Medieval and Renaissance Studies courses

Medieval and Renaissance Studies courses

Summer 2019

MDV 3100: The Rise of Medieval Paris
Professor Andrew Taylor

When the philosopher Peter Abelard arrived around 1100 Paris was small provincial town with streets of mud. A century later it had become the intellectual heart of western Europe, a city centred on the great new gothic cathedral of Notre Dame and the castle of the Louvre. With visits to the cathedrals of Chartres and Laon, and walks through the back streets of the Marais and the Left Bank, we will explore the rise of gothic architecture and the medieval university, and recapture a sense of the achievements, struggles, debates, and brawls that forged medieval Paris.
9 days in May 2019
Exact dates to be determined.
For more information contact Andrew Taylor

Winter 2019

MDV 2500 Vivre, travailler et prier en ville à la fin du Moyen Âge (XIIe-XVIe siècle)
Professeur à déterminer

L’essor et le dynamisme qui caractérisent les mondes urbains en Europe à partir du XIIe siècle ont conduit au développement d’institutions originales : les universités en sont un bel exemple. Les villes furent un laboratoire d’expériences communautaires qui ont encore un écho dans le paysage urbain actuel. Mais comment se traduisaient ces expériences de la vie citadine à la fin du Moyen Âge ? Ce cours vise à explorer et à comprendre les relations entre l’espace urbain et les différentes pratiques sociales, politiques, commerciales et religieuses propres à la société médiévale.

mardi 16h00-17h20, jeudi 14h30-15h50

MDV 4100 Silk Roads, Spice Roads
Professor James Nelson Novoa

This course will take up accounts of European and Asian cultural interaction from the Middle Ages until the Early Modern period. It will chronicle the origins and development of the silk road of trade throughout the centuries by relying on travel accounts and primary sources in English translation. It will also consider the importance of the spice trade as a factor for European exploration and travel which extended to Asia and Africa and how in turn these commodities influenced European culture, habits and behaviour. The course will take into account primary sources, critical literature and film to get students to reflect critically on Asian and European cultural encounters over the centuries which will be provided to students by brightspace. The course will be taught with the participation of colleagues from the Centre of History of the University of Lisbon who are experts in the fields of medieval Islam, European travel to Asia, and missionaries in Asia.

Hybrid course.

Wednesday 8:30 am-11:20 am

Fall 2018

MDV 2100 War and Chivalry
Professor Andrew Taylor

What did Europeans in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries believe they had “discovered” when they encountered the American continent and its peoples?  What image had they fashioned of the new lands they thought that they would find, their landscapes, flora, fauna and inhabitants? What were they expecting to find they and why were they surprised, disappointed or amazed by what they encountered? This course seeks to enter the mindset of the early European explorers by drawing upon a number of sources which had been at the basis of the construction of the European imagination, largely grounded in Classical texts and the alleged Asian travel accounts in Asia. Students will use primary sources, early cartography and film to critically study the theme. Among the authors considered will be Marco Polo, John of Montecorvino, John of Mandeville, Christopher Columbus, Pêro Vaz de Caminha, Hernán Cortés, Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, Jacques Cartier and Fernão Mendes Pinto in English translations which will be provided to the students through Brightspace.

Tuesday 11:30-12:50; Friday 1:00 pm to 2:20 pm

MDV 3100 Imagined Worlds, Discovered Worlds
Professor James Nelson Novoa

The course will deal with how Europeans imagined possible new worlds in Asia and abroad, based on drawing on Classical sources and Medieval travel accounts to understand the European mindset on the eve of the age of discovery.  At the same time, the course takes up the encounters between Europeans and the inhabitants of the Americas as seen in travel accounts and descriptions of the early meetings between them. Authors presented include Marco Polo, John of Mandeville, Christopher Columbus, Hernan Cortes, Garcilaso de la Vega el Inca, Jacques Cartier and Hans Staden. Students will be introduced to these authors and their texts and then reflect on themes such as travel, otherness and self-definition in the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period.

Hybrid course.

Tuesday 8:30 am-11:20 am

ITA 3106/MDV3100B The Italian Renaissance
Professor Cristina Perissinotto

Critical discussion of plays, poems, fiction and art representative of major writer, painters and architects from the Renaissance. Discussion of their relevance to the present time. Study of texts by authors such as Machiavelli, Galileo, Marino, Colonna, Ariosto, and others. All readings are in translation.

Hybrid course.


Winter 2018

CLA 3110 B/HIS 3110/MDV 3100 Topics in Ancient History: The Age of Justinian
Professor Geoffrey Greatrex

The reconquest of the western Mediterranean, the Justinanic Code, the Empress Theodora, the ‘Early Medieval Pandemic’
Mondays 2.30-4.00 p.m.
Thursdays 4.00-5.30 p.m.


ITA 3106/MDV3100B -- The Italian Renaissance
Professor Cristina Perissinotto

Critical discussion of plays, poems, fiction and art representative of major writer, painters and architects from the Renaissance. Discussion of their relevance to the present time. Study of texts by authors such as Machiavelli, Galileo, Marino, Colonna, Ariosto, and others. All readings are in translation. This is a hybrid course.


MDV2500 Voyages et voyageurs au Moyen Âge

Qu’elles soient religieuses, commerciales ou culturelles, nombreuses étaient les motivations qui ont poussé les hommes de la fin du Moyen Âge et de la Renaissance à partir sur les routes malgré les dangers qui y étaient associés. Comment le voyageur, qu’il soit pèlerin, marchand, messager ou intellectuel, percevait-il l’étranger au Moyen Âge? Ce cours analysera les représentations de l’espace et les visions du monde produites par ces voyageurs entre le XIIIe et le XVIe siècle, en interrogeant une variété de documents à la fois textuels, iconographiques et cartographiques.


MDV/HIS3116 Russian Social and Institutional History prior to Peter The Great Medieval and Early Modern ‘Russia’ (Kiev Rus’ and Muscovy)
Professor Corinne Gaudin

The history of medieval and early modern Russia – the period from the 9th though the 17th centuries – has long been understood through simplistic myths that have colored not only how we understand Russia today, but how historians have read and interpreted historical evidence. Stories about Mongol invasions that allegedly cut Russia off from Europe, or about Ivan the Terrible’s alleged propensity for  torturing puppies and kittens, or Russians’ alleged love of authoritarian leaders, are regularly cited to explain everything from serfdom to Stalin. This course will address these and other myths by returning to the historical evidence.  The goal of the course will be to closely examine a broad range of primary sources (images, graffiti, law codes, chronicles, archeological evidence, etc.) in order to better understand not only the history of “Russia” (in fact called Kiev Rus and Muscovy in these periods), but also the role of narratives and myths in framing the reading of evidence.  In short, how we can know what we think we know?


MDV 3500/DHN 3700/HIS 3798 : Paris, médiéval et virtuel
Professeur Kouky Fianu

À la croisée de l’histoire médiévale et des humanités numériques, ce cours permet aux étudiants de se familiariser avec les systèmes d’information géographique tout autant qu’avec la recherche en histoire culturelle du Moyen Âge. Leur tâche consistera à construire et à insérer une couche d’informations relatives aux producteurs de livre à Paris à la fin du XIIIe siècle dans la plateforme publique en ligne ALPAGE (Analyse diachronique de l’espace urbain parisien : approche géomatique).


MDV 4100/ESP 5912A  Voyages, Encounters and Misunderstandings in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance
Professor James Nelson Novoa 


Fall 2017

MDV 2100: Defining Otherness in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance
Professor James Nelson Novoa


MDV 5100 Medieval and Renaissance Studies Research Methods and Tools 
Professor Andrew Taylor 

How do you read an old manuscript? How do you find your way through an archive? This course will provide some preliminary answers, introducing you to the experience of working with a range of medieval and early modern books and documents.  


Summer 2017 EM Summer School in Medieval Studies 2017 - Discovering the End of the World: Portugal as a Central Periphery
Portugal, Batalha, 17-21 July, 2017. Registration open until: 15 June

For more information contact Professor James Nelson Novoa


Winter 2017

MDV 2500 - Initiation à la civilisation médiévale et de la Renaissance
Jeanne d’Arc : prophète, mythe, sainte et hérétique (XV
e-XXe siècles)
Professeur Kouky FIANU

Active sur la scène politique médiévale pendant deux ans seulement (1429-1431), Jeanne d’Arc est l’une des figures marquantes de l’histoire occidentale. Présentée tour à tour comme prophète, hérétique ou sainte, son mythe a traversé les siècles, porté par différents mouvements religieux, culturels ou politiques.

Le cours est consacré à l’analyse du « phénomène Jeanne d’Arc » : quelle image en a-t-on donné et pourquoi ? De quoi cette jeune fille est-elle la manifestation, entre le 15e et le 20e siècle ? Quels usages a-t-on fait de la Pucelle ?

Cours ouvert à l’ensemble de la communauté universitaire.


MDV 3500 - Thèmes choisis en études médiévales et de la Renaissance

Information: Prof. Mawy Bouchard (
Monday, 2:30 pm - 5:30 pm

La structure universitaire telle que nous la connaissons aujourd’hui a été fondée au Moyen Âge. À cette époque et encore à la Renaissance, l’éducation se fonde en grande partie sur les arts libéraux. Toutefois, ces disciplines ont pu être enseignées selon des méthodes et des classifications différentes et dans des types d’établissements très divers.

Le cours permettra d’explorer les différentes façons de concevoir et de classifier les disciplines, puis de découvrir les savoirs transmis dans plusieurs types d’école qui se sont développées pendant cette période culturelle mouvementée. Nous examinerons les programmes de ces écoles en lien avec la conception des savoirs et des valeurs à transmettre. Ce cours visera ainsi à offrir plusieurs portes d’entrée pour comprendre la culture et les mentalités dans lesquelles ont évolué les lettrés. Il permettra également de mettre en perspective les débats actuels autour de la mission de l’université.


PHI-4384A - Philosophical Texts

Instructor: Antoine Côté
Tuesday: 11:30 – 13:00, room WLD 105
Friday 13:00 – 14:30, room WLD 105

What is it I know when I truly know something: (a) a physical object in extra-mental reality, (b) a proposition, (c) a sentence, (d) a state of affairs, (e) or perhaps some other entity? If (a), do I cognize that object directly or do I need some representational device, such as a concept? If (b), (c), (d), or (e), what is the status of such entities? Are they real, purely mental, or do they fall under some other kind of sui generis ontological category? And if mental, does that mean that knowledge is only about the contents of my mind? These are some of the questions that we will be dealing with in this seminar, focusing on the answers provided by such luminaries as Thomas Aquinas, Duns Scotus, William Ockham, Peter Aureol, Robert Holcot, and Adam Wodeham, but sometimes peaking ahead to the discussions of Meinong and Husserl. These discussions will take us to the heart of some of the most fundamental and perennial questions of metaphysics and the theory of cognition. The solutions explored by Wodeham and others pave the way to phenomenology; those discussed by Aureol and Ockham set the stage for so-called demon scenarios in modern philosophy and debates regarding the attainability of certitude in knowledge.

Most readings will be taken from The Cambridge Translations of Medieval Philosophical Texts, volume three: Mind and Knowledge (Cambridge: CUP, 2002), tr. R. Pasnau.

Students will be evaluated on the basis of a 15-minute oral presentation, weekly précis, and a term paper.

If you have 21 credits of philosophy you are eligible to take this course; if you have fewer than 21 credits but are interested in the topic, are attracted by the idea of working in a fourth-year seminar setting, and think you are sufficiently prepared, please contact me at


  • N.B. MDV courses can be taken several times as long as the theme is different.

Previous Courses

Winter 2014

  • MDV 2500 Initiation à la civilisation médiévale et de la Renaissance

Gutenberg, avant et après. Le livre, de sa conception matérielle à sa réception intellectuelle

  • MDV4500 Séminaire en études médiévales et de la Renaissance

Les arts, les artistes, la foi et les savoirs


Fall 2013

  • MDV 2100 Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Civilization

Courts and Castles in the Middle Ages

  • MDV3100 Selected Topics in Medieval and Renaissance Studies

“Nothing is Wonderful but the Soul” (Petrarch): Construction of a Christian Community (4th-14th c.)

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