Rachel Fulton
Department of History
The University of Chicago

Spring 2001


The purpose of this colloquium is to introduce students to a range of topical and methodological issues current in the historiography of medieval Europe. We will begin this quarter with the larger question of why study the Middle Ages at all, particularly in an American context, and then move to answer it through a number of different interpretive lenses. Our primary concern will be with attempts to rework the "grand narrative" of medieval European history as either a moment of revolution or a moment of construction. We will also be addressing issues in the application of textual criticism to the study of saints and women (two of the major subfields in medieval studies at the moment being hagiography and the history of women). Our ultimate goal will be to test the existing paradigms of European crisis and development as focused on the "Middle Ages," and to answer for ourselves the question: Why study the Middle Ages?


This course is designed primarily as a reading and discussion course. I will also ask you to do a number of written assignments, which together will help me assess your final grade. To a certain extent, the nature of these assignments will depend on what you most want to get out of the course. If you are using this course to help prepare for your field examinations, for example, a series of book reviews may suit best. If you would prefer to do a more synthetic discussion, for example, on the concept of revolution or community, then a longer paper analyzing a set of the books may suit best. You should consult with me in the first few weeks of class to agree on one or other of these options. Minimum writing in total should be about 20-25 pages, so either two 10-12 page essays on one of the main conceptual problems, or four 5-6 page book reviews. Otherwise, your primary responsibility to the class will be to prepare for the weekly discussions and be ready to speak in detail about each of the readings.


March 29 Why study the Middle Ages?

Paul Freedman and Gabrielle M. Spiegel, "Medievalisms Old and New: The Rediscovery of Alterity in North American Medieval Studies," The American Historical Review 103 (June 1998): 677-704

John Van Engen, "An Afterword on Medieval Studies, Or the Future of Abelard and Heloise," in The Past and Future of Medieval Studies, ed. John Van Engen (Notre Dame, 1994), 401-31

Karl F. Morrison, "Fragmentation and Unity in American Medievalism," in The Past Before Us: Contemporary Historical Writing in the United States, ed. Michael Kammen (Ithaca, NY, 1980), 49-77

Charles H. Haskins, "European History and American Scholarship," The American Historical Review 28 (January 1923): 215-227

April 5 Old Paradigms

R.W. Southern, The Making of the Middle Ages (New Haven, 1953)

Example surveys ("textbook" history)

April 12 Revolutions I

Alexander Murray, Reason and Society in the Middle Ages (Oxford, 1978)

Robert S. Lopez, The Commercial Revolution of the Middle Ages, 950-1350 (Cambridge, 1976)

April 19 Revolutions II

R.I. Moore, The First European Revolution, c. 970-1215 (Oxford and Malden, MA, 2000)

John Haldon, The State and the Tributary Mode of Production (London and New York, 1993)

April 26 Communities I

Susan Reynolds, Kingdoms and Communities in Western Europe 900-1300, 2nd ed. (Oxford, 1984, 1997)

Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, rev. ed. (London and New York, 1983, 1991), 1-46

May 3 Communities II

Lutz Kaelber, Schools of Asceticism: Ideology and Organization in Medieval Religious Communities (University Park, PA, 1998)

Herbert Grundmann, Religious Movements in the Middle Ages, trans. Steven Rowan (Notre Dame and London, 1995)

May 10 Saints and textuality

Kathleen Ashley and Pamela Sheingorn, Writing Faith: Text, Sign and History in the Miracles of Sainte Foy (Chicago and London, 1999)

The Book of Sainte Foy, trans. Pamela Sheingorn (Philadelphia, 1995)

May 17 Women and textuality

Elizabeth Robertson, Early English Devotional Prose and the Female Audience (Knoxville, 1990)

Peter Dronke, Women Writers of the Middle Ages: A Critical Study of Texts from Perpetua (203) to Marguerite Porete (1310) (Cambridge, 1984)

May 24 The return of the repressed

Dyan Elliott, Fallen Bodies: Pollution, Sexuality and Demonology in the Middle Ages (Philadelphia, 1999)

Kathleen Biddick, The Shock of Medievalism (Durham and London, 1998)

May 31 New paradigms

John Mundy, Europe in the High Middle Ages 1150-1300, 3rd ed. (Harlow, 1973, 1991, 2000)

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