process of designing a syllabus.

Donka Markus
Latin 507: Late Latin: Latin of Science
In this slow-paced course, you will learn the distinctive features of Postclassical Latin by reading texts that show the state of scientific knowledge in the Latin-speaking pre-modern period. We will witness the eruption of Vesuvius with Pliny the Younger; we will sail with St Brendan whose 6th-century exploratory journey influenced Columbus’ voyage to the Americas. We will also explore the 6-7 century encyclopedia of the Spanish scholar Isidore of Seville along with other Latin texts about science and philosophy. Learning about the broader context of the selected scientific writings and their reception by the society that produced them will contribute to your understanding of the mutual relationship between science and society. The course employs the methods of project-based learning and is especially suitable for Latin students with significant gaps in their knowledge of the language and for students who have taken some time off from the language. Grading in the course is based on class attendance and participation, bi-weekly short quizzes, a midterm project, and a final project. For more information, contact Donka D. Markus at markusdd@umich.edu.

Enrique Garcia Santo Tomas
MEMS 898. Premodernists' Writing Colloquium
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

Gottfried Hagen
Mideast 416: The Sultan and His Subjects: Society and Culture in the Ottoman Empire
This course provides an introduction to the Turko-Islamic elite and popular culture of the Ottoman Empire, looking at architecture, painting, poetry, storytelling, at practices and performances. The goal is to understand different practices of cultural production as specific media, and often belonging to specific locales and subcultures, yet also to see them as interrelated, as they intersect in persons and places, and also as one can be used to elucidate the other. Intensive work with original visual and textual sources (in translation) is essential. We will approach Ottoman culture within the broader context of Islamic culture on the one hand, and the specific geographical, political, and social conditions of the Eastern Mediterranean on the other. After a brief framework of political and institutional history as the backdrop of our inquiry, we will move through the social and symbolic spaces in which Ottoman culture unfolds, and through the human networks which sustain it: The court, religious institutions, economic activities, the family. While there will be a heavy emphasis on the classical period and its transformation, the final part is designed to emphasize diachronic dynamics to avoid an “orientalist” static picture. The course is designed to allow even novices much space for historical exploration, to engage with big ideas as well as the toil of studying primary sources, to acquire not only historical knowledge, but an understanding how historical knowledge is produced and how it can be verified or contested. Proficiency in any of the languages of the empire is not required (but always welcome). 

Stephano Mengozzi
Musicology 578: Renaissance Music
The course concentrates on the English madrigal, which in the late reign of Queen Elizabeth turned into a sophisticated conduit for covert political and religious statements in an increasingly fractured society. We will seek to attune ourselves to the political and religious import of the repertory through textual and musical analyses, mindful of the circumstances of madrigal performance. The course does not require previous exposure to Renaissance music, as basic music-analytical tools will be provided in the early part of the course. Non-music students are encouraged to concentrate on the texts of the madrigals and on the historical context of their production and performance.

Ryan Szpiech
Spanish 453: Aljamiado and Moriscos in Golden-Age Spain
Did you know that Spanish was once the mother-tongue of Muslims in the Iberian Peninsula? and that some even wrote Spanish with the Arabic rather than the Latin alphabet (what we use today)? After Columbus traveled to the Americas and the Christians conquered Muslim Granada in 1492, many Muslims and former Muslims lived a double life, practicing Christianity in public while also keeping Muslim traditions (and the Arabic alphabet) in their homes. This course will introduce the language of these Muslims, a dialect of Castilian Spanish called “Aljamiado" that was usually written in the Arabic alphabet. We will learn about the history of Islam in Spain and will learn the Arabic alphabet in order to read the texts written in Aljamiado. We will also read some texts by Muslim authors written in Latin characters and will introduce some of the main writers, texts, and themes of the period. We will look at manuscripts and editions of aljamiado texts dealing with the life of Muhammad, anti-Christian arguments, the legend of Alexander the Great, stories about the prophets, guidebooks for love and magic, and other topics. No knowledge of Arabic is necessary (but it won’t hurt). A strong level of reading ability in Spanish, and an open mind, are essential.