Department of History

Department of History
Department of History

Medieval Studies Courses @ Queen's 

The Departments of History, English, Classics, and Art History work together to facilitate these interdisciplinary Medieval Studies courses. Each department is dedicated to offering a rich array of Medieval Studies courses that allow students to explore this subject through a variety of academic disciplines. 



HIST 218 Fall               Byzantium                                         
Instructor: Dr. Richard Greenfield

The world of Byzantium – that of the ‘other’ Middle Ages of the Eastern Mediterranean – is a fabled and exotic one. If you’ve ever heard of Constantine or Justinian & Theodora, of Constantinople or Antioch, of Hagia Sophia or the Hippodrome, of the battle of Manzikert or the Fourth Crusade, of iconoclasts, monophysites or the schism of the churches, of eunuch courtiers or pillar saints, and if you’ve ever wondered who or what they really were, this is the course for you! This lecture will survey some of the most interesting and key aspects of Byzantine history, society and culture from the fourth to the fifteenth century. One aim of the course will be to familiarize students with the general shape of the political history of the Byzantine state during the nine hundred years from its foundation in Late Antiquity as the successor of Rome down to its final crippling and ultimately fatal encounters with the crusading powers of Western Medieval Europe and the emerging Ottoman Turks. The lectures also aim, through a series of snapshots of vital topics, to provide a broad understanding of some of the most important features of Byzantine society, culture, and belief as well as its complex identity. It will also attempt to give some sense of Byzantium’s place in the world – its relations with and attitudes towards the numerous and diverse peoples, powers, and religions of the regions that surrounded it. In doing so it will encourage broad interest in Medieval, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean studies while being of particular interest to students of the Roman Empire, the Middle Ages, the Eastern Mediterranean, the Middle East, Greece, Turkey, and the Balkans, as well as the history of Christianity and Islam.

HIST 226 Fall               The Later Middle Ages                      
Instructor TBA

An introduction to the main themes of the history of the Latin West between the 11th and 15th centuries including changes in the economy, society, religion, culture, and politics

HIST 301 Fall/Winter             Medieval Societies                
Instructor: Dr. Richard Greenfield

*IMPORTANT* This course is only available to second year History Majors & Medial students. The world of Byzantium – that of the ‘other’ Middle Ages of the Eastern Mediterranean – is a fabled and exotic one. If you’ve ever heard of Constantine or Justinian & Theodora, of Constantinople or Antioch, of Hagia Sophia or the Hippodrome, of the Fourth Crusade, of iconoclasts, monophysites or the schism of the churches, of eunuch courtiers or pillar saints, and if you’ve ever wondered who or what they really were, this is the course for you!

As a core seminar, the course will have among its primary intended learning outcomes the development of research, analytical, writing and communication skills appropriate to students entering upon a concentration in History. Assignments and practical activities will be directed specifically to this end while being based in exploration of Byzantine history, society and culture.

In the Fall Term, this course will run concurrently with the lecture HIST 218 Byzantium where students will become generally familiar with key elements of Byzantine history and society. In the Winter Term the seminar portion of the course will continue with a more focused study of ways in which Byzantine society helped to shape the world of Europe and the Mediterranean in the medieval period. With an emphasis on the interpretation of primary sources in translation and of debated issues, the course will explore some of the more significant episodes and aspects of Byzantine history and culture and will relate them to Byzantium’s place in the broader medieval world and its relations with and attitudes towards the many diverse peoples, powers, and religions of the regions that surrounded it. Among topics to be studied during the year will be Constantine and the emergence of a ‘Christian’ empire, the construction of orthodoxy, Justinian, the coming of Islam and the end of the ancient world, iconoclasm, interaction with the Crusades, the conception and practice of imperial and military power and of justice, the development of Constantinople and the decline of the ancient city, the construction of gender (masculine, feminine and eunuch), the lives of ‘ordinary’ people, education, health and healing, the construction of sanctity and the practice of monasticism, the place of icons, relics and amulets in religious behavior, belief in angels and demons, and the practice of magic and sorcery.

HIST 449 Fall               Topics in Medieval Mediterranean History: Messiahs, Mystics, and Martyrs in Muslim and Jewish Religious Culture          
Instructors: Dr. Adnan Husain & Dr. Howard Adelman

This course explores the interplay or “symbiosis” between Jews and Muslims, Judaism and Islam, to understand the religious identities and cultures of both and their mutual development rom the time of Muhammad to the mysterious messiah and convert to Islam Sabbatai Zvi in the 17th century Ottoman empire.  Among the key topics discussed are religious dissent, sectarianism, conversion, polemics, politics, power, the treatment of religious minorities, and apocalyptic or messianic movements across the Medieval and Early Modern Mediterranean world. The course explores shared intellectual movements in philosophy, theology, and mysticism while investigating the tensions between traditional and text based authority and popular rebellious movements based on charismatic leaders.

HIST 400-005 Winter    Topics in History: Holiness, Faith and Religious Dissidence in Byzantium
Instructor: Julian Yang

Medieval Byzantium, or the medieval Christian Roman Empire in the eastern Mediterranean world, was actually quite a skeptical society. The boundary between the concept of holy and unholy was very fluid, and one’s spiritual and religious identity was often rather determined by a wide spectrum of different secular interests.
As such, its inhabitants and especially those who worked on writing religious literature (i.e. hagiographers) were necessitated to bolster the persuasiveness of their narrative by using various literary techniques for a successful fashioning of their protagonists as saints. Failure to do so often resulted in dire consequences.
The main objective of this course is to examine important historical issues around the topic of religion in medieval Byzantium. After an introduction to the history of the Greco-Roman Mediterranean world and its historical relation to the Byzantine Empire, the class will work with scholarly publications in English and some selected primary sources in translation to establish and develop their understanding of key aspects of the religious history of medieval Byzantium. The related topics of Byzantine social issues and foreign relations will also be considered throughout the course.



ENGL 411 001-7/3.0 Fall    Topics in Medieval Literature II – The Imaginary Other: Jews and Muslims in Medieval English Literature
Instructor: Ruth Wehlau

Description:   This course investigates a darker side of the medieval imaginary through an examination of the parodic, and often grotesque, portrayals of Jews and Muslims found in some medieval English texts. Although there were few Muslims and Jews in England during the later Middle Ages, portrayals of these groups functioned like medieval memes, constructing both groups as racial and religious others and laying the groundwork for images still circulating today. We will read plays and romances that deal with both these groups, including the Croxton Play of the Sacrament, Chaucer’s Prioresse’s Tale, The Siege of Jerusalem, Mandeville’s Travels, The Sowdane of Babylone, and The King of Tars, as well as earlier narratives associated with Robert of Bury and William of Norwich. Our aim is to investigate the ways in which these two groups were configured as others and to analyze the recurring motifs that allowed that construction to be passed on over the years.

Classes will consist of close reading and discussion.

Requirements (subject to change):  Class participation, Oral presentation, Research report, Essay, Exam

ENGL 411 001-4/3.0 Winter    Topics in Medieval Literature II – Premodern Gender and Sexuality
Instructor: Margaret Pappano

Description:  This course will explore premodern constructions of gender and sexuality, seeking to locate both continuities and discontinuities with modern conceptions and practices. While labels such as “gay,” “genderqueer,” “transgendered” did not exist in the Middle Ages, medieval people imagined and engaged in types of gender shifting that help us to understand the necessity for labile terminology to describe identities linked with gendered and sexual practices and indeed to think about the ways that sexual practices may not be linked with specific identities at all. Including material from both Christian and Islamic traditions, this course explores how various aspects of medieval culture, such as marriage, celibacy, imitatio Christi, crossdressing, knighthood, class hierarchy, and courtly practices shaped notions of gender and sexuality. Though examining theological, medical, and legal writings, moral guidebooks, chronicles, artwork, and literary works, this course will engage texts from the early to late Middle Ages in dialogue with theoretical and historiographical writing to attempt to articulate specificities of the medieval sex/gender system.

Requirements (subject to change): regular attendance and participation, two-three short essays, oral presentation, research paper, final exam.

ENGL 312 001/6.0 Fall/Winter   Literatures and Cultures of the Medieval World
Instructor: Margaret Pappano

Description: This course introduces students to major pieces of literature and literary and cultural currents of the high and late Middle Ages, surveying a variety of influential genres such as epic, romance, history, hagiography, lyric, fabliau, dream vision, drama, and tale collection. It also introduces students to important critical paradigms that serve to illuminate medieval texts. While the course incorporates material from across Western Europe, it includes a special focus on England in order to investigate how England’s literary culture developed in relation to wider European trends. Students will be introduced to reading Middle English texts in their original language. The course also includes translated texts from Persian and Arabic in order to explore the dynamic literary exchange between Europe and the Islamicate literary cultures of the Mediterranean. Authors and texts include Marie de France, Chrétien de Troyes, Dante, Boccaccio, Chaucer, Rumi, The Arabian Nights.

Requirements (subject to change): short written assignments, two – three essays, final exam.

ENGL 290 003/3.0 Fall   Seminar in Literary Interpretation – The Matter of Britain: Malory’s Morte Darthur
Instructor: Ruth Wehlau

Description:  Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte Darthur, written near the end of the 15th century, tells the story of King Arthur, and of the rise and fall of his kingdom. Filled with tales of adventure, romance, and chivalry, and featuring characters such as Lancelot, Guenevere, Gawain, Mordred, and Morgan le Fay, the Morte Darthur marks both the culmination of medieval English Arthurian tradition and a point of origin for later interpretations of the tradition. The first two thirds of the course will revolve around close readings of selections from the Morte, while the latter third will investigate T. H. White’s interpretation of Malory in two novels from his tetrology, The Once and Future King.

Classes will consist of close-reading and discussion.

Requirements (subject to change): Class participation, Close-reading exercise, Oral presentation, Research report, Essay, and Exam.



GREK 112/6.0    Introductory Greek 

Fundamentals of grammar, syntax and etymology, for students with no or little knowledge of Ancient Greek; provides sufficient background to read Plato, Euripides as well as the New Testament. 
NOTE    Normally not open to students with 4U Greek. 

GREK 208/6.0    Intermediate Greek 

Review of grammar, and developing facility in translation, study of literary content and background of authors. 
NOTE    A student with 4U Greek may alternatively use this as a prerequisite and should contact the Department for permission to register in the course. 

GREK 321/3.0    Greek Prose 

Selected passages of Greek prose, usually drawn from oratory, history, and philosophy, read in the original Greek and commented upon for their linguistic, literary, and historical significance. 
NOTE    This course is normally co‐taught with GREK 421/3.0.

GREK 322/3.0    Greek Verse 

Selected passages of Greek verse, usually drawn from works of epic, lyric, elegy, and drama, read in the original Greek and commented upon for their linguistic, literary, and historical significance. 
NOTE    This course is normally co‐taught with GREK 422/3.0. 

GREK 421/3.0    Advanced Greek Prose 

Selected works of Greek prose, usually drawn from oratory, history, and philosophy, read in the original Greek and commented upon for their linguistic, literary, and historical significance. 
NOTE    This course is normally co‐taught with GREK 321/3.0.

GREK 422/3.0    Advanced Greek Verse 

Selected works of Greek verse, usually drawn from works of epic, lyric, elegy, and drama, read in the original Greek and commented upon for their linguistic, literary, and historical significance. 
NOTE    This course is normally co‐taught with GREK 322/3.0.

GREK 430/6.0    Research Course 

Detailed study of certain aspects of Greek Literature and history through directed readings and essay assignments.

LATN 110/6.0    Introductory Latin 

Fundamentals of grammar, syntax and etymology for students with no or little knowledge of Latin; provides sufficient background to read Latin prose and poetry. 
NOTE    Normally not open to students with 4U Latin.

LATN 209/6.0    Intermediate Latin 

Review of grammar followed by a study of representative works of Ovid and other authors. In addition to developing facility in translation, study of literary content and background of authors. 
NOTE    A student with 4U Latin may alternatively use this as a prerequisite and should contact the Department for permission to register in the course.

LATN 321/3.0     Latin Prose 

Selected passages of Latin prose, usually drawn from oratory, history, and philosophy, read in the original Latin and commented upon for their linguistic, literary, and historical significance. 
NOTE    This course is normally co-taught with LATN 421/3.0. 

LATN 322/3.0     Latin Verse 

Selected passages of Latin verse, usually drawn from epic, lyric, elegy, and drama, read in the original Latin and commented upon for their linguistic, literary, and historical significance. 
NOTE    This course is normally co‐taught with LATN 422/3.0. 

LATN 421/3.0     Advanced Latin Prose 

Selected works of Latin prose, usually drawn from oratory, history, and philosophy, read in the original Latin and commented upon for their linguistic, literary, and historical significance. 
NOTE    This course is normally co‐taught with LATN 321/3.0.

LATN 422/3.0     Advanced Latin Verse

Selected works of Latin verse, usually drawn from epic, lyric, elegy, and drama, read in the original Latin and commented upon for their linguistic, literary, and historical significance. 
NOTE    This course is normally co‐aught with LATN 322/3.0. 

LATN 431/6.0    Research Course 

Detailed study of certain aspects of Latin Literature and Roman history through directed readings and essay assignments. 



ARTH 212 Winter     Medieval Art 

An introduction to the arts of the Middle Ages (c.300-1400) from the origins of Christian art under the Emperor Constantine, through the Early Christian, Byzantine, Romanesque and Gothic Periods.

ARTH 308 Winter    Gothic Art in Europe c. 1150-1400

This course examines the changes in European art later known as ‘Gothic’. With a focus on England, France, Spain, Italy and Germany, this class will consider major monuments across the media, from manuscript painting, to architecture, stained glass, sculpture and ars sacra. Throughout, monuments will be placed in their appropriate social, historical and patronal contexts.