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Medieval and Renaissance Studies

You will cross disciplines – art, literature, history and music – to explore crucial periods in human development, working closely with faculty in small classes. Expect one-on-one encouragement, personal direction and research opportunities that suit your interests.


Joseph Legault '14

A student builds a foundation: history and fiction writing

Joseph Legault ’14, a creative writing major at Hamilton College, was pretty much oblivious to the existence of medieval and Renaissance studies until his advisor pointed it out. For Lagault, a fantasy writer, it proved to be a rich minor. “I’ve always been influenced by history, almost like following in Tolkien's footsteps, because he took history courses,” he says.

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Legault says he can take the history he’s learning and from it, “create something new."  He loves the interdisciplinary – and unexpected  – nature of the coursework. He took Old English for a language requirement for his major and a course that looked at the Crusades in the context of Asia as well as Europe. “It was very different than I thought it was going to be,” he says of the inclusive sweep.

Another course that stands out was “Columbus's Library,” which was based on readings Columbus would have done before he set out on his journeys, Legault says.

His mix of courses includes cinema and new media studies, and he plans to pursue a career in writing, maybe for a newspaper.


Jack McManus '13 on the job.

A graduate’s progress: a curious mind, an editing job

Jack McManus ’13 became the arts editor at the Bennington Banner, in Vermont, not long after he graduated from Hamilton College. He majored in American studies and minored in medieval and Renaissance studies just for the love of it. “I never thought about medieval studies as a means to a tangible end, it was just something that I enjoyed for its own sake. Surprisingly enough, it did end up helping my post-grad job search – one interviewer saw the minor on my resume and asked me about it," he recalls.

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"I told her about some of the things I studied: Old English poetry, Viking battle tactics, forced drowning as a form of legal trial, things like that. She seemed intrigued,” says McManus, who worked at Hamilton’s student newspaper and radio station.

He isn’t surprised he was lured into the Middle Ages. He’s that kind of guy.

“I'm constantly finding new subjects that captivate me, from the history of 18th century piracy to Albert Hitchcock films, and my medieval studies classes helped me uncover a whole wealth of fascinating new things that I wouldn’t have found otherwise. Studying the Middle Ages both fed and sparked my curiosity in ways that I really enjoyed and valued,” he says.