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You will explore a critical period in the history of Europe and the Mediterranean world 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, you’ll find one-on-one encouragement, personal direction and research opportunities that suit your interests.

About the Minor

Medieval and Renaissance studies is a minor at Hamilton, attained by taking five courses in at least three departments. Within this broad framework, students may focus on either or both of these epochs, but they are encouraged at every turn to explore the continuities between them.

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. 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.

Jack McManus ’13 — Medieval and Renaissance studies minor

Students will pursue the questions of when and how the modern world emerged. They'll gain a critical understanding of the multicultural histories, literatures and artistic traditions of the European and Arab-Muslim worlds — and the various forms of exchange, conflict and contact that shaped them roughly between 500 and 1600 CE. Students will find an era very unlike the stagnant “Dark Ages” of popular imagination. It's a period of boundless energy, creativity and originality that shaped the world for centuries to come.

Careers After Hamilton

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

Contact Information

Medieval and Renaissance Studies Program

198 College Hill Road
Clinton, NY 13323

Meet Our Faculty

A Sampling of Courses

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Introduction to Old English 221F

Exploration of the language, literature and culture of early medieval England, from the Anglo-Saxon invasion through the Norman Conquest. Emphasis on reading and translating Old English prose and poetry, as well as developing an understanding of its cultural context. Culminates with a reading of Beowulf in translation. Offered in alternate years.

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Chaucer: Gender and Genre 222F

Examines how Chaucer engages and transforms prevailing medieval ideas of gender and genre. Particular emphasis on his constructions of masculinity and femininity in relation to themes of sex, religion, social power and narrative authority. Readings include Troilus and Criseyde and The Canterbury Tales in Middle English, as well as select medieval sources and modern criticism. Writing-intensive.

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Shakespeare 227FS

This course is about developing the reading strategies to not only understand and enjoy Shakespeare’s plays, but to read them in a complicated, critical way. While we will study plays spanning Shakespeare’s career, the course will place a special emphasis on reading the plays attuned to how different genres (tragedy, comedy, romance, pastoral, history) are employed and explored. Additionally, we will read significant, complementary material about the culture and the theatre during Shakespeare’s lifetime. (Genre) (History)

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Medieval Women: Writing and Written 237S

How did medieval women authors engage with a literary tradition that too often, as 14th c. writer Christine de Pizan lamented, declared that "female nature is wholly given up to vice”? Readings from English and French authors including Christine, Marie de France, Margery Kempe, Julian of Norwich, and Geoffrey Chaucer; anonymous tales of women saints, cross-dressing knights, and disobedient wives; “authoritative” writings about women (inc. religious and medical tracts and a manual on courtly love). We will investigate how these texts both created and challenged gender roles in the Middle Ages.

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English Renaissance Literature: 1550-1660 327S

Study of the ways works and writers of this period are "in conversation" with each other on such matters as love, death, religious belief, the human response to the natural world and the role of women (in society and as authors). Readings of poems and other works by such writers as Shakespeare, Spenser, Donne, Herbert and Mary Wroth. Writing-intensive.

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