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Courses, Spring 2017

The following courses are cross-listed with MEMS for Spring term 2015. Many other courses can be used to contribute to the minor or IDS major.

MEM 4931 (2C28) / CHT 4603: “Journey to the West”

Richard Wang, Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures

This course is designed to explore the religious culture, cultural history and literary expression of traditional China through a 100-chapter novel known as Journey to the West, or Monkey.  Based on the famous Tang Buddhist monk Hsüan-tsang’s (596-664) historical pilgrimage to India, and encompassed the story cycle of the journey to the west developed in a millennia, the novel of the Ming dynasty demonstrates its rich texture of religious and literary themes, sentiments, and assumptions in this novel, a work considered one of the masterpieces of traditional Chinese fiction, and the finest supernatural novel.  The Journey’s scope includes a physical journey, a heroic adventure, a religious mission, and a process of self-cultivation, through the encounters between the pilgrims, mainly the well-known character Monkey who is Hsüan-tsang’s chief disciple and guardian, and various monsters.  This novel has an unsurpassingly penetrating impact on Chinese cultural history and society.  It represents the maturity of the Chinese novel, and most literary genres in its pages.  While basically a supernatural novel, it also describes social customs and daily life of different regions of China.  More than any other traditional Chinese narratives, the Journey presents concerns and themes directly related to Chinese religious, intellectual and cultural history, in addition to literary tradition.

MEM 3931 (011D) / FRT 3004: “Monuments and Masterpieces of France: Versailles from Absolutism to Revolution”

Rori Bloom, Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures

In this course, we will explore the palace of Louis XIV– a UNESCO world heritage site — through literature, architecture, art, and film.  Readings will include letters, fairy tales, and plays as well as essays on topics such as court dress, court ballet, and court gossip.  Students will view and write reviews of several films, including Le Roi danse, Vatel, Ridicule, A Little Chaos, and Marie-Antoinette.  As a final project, students will design and present a virtual museum exhibit on a selected topic; past topics have included food at Versailles, representations of Africa and Asia at Versailles, Greek Mythology at Versailles, Versailles imitators, etc.

This course is taught in English.  Prereq: sophomore standing

MEM 4931 (127A)/GET 4930 (1265): “The Courtly Romances”

Will Hasty, Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures

A consideration of the courtly verse romances composed in German in the late twelfth and early thirteenth century.  Readings include Arthurian and Grail romances, as well as the heroic epic “Nibelungenlied” and two vernacular religious narratives that are demonstrably influenced by the romances.  The seminar begins with a brief consideration of the Latin literary culture of the Christian “Roman empire” that was seen to continue in the Middle Ages. The vernacular verse romances produced in the High Middle Ages are then considered according to the ways in which they can be regarded both as a continuation of and as a break from Latin-Christian “Roman” imperial culture that prepares the way for the Renaissance and Reformation (the latter is represented by a seminal early text by Martin Luther we will consider at the end of term).  In conceptualizing the continuities and discontinuities evinced by the romances, particular attention is paid to them as documents of a cultural transition occurring in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries from an understanding of self as sacrifice to an understanding of self as investment or wager.

Also of special interest to MEMS students:

EUH 3670 (02G8): “Jewish History 711-1492”

Nina Caputo, Department of History

This course surveys major historic developments in medieval Jewish society in the Muslim and and western Christian contexts.  We will look at the divergence of Judaism and Christianity, the rise of the Babylonian communities, the social and cultural history of Jews in the Arab Mediterranean world, the emergence of Jewish communities in medieval Europe, and the impact on Jewish society of the Crusades, the Iberian Reconquista, the emergence of the mendicant orders, and the Black Death. In the lectures, readings and assignments, students will examine the interaction of Jews with the majority culture, political structure, and economy, as well as changing cultural trends within Jewish society. The distinctive religious climate of the medieval period will serve as a unifying theme throughout. We will study primary sources as well as recent historical scholarship.