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Quote Big fun! Great balance of exploration and schooling really enhances the experience. Quote

The Seminars

All students choose two seminars (some students add a third: Shakespeare: Page & Stage) from a range that includes history, literature, political science, music, and the arts, working with a teaching faculty of outstanding British and American scholar-teachers. Each seminar carries 4 credits.

On the Application Form, please indicate first and second choices for Seminar 1 and Seminar 2; using the letters assigned to the seminars below.

Click title for seminar descriptions
8:30-9:30
ART
A

Medieval Art in Britain and Northern Europe

Gregory Clark (The University of the South)

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Medieval Art in Britain and Northern Europe

Gregory Clark (The University of the South)

This seminar will form a survey of architecture, sculpture, manuscript illustration, and the decorative arts in the British Isles from the Roman era to the early sixteenth century. Artistic exchanges between Britain and the continent will be especially emphasized. The seminar will make use of the many surviving examples of medieval art and architecture to be found in Oxford and elsewhere in Britain.

ENGLISH
B

Old English Poetry in Translation

Lori Garner (Rhodes College)

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Old English Poetry in Translation

Lori Garner (Rhodes College)

Yet it [Beowulf] is in fact written in a language that after many centuries has still essential kinship with our own, it was made in this land, and moves our northern sky, and for those who are native to that tongue and land, it must ever call with a profound appeal—until the dragon comes. J.R.R. Tolkien Old English poetry such as Beowulf represents the earliest surviving vernacular British literature, and its stories of heroes, saints, monsters, and exiles have long inspired such writers as J.R.R. Tolkien, Ezra Pound, and Seamus Heaney. This course serves as an introduction to the tremendous diversity and complexity of the Anglo-Saxon world, roughly the period spanning the 5th-11th centuries. To this end, we will examine Old English texts within various historical, social, and religious contexts of early medieval England. Readings reflecting the period’s multiplicity of cultural traditions and covering a wide range of genres will include not only Beowulf and well-known Old English lyric poems, such as “The Seafarer” and “The Ruin,” but also lesser-known riddles, saint’s lives, maxims, and even healing charms. Our close readings of these texts will be further contextualized through available archaeological and manuscript evidence as well as current critical methodologies. While all readings will be provided in dual-language editions to allow for a heightened understanding of the original Old English, our work will be based primarily on modern English translations.

C

The World of Medieval Romance

Aisling Byrne (Merton College, Oxford)

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The World of Medieval Romance

Aisling Byrne (Merton College, Oxford)

Today, the term 'medieval romance' conjures images of questing knights, magical creatures, passionate love stories and exotic locations. These images give some sense of why romance was such a popular genre across most of medieval Europe, but they do not tell the full story of this varied, engaging (and often sophisticated) body of literature. This seminar introduces romance texts from England, placing these narratives within the wider historical and social contexts that influenced them. The romances we will read on this course provide a window onto key aspects of medieval culture. These romances celebrate and critique ideals like chivalry and courtesy, they engage with contemporary events such as the wars with Scotland and the crusades, they include complex treatments of the relations between the sexes, and they are profoundly interested in all that is exotic and uncanny. Romance narratives also had an impact on the world in which they were written and read; for instance, Arthurian narratives influenced how English kings presented and justified themselves throughout the Middle Ages. The texts we will explore will include classics like Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Thomas Malory'sMorte Darthur alongside less widely read works like Sir Orfeo and the numerous shorter “Gawain romances”. Previous knowledge of Middle English or of other medieval languages is not required.

HISTORY
D

 Roman Britain: State-building on the Edge of the Empire

Matthew Symonds (Current Archaeology)

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 Roman Britain: State-building on the Edge of the Empire

Matthew Symonds (Current Archaeology)

This course is a portrait of a province of the Roman Empire, beginning with Roman influence on Britain before the Claudianconquest in AD 43. A combination of archaeological, epigraphic and ancient-historical evidence will be used to reconstruct the invasion, governance and development of Britain during the three and a half centuries of Roman rule. Topics considered will include the ideology, mechanics, and unintended consequences of Imperial policy. We will examine why the Roman army stalled on the Scottish Highland fringe, resulting in one of the most heavily defended frontiers of the Empire. We shall also assess the economy, society, and culture of the province, as well as the interplay between occupier and occupied. Particular attention will be paid to the contrast between the wealthy urban and rural areas in central southern Britain, and the heavily militarized zone to the north; comparison with other imperial provinces; and the interpretation of the events of the end of the Roman province. Direct experience of the resources of London and of Oxford and its University; and of some accessible surviving Roman sites, will be central to the course. These resources include the collections of the British Museum and the Museum of London; and sites such as Fishbourne; Bignor, Cirencester, Bath; Caerwent and Caerleon; and, if possible, the astonishing remains of the frontier works on Hadrian’s Wall.

E

Anglo-Saxon England, c.400–1066

Richard Sowerby (Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge)

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Anglo-Saxon England, c.400–1066

Richard Sowerby (Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge)

The period between the fifth century, when Britain ceased to be part of the Roman Empire, and the eleventh, when the English throne was twice won by conquest, is one of the most challenging and fascinating periods in the history of England. It challenges historians with its fragmentary source material, forcing us to unite archaeological, poetic, economic and documentary evidence to form a coherent picture of the past. But it is also uniquely fascinating, because it was during these centuries that a series of small Anglo-Saxon kingdoms were transformed into one of the most advanced societies of the early Middle Ages. Along the way it had produced in Beowulf arguably the greatest piece of literature written anywhere in early medieval Europe, one of the finest historians of the Middle Ages, and a diverse array of artwork that still has the power to astonish us. This course will introduce you to the political, social and cultural history of Anglo-Saxon England, and set these remarkable cultural achievements in their contemporary context.

F

England and the Norman Conquest

Daniel Gerrard (St Peter’s College, Oxford)

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England and the Norman Conquest

Daniel Gerrard (St Peter’s College, Oxford)

In 1066, England was invaded and conquered by William, Duke of the Normans. In one of the most dramatic, successful, and brutal campaigns of conquest yet seen in European history, the kingdom of the Anglo-Saxons was swept away by a northern French prince. The formidable apparatus of its state would now serve to provide men and money for the pursuit of his ambitions on the continent, while its language, law, culture, and church were transformed by the new regime. This course examines the origins, progress and effects of the Norman Conquest. Students will acquire a wide-ranging familiarity with the reigns of Edward the Confessor and Harold II (the last Anglo-Saxon kings) and with Normandy before 1066 before they explore the history of the Conquest itself in depth. Most of this course will be taught through a range of primary sources including visual sources and texts read in translation, from The Song of the Battle of Hastings to The Bayeux Tapestry toDomesday Book.

11:15-12:15
ENGLISH
H

Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales

Lori Garner (Rhodes College)

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Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales

Lori Garner (Rhodes College)

Wel nyne and twenty in a companye
Of sondry folk, by aventure y-falle
In felawshipe, and pilgrims were they alle,
That toward Caunterbury wolden ryde.
As promised in its famous prologue, Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales introduces attentive readers to a richly diverse array of “sondry folk”—ranging from knights and squires, to friars and nuns, and even to cooks and shipmen. Reflecting Chaucer’s own deep knowledge of Latin, French, and Italian conventions as well as the literature and folklore of his own native England, these pilgrims offer readers memorable and enlightening performances across a vast spectrum of medieval genres—chivalric romances, bawdy fabliaux, didactic allegories, beast fables, and many more. Through close and careful reading of The Canterbury Tales in the original Middle English, we will work to develop not only an appreciation of the complex world inhabited by the pilgrims but also a proficiency in the language written and spoken in 14th century London. Throughout our exploration of the tales, we will examine the creative ways in which Chaucer combined tradition and innovation and analyze his engagement with such issues as social class, philosophy, gender, and religion. To help fully contextualize the tales, supplemental readings will include relevant works by Chaucer’s influences and contemporaries as well as recent scholarly interpretations of his writings.

I

Medieval Masculinities

Anna Caughey (Keble College, Oxford)

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Medieval Masculinities

Anna Caughey (Keble College, Oxford)

In this course, we will examine the roles and representations of men and masculinity in a selection of texts from the Anglo-Saxon period to the end of the fifteenth century. Using twentieth- and twenty-first century theory to illuminate the ways in which gender is constructed and maintained, we will consider both idealised and aberrant models of masculinity, meeting figures such as the heroic Beowulf and the monstrous Grendel, Chaucer’s doomed lover Troilus, the cross-dressing female knight Silence and the multiple – and very different – early and late medieval versions of King Arthur. Texts covered will include romances, histories, clerical writing and “chivalry handbooks”. No prior experience in reading Old or Middle English is assumed.

J

Medieval Drama

Ralph Hanna (Keble College, Oxford)

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Medieval Drama

Ralph Hanna (Keble College, Oxford)

We’re often told that drama before Shakespeare was stylized and dull. This course sets out to prove the contrary. We will explore the medieval Mystery Cycles and Morality Plays, and the early Tudor interludes, looking at the ways in which humor, violence, academic debate, and human tenderness combine in discussion of theological and ethical issues in both the spiritual and material realms. Drama before Shakespeare is in fact sophisticated and self-reflexive: before there were professional theatres, plays were performed in spaces both public and private but which were not exclusively “theatrical”, and this encouraged stagings which exploited the metatheatrical in ways which are often thought to have been discovered in the twentieth century. Medieval dramaturgy, far from being naive or dull, has much in common with the most dynamic dramaturgy of the twentieth century, as this course will demonstrate.

ART
G

Medieval Art in Britain and Northern Europe

Gregory Clark (The University of the South)

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Medieval Art in Britain and Northern Europe

Gregory Clark (The University of the South)

This seminar will form a survey of architecture, sculpture, manuscript illustration, and the decorative arts in the British Isles from the Roman era to the early sixteenth century. Artistic exchanges between Britain and the continent will be especially emphasized. The seminar will make use of the many surviving examples of medieval art and architecture to be found in Oxford and elsewhere in Britain.

HISTORY
K

 Alchemists, Physicians and Philosophers: Understanding Science and the Physical World in the Middle Ages

Allan Chapman (Wadham College, Oxford)

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 Alchemists, Physicians and Philosophers: Understanding Science and the Physical World in the Middle Ages

Allan Chapman (Wadham College, Oxford)

Medieval thinkers always acknowledged their indebtedness to antiquity when explaining the natural world. Yet, by 1350, contemporary scholars had laid the foundations of modern optics, experimental science, metallurgy, and operative surgery. They had also invented spectacles, firearms, clocks, and buildings that stood up by the counterbalancing of forces: the Gothic cathedrals. Many of these scholars were British, including Roger Bacon, Geoffrey Chaucer, and William of Ockham. The course will look at the richness of medieval science and technology, giving particular emphasis to British figures, but also looking at the contributions of European and Islamic researchers. No previous scientific background will be required, and the achievements of medieval science and invention will be related to wider cultural developments in artistic and religious thought.

L

Monarchy, Nation and Empire: Britain in the High Middle Ages

Daniel Gerrard (St Peter’s College, Oxford)

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Monarchy, Nation and Empire: Britain in the High Middle Ages

Daniel Gerrard (St Peter’s College, Oxford)

Between the Norman Conquest in 1066 and the outbreak of the Hundred Years War in 1337, England stood at the centre of two empires: one in the British Isles and the other on the European continent. This course will introduce students to the political, military and diplomatic history of Britain in the High Middle Ages. We will explore the major shifts in political power in this period including the development of the English state, the turbulent dynastic politics that divided the country in civil wars, and the rise and fall of English imperial ambitions outside the kingdom. We will consider the entanglement with the church that took English kings from the crusades and the building of Westminster Abbey to the exile and murder of an archbishop of Canterbury. We will also explore the development of the other nations of the British archipelago: Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. How did they respond to England’s growth and ambitions, and how were their national identities forged? We will read a wide range of primary sources in translation, including chronicles, hagiography, ethnography and evenMagna Carta (in the 799th year after its signing!).

MUSIC
M

 ‘Fit for a King or Queen’: English Music from Henry V to Elizabeth I

Alexandra Buckle (St Anne’s and St Hilda’s College, Oxford)

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 ‘Fit for a King or Queen’: English Music from Henry V to Elizabeth I

Alexandra Buckle (St Anne’s and St Hilda’s College, Oxford)

The English choral tradition is steeped in over 800 years of history, and may still be experienced in Britain’s cathedrals, colleges and palaces. This seminar provides an historical survey of music in England from the time of Henry V to Elizabeth I (1400-1600). We will look at the importance of music to each monarch, exploring how they used music personally and ceremonially. We will witness major changes in choral music as we move from all-adult male repertoire to the inclusion of boy trebles and lower male voices at the end of the 1400s. As we reach the 1500s, we will witness even greater changes in the hands of Henry VIII and his reformation. During the course we will look at music before the reformation and after, seeing the implications for musicians and music in Protestant England. Dominant figures such as Thomas Tallis, William Byrd will be examined but also forgotten composers and the musical compositions of King Henry V and King Henry VIII. The course will cover aspects of performance practice, interpretation of music manuscripts and early notation. We will look at music manuscripts in the world-famous Bodleian Library in Oxford and will also visit several important choral institutions in order to examine the context in which such music was performed. Previous musical experience is not required.

ADDITIONAL SEMINAR

English
Shakespeare: Page & Stage

Michael Leslie (Rhodes College)

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English
Shakespeare: Page & Stage

Michael Leslie (Rhodes College)

A study of some of Shakespeare’s plays, integrating discussion of the texts, visits to performances in Stratford-upon-Avon, Oxford, or London (the reconstructed Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre), and subsequent discussion of the relationship between text and performance. The plays to be studied will be announced when theater programs are confirmed. The additional fee for this course includes tuition, travel to, and tickets for the additional performances attended.

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