Unit 4: Culture, Arts, and Other Topics

These five class days are flexible and open to a class vote. Students in the past have chosen topics ranging from music to paleography to popular religion. I am willing to do almost anything, though I do have my personal favorites.

Thursday, 11/14: Travellers and Monstrous Races!


First off, everyone should read This Excerpt from St. Augustine.  This is the first reference to the races in Christian writing.  Unfortunately, the two main Roman sources for these stories are both not easily available in translated form.  After that, please at least skim through This Article on race and travel narratives about how Europeans see foreigners.  Then after these starts...

 Choose one of the Following:

The Travels of Sir John Mandeville

Either William of Rubruck or John of Pian Carpine, Both in One Volume

Or Marco Polo.

There´s also a pretty interesting podcast by a recent translator of John Mandeville's book of travels HERE.  However, much of the first half is taken up talking about how the translation was actually prepared.  If you want, it's still interesting, and there are stories and some questions about the tales themselves.


Week 12:

Monday 11/18: Research Day


Choose at least one question (perhaps more depending on their ease of answering) from the lists of questions generated at the end of each of the three revolutions around the timeline: Politics, Religion, or Economics.
Answer the questions using whatever means you feel like, but keep track of where you found your information and how you went about the search.  We'll all report back in for class on Monday.

Thursday 11/21: Warfare

As in prior days, pick one of the three topics below beginning with...
Heavy Cavalry:
Start with this chapter length introduction to horses in the medieval period:
Medieval Warfare: A History, by M.H. Keen, Chapter 9 - Arms, Armor and Horses.
Then, for some historiography, I would read Lynn White's chapter on the Stirrup in Medieval Technology and Social Change.  (PDF on the courses website).  Then, read a response/criticism of White's work here (it's basically a long book review by Sawyer and Hilton.)
Heavy Infantry:
The introduction and chapter on heavy infantry from Brian Todd Carey, Warfare in the Medieval World, are both available in the Wayback Machine.
This gives a pretty solid introduction to the swiss battle square and the sometimes called "Infantry Revolution" which sets the stage for infantry based armies basically until mechanization in the 20th century.
and Fortifications:
Start with this fairly clear summary of what sieges and fortifications meant in the medival period - Bernard Bachrach's, Medieval Siege Warfare.
For a handful of siege descriptions, try these:
Siege of Calaverock (long poem - second half is more about the battle)
Chapter 8, Fortifications and Sieges in Western Europe, in Medieval Warfare: A History, by M.H. Keen, also provides a good overview with different narratives from the above.
And Lastly, here's the reading about jousts that we won't get to in class but is here if you're interested:

            King Rene’s Tournament Book
            Also look at any chapter of:
            Richard Barber, Richard W. Barber, and Juliet R. V.
Barker, Tournaments: jousts, chivalry and pageants in the Middle Ages. (In the Library)
Week 13:

Monday 11/25: Architecture


Gothic Architecture:

Toker, "Gothic Architecture by Remote Control," Courses Server

Murray, "The Choir of the Church of St. Pierre," Courses Server


City Planning:

Trachtenburg, "What Brunelleschi Saw," Courses Server

Rural and Village Architecture: (Pick two out of three)

Chapter two of Hamerow, Early Medieval Settlements. - this discusses several types of buildings, all early medieval and includes Anglo-Saxon practices.

Chapter nine of Sheeran, Medieval Yorkshire Towns. - The chapter talks about Urban construction practices in Yorkshire during the later medieval period.

or Chapter one of Boas, Domestic Settings.  This chapter is nice and convenient because the book is about the Crusader states and it begins with a brief overview of house construction practices in France, Byzantium and the Holy Land around that time.

Thursday 11/28: Thanksgiving!

Week 14:

Monday 12/2: Medicine


Everyone should start with this lecture by Frank Snowden (another Yale faculty) on the humoral understanding of disease.  He covers both Hyppocrates and Galen who form the foundations of the medieval understandings of the body and medical practice.

Then pick one of the following:

An article about the changing nature of medicine for women by Monica Green

Or look at this article on medicine, magic, and religion in the writings of an educated doctor of the 12th century - Urso of Salerno.

Thursday 12/1: Nobles Behaving Badly


So there are nobles behaving Really badly, but that's just despressing...and you didn't vote on this category to be depressed, you wanted Scandal!  Impropriety, Indecency, the obloquy of their compatriots.  Anyway.  This was supposed to be fun, so really you wanted people like:

Eleanor of Aquitaine - There are several great books in the library, so just pick one and start reading.

 Stephen of Blois (and the Empress Matilda, who is his chief opponent) - Again, there are a couple of books in the library and several articles.  Pick something.

Berenguela of Castile - Start with chapter one of the Biography of Alfonso X (her grandson) and then poke around from there.

Week 15:

Monday 12/9: Final words on Medievalism

Final Day of Class - Note! All essays that require final comments before the Thursday Portfolio Submission Deadline are due Today by class-time!

All remaining fourth papers for those not submitting a portfolio are due by Saturday at Midnight.


Last modified: Sunday, December 1, 2013, 11:51 PM