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Medieval/Renaissance Studies

"Dicebat Bernardus Carnotensis nos esse quasi nanos, gigantium humeris insidentes, ut possimus plura eis et remotiora videre, non utique proprii visus acumine, aut eminentia corporis, sed quia in altum subvenimur et extollimur magnitudine gigantea"

"Bernard of Chartres used to say that we are like dwarfs on the shoulders of giants, so that we can see more than they, and things at a greater distance, not by virtue of any sharpness of sight on our part, or any physical distinction, but because we are carried high and raised up by their giant size."

John of Salisbury 1159

The Middle Ages began in late Roman antiquity, conventionally with the rule of the Emperor Constantine (AD 324-337), and continued up to the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks in 1453. The Renaissance overlaps the later Middle Ages, beginning as early as the fourteenth century in Italy and as late as the early sixteenth century in northern Europe. Scholars generally agree that in most parts of Europe the Renaissance was supplanted by the Baroque no later than the mid-seventeenth century. Although modern scholars have traditionally divided this long era into two distinct periods, it makes better sense to study them jointly in one program. First, there is no clear historical dividing line that is equally valid for all areas of Europe and the Middle East. Second, many scholars have argued that the cultural continuities between these two periods are just as significant as the cultural discontinuities. .

The minor in Medieval/Renaissance Studies is designed to help students understand and appreciate a very broad and important era through the disciplines of history, English and other European languages, art history, history of music, history of science, Middle Eastern studies, philosophy, and theology. The thirteen centuries belonging to the medieval and Renaissance era have been crucial to the development of modern Western culture in almost all areas. The Middle Ages, for example, gave us eye glasses, Gothic cathedrals, spinning wheels, the mechanical clock, and many innovations that increased agricultural productivity. It gave us double-entry bookkeeping, the common law, trial by jury, and the notion that certain individuals and groups had clearly defined rights vis-à-vis the state. It gave us the ideals of chivalry and the great legends of King Arthur and Camelot, Robin Hood, and Pope Joan. It gave us the idea and the institution of the university and our academic regalia. All the modern European vernacular languages first developed during the Middle Ages. The Renaissance gave us printing by moveable type, proof of the heliocentric nature of the solar system, the discovery of America and the idea and institutions of the modern nation state. It also gave us Shakespeare's plays, the King James translation of the Bible, and Michelangelo's paintings and sculpture.