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About the Minor

In this interdisciplinary program, students delve into the complex histories and cultures of medieval and early modern worlds from a variety of perspectives, taking courses in art, literature, languages, history, and music from Byzantium to Shakespeare’s England. Working closely with faculty in small classes, students find one-on-one encouragement, personal direction, and research opportunities. 

A Sampling of Courses

The Nuremberg Chronicle, one of 700 surviving copies of the 1493 world history

Visual Culture of the Medieval World

This course surveys the art and architecture of Europe during the Middle Ages from ca. 500-1400. We will focus on key artworks and monuments made and built in Europe from the Visigoths and Vikings to the Valois court, as well as examine cross-cultural interactions across religious and political boundaries in medieval Africa, the Arctic, and the Mediterranean. Students will develop an awareness of the production, function, and social context of medieval visual culture through the close study of architecture, manuscript, metalwork, mosaic, painting, sculpture, and textile. Despite our historical distance from the Middle Ages, we will also consider how medieval imagery remains relevant to our current visual world.  

Explore these select courses:

Thinkers in antiquity disagreed about what acts or dispositions ought to be included in the category of wrongdoing, what the nature of sin was, and what, if anything, could be done about it. In this course we examine these conversations from antiquity. Most of our time will be spent on Greco-Roman sources from the first four centuries CE: the New Testament, early Christian apologists, martyr texts, sophists, legal historians, and philosophers. But part of our work will be understanding the legacy of thinking around sin that people in these centuries inherited. To that end, we will read about sin in the Hebrew Bible, a Greek tragedy, Aristotle, and Hellenistic Jewish writings.

This course serves as an introduction to the field of Medieval and Renaissance Studies. Drawing on multiple disciplinary perspectives, including those of literature, law, history, and art, we will examine the intersection of ideas about the body, gender, and violence in the European Middle Ages. Readings may include the Bible and early patristic writings; the lives of saints; poems and advice manuals on courtly love; depictions of women in the Crusades; Icelandic sagas; and perspectives on the trial of Joan of Arc.

"Amor condusse noi ad una morte" (“Love led us to one death”). As Dante portrayed in the Inferno, the experience love is inseparable from death. Our journey begins with Dante’s memory of Beatrice retold and reimagined in The New Life—a work inspired as much by love as by death. When Dante reunites with Beatrice in The Divine Comedy, his understanding of love also evolved. How did this shift prompt him to twist the stories of great lovers as a near-death encounter? We will explore an array of literary variations on the theme of love and death from the Middle Ages to the contemporary world. In addition to investigating the rich literary tradition, we will also turn to works in music and the visual arts. 

The word "martyrdom" is a site of live debate about ethics, from religious extremist martyrs to the label "martyr complex." Who is willing to suffer, and for what? Is that willingness justifiable, pathological, or terrorism? Must one die, or is it enough to suffer?. Christians in antiquity also asked these questions in response to persecution under the Roman Empire, as well as in the centuries after. Others in antiquity too considered the difference between suicide and noble, voluntary death. We will analyze the phenomenon of martyrdom in antiquity through a variety of textual attestation.

In this course students undertake a careful study of Moses Maimonides’ Jewish-philosophical masterpiece, the Guide of the Perplexed. Class sessions will be devoted to analyzing the text and exploring the book’s major philosophical and theological themes: the relation between science and religion, the nature of God, creation versus eternity, prophecy, divine providence and the problem of evil, law and politics, and the purpose of human existence.

Meet Our Faculty

Margaret Thickstun

Jane Watson Irwin Professor of Literature, Director of Medieval and Renaissance Studies

literature in 17th-century England and Colonial America, particularly by women and by people writing on religious subjects

Abhishek Amar

Associate Professor of Asian Studies

archaeological history of South Asian religions, especially Buddhist and Hindu traditions; research in themes of inter-religious dynamics, syncretism and religious transformation; colonialism and reconfigurations of sacred centers; and religion and water management in the Buddhist and Hindu traditions

Stephanie Bahr

Assistant Professor of Literature

Mackenzie Cooley

Assistant Professor of History, Director of Latin American Studies

history of science; early modern world; Colonial Latin America; environmental history; intellectual history; digital humanities; history of gender and sexuality; animal studies; genetics and history

Luis Miguel dos Santos Vicente

Assistant Professor of Hispanic Studies

Medieval Iberian literatures and cultures; cross-cultural exchanges; medieval travel writing; Alfonso X of Castile; early modern Spanish travel; autobiography

John Eldevik

Professor of History, Chair of the Department of German, Russian, Italian, and Arabic

social and economic history of the early Middle Ages; history of law and mechanisms of conflict resolution; the perceptions of non-Christian peoples and lands in medieval manuscript culture

Lydia Hamessley

Chair, the Eugene M. Tobin Distinguished Professor of Music

Dolly Parton; American folk and traditional musics; banjo, music and film; medieval and renaissance music; music and gender

Usman Hamid

Assistant Professor of Asian Studies

History of Islam in South Asia, specializing in Sultanate and Mughal India; Muslim devotional traditions, material culture, and gender and sexuality; history of pre-modern Iran and Persian culture

Old English, Middle English, and Middle Scots language and literature

Laura Tillery

Assistant Professor of Art History

Medieval and early modern art; Scandinavian studies; German studies; economics and trade; religious iconography; object-based learning; history and methods of art history

Explore Hamilton Stories

medieval map

Meshing Digital Arts and Medieval Maps

Fueled by a dual passion for production value and the Middle Ages, Ryan Mayhan ’22 created a project that successfully meshes his academic interests. It’s a video, aimed at a general audience, about how cartographers created ideological maps of the medieval mind.

Mackenzie Cooley

Cooley Awarded I Tatti Fellowship

Assistant Professor of History MacKenzie Cooley has received one of the most prestigious fellowships in the field of Renaissance studies, a post-doctoral fellowship at Harvard University’s Center for Italian Renaissance Studies, I Tatti, for the 2021-22 academic year.

Dew Drops of Wisdom

Teaching Tools

These days, Hamilton students and faculty delve deeply into the Lang Special Collections and Archives, and thanks to Michael Lang ’67, access to the trove is greater than ever.

Careers After Hamilton

Hamilton graduates who concentrated in Medieval and Renaissance studies are pursuing careers in a variety of fields, including:

  • Assistant Professor of English, Wittenberg University
  • Arts Editor, Bennington Banner


Department Name

Medieval and Renaissance Studies Program

Contact Name

Margie Thickstun, Chair

Office Location
198 College Hill Road
Clinton, NY 13323

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