Medieval Studies

53 Wall Street, Rm. 310, 203.432.0672
M.A., M.Phil., Ph.D.

Chair and Director of Graduate Studies
Ardis Butterfield

Executive Committee R. Howard Bloch, Jessica Brantley, Ardis Butterfield, Stephen Davis, Paul Freedman, Jacqueline Jung, Robert Nelson, Emily Thornbury, Shawkat Toorawa, Anders Winroth

Faculty associated with the program R. Howard Bloch, Gerhard Bowering, Jessica Brantley, Ardis Butterfield, Walter Cahn (Emeritus), Raymond Clemens, Marcia Colish (Emerita), Stephen Davis, Roberta Frank (Emerita), Paul Freedman, Johanna Fridriksdottir, Creighton Gilbert (Emeritus), Walter Goffart (Emeritus), Harvey Goldblatt, Frank Griffel, Dimitri Gutas (Emeritus), Valerie Hansen, Peter Hawkins, Jacqueline Jung, Traugott Lawler (Emeritus), Ivan Marcus, Vasileios Marinis, Giuseppe Mazzotta, Robert Nelson, Henry Parkes, Barbara Shailor, Emily Thornbury, Shawkat Toorawa, Anders Winroth, Mimi Hall Yiengpruksawan, Anna Zayaruznaya

Fields of Study

Fields in this interdisciplinary program include history, history of art, history of music, religious studies, languages and literatures, linguistics, and philosophy.

Special Admissions Requirements

The General Test of the GRE is required. A writing sample of ten to twenty pages should be included with the application.

Special Requirements for the Ph.D. Degree

Languages required are Latin, French, and German. Latin may be replaced with Arabic, Greek, or Hebrew when appropriate. Proficiency in Latin, Arabic, Greek, and Hebrew is tested with an examination administered and evaluated by the program during the first term. Proficiency in French and German is demonstrated by passing the departmental examinations and should be achieved by the third term. Students will design their programs in close contact with the director of graduate studies (DGS). During the first two years students take fourteen term courses, and must receive an Honors grade in at least four term courses the first year. Students take an oral examination, usually in the fifth term, on a set of three topics worked out in consultation with the DGS. Then, having nurtured a topic of particular interest, the student submits a dissertation prospectus that must be approved by the end of the third year. Upon completion of all predissertation requirements, including the prospectus, students are admitted to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree. What remains, then, is the writing, submission, and approval of the dissertation during the final two years.

Students in Medieval Studies participate in the Teaching Fellows Program in the third and fourth years.

Master’s degrees

M.Phil. See degree requirements under Policies and Regulations. The M.Phil. degree may be requested after all requirements but the dissertation are met.

M.A. (en route to the Ph.D.) Students enrolled in the Ph.D. program may qualify for the M.A. degree upon satisfactory completion of three terms of course work. Minimum requirements include a High Pass average in courses and passing the examination in Latin, Arabic, Greek, or Hebrew.


MDVL 520b / CLSS 845b / HSAR 641b / NELC 639b / RLST 633b, Images of Cult and Devotion in the Premodern WorldJacqueline Jung

This seminar explores the use of shaped materials, mostly figural but sometimes aniconic, in the formal rituals and private devotional practices of premodern people. Various religious traditions are represented, including ancient Near Eastern and Greek polytheism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, and early and medieval Christianity. We look at both the distinctive features of image use in these cultures and the links among them, including the connection of sacred images to the dead, the numinous presence of relics, the importance of concealment and revelation, the instrumental power of votive objects, the role of images in sacrificial rites, and problems of idolatry and iconoclasm.
T 1:30pm-3:20pm

MDVL 555a, Law in Medieval EuropeAnders Winroth

This seminar explores the creation in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries of a sophisticated system of law, the European Common Law (ius commune). All late medieval and much modern legislation is based on this legal system. The course focuses on its roots in the Roman law of Emperor Justinian and in ecclesiastical legislation. We also study the influence of the ius commune on national and local medieval law. The emphasis is on using law in historical research and in learning the technical skills necessary. Prerequisite: facility with Latin or another relevant medieval language.
W 9:25am-11:15am

MDVL 563b / CLSS 602b, Advanced Latin PaleographyBarbara Shailor

The challenges of using hand-produced Latin manuscripts in research, with an emphasis on texts from the late Middle Ages. Gothic cursive scripts and book hands ca. 1200–ca. 1500; fragments of unidentified codices; complex or composite codices with heavy interlinear and marginal annotations. Manuscripts and fragments selected largely from collections in the Beinecke Library. Prerequisite: CLSS 601 or permission of the instructor.
T 1:30pm-3:20pm

MDVL 599a / HIST 533a, The Twelfth CenturyPaul Freedman

The growth of European institutions and intellectual life in the twelfth century. Particular emphasis on Anglo-American historiography of the period beginning with Charles Homer Haskins’s 1927 study, The Renaissance of the Twelfth Century.
T 1:30pm-3:20pm

MDVL 600a / MUSI 627a, The Liturgy, Ritual, and Chant of Medieval England (Sarum Use)Bryan Spinks and Henry Parkes

This team-taught interdisciplinary travel seminar focuses on the rites, ceremonies, and music of the Use of Sarum (Salisbury), which was the predominant form of Christian worship in late medieval England. With particular attention to Salisbury Cathedral, as well as to surviving texts and material evidence pertaining to that foundation, it explores how liturgy was cultivated, documented, and experienced in the High Middle Ages. It considers the ritual intersections of community, architectural space, visual decoration, sound, movement, and written text. It also considers the significance of Sarum Use in the formation of the 1549 Book of Common Prayer and, more recently, as a resource for liturgical revival and renewal.
Th 3:30pm-5:20pm

MDVL 610b, Medieval Latin: The Calamitous Life of Peter AbelardJohn Dillon

This is an introductory reading course in Medieval Latin that is intended to help students improve their reading ability by working directly with a medieval text. We read Peter Abelard’s Historia calamitatum, “A History of My Calamities,” in which the foremost scholar and theologian of the twelfth century gives a candid account of his life. Abelard was a celebrity professor at the dawn of the university, only to spectacularly fall into disgrace for a secret love affair with Heloise that resulted in his castration at the hands of his father-in-law. As we read Abelard’s fascinating account of his life, we focus on reinforcing our knowledge of Latin grammar and syntax and pay special attention to the features of Abelard’s language that are typical of Medieval Latin. Prerequisite: basic knowledge of Latin grammar and syntax, equivalent to LATN 110 and LATN 120.
TTh 10am-11:20am

MDVL 663a, From House Churches to Medieval Cathedrals: Christian Art and Architecture to the End of GothicVasileios Marinis

This course examines the art associated with, or related to, Christianity from its origins to the end of Gothic. It analyzes major artistic monuments and movements in a variety of regions, paying particular attention to how art shapes and is shaped by the social and historical circumstances of the period and culture. The class considers art in diverse media, focusing on painting, sculpture, architecture, and decorative arts. Trips to the Yale Art Gallery and the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library are included. The course aims to familiarize students with key monuments of Christian architecture, sculpture, painting, and related arts, analyzing each within its particular sociocultural and theological perspective. The course stresses the importance of looking at works of art closely and in context and encourages students to develop skills of close observation and critical visual analysis. Additionally, students are encouraged to examine the ways parallel developments in Christian theology, dogma, and liturgy are influenced by art. Prerequisites: basic knowledge of Christian history and familiarity with the Bible.
M 1:30pm-3:20pm

MDVL 664b, History of Medieval Christianity: Learning, Faith, and ConflictStaff

This course explores the diversity of Western Christianity from the end of antiquity to the start of the early modern period. Central themes include the development of theology, concepts of reform, mysticism, gender, and relations between Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. In lectures and sections the class investigates a broad range of primary sources, including written texts, visual images, architecture, and music. The medieval age witnessed constant change and innovation in church and society and was transformed by its encounters with religions and cultures beyond Europe.
MWF 9:30am-10:20am