Medieval Studies

Convent of Saint Agnes (Prague, Czech Republic) - Photo by G. Dameron

The Medieval Studies minor is an interdisciplinary program that offers students the opportunity to explore the development of medieval culture and society in Europe, West Asia, and North Africa from the fifth through the fifteenth centuries. Much of the modern world, from the political and economic to the arts, is rooted in (and better understood by) studying medieval society. Guided by personal interests, students can draw on courses from Classics, History, English, Fine Arts, Religious Studies, Modern Languages, and Philosophy to fulfill the Medieval Studies minor. "Our students tend to be very productive with very broad interests" says program coordinator George Dameron from the History Department. In fact, many students who declare a minor in Medieval Studies also major or double-major in an area such as History, Education, or Religious Studies.

The introductory course in History surveys the medieval history of Europe, Islam, and Byzantium from the fifth through the fifteenth century (from the collapse of the Roman Empire to the rise of the Ottoman Empire), and it emphasizes the study of primary sources. The Humanities introductory course takes a chronological yet interdisciplinary approach to the study of significant texts from Antiquity and the Middle Ages, emphasizing the Western tradition but not excluding the non-Western. Readings in this course may include Plato's Virgil's Aeneid, Saint Augustine's Confessions, the Rule of Saint Benedict, the Lays of Marie de France, an Arthurian romance, and Dante's Inferno.

The array of Religious Studies courses, introductory as well as upper level, acquaint the student with the origins and development of medieval Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.  The electives in other disciplines from which students may choose to fulfill the minor leave wide room for the student's own particular interests. Choices may include courses in Greek and Latin, British and Old English literature, art history, the history of drama, philosophy, religious studies, and music. Students may choose to focus on one particular geographical area in particular, such as Spain, France, Italy, or Syria. An 18-day study-abroad course in Burgundy, France, is a popular choice for students in this minor.

George Dameron, PhD

Professor of History, Coordinator of Humanities, Chair Phi Beta Kappa
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Contact Professor Dameron

Durick Library 306
Box 141
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Ph.D. Harvard University
M.A. Harvard University
B.A. Duke University

Areas of Expertise:

Medieval and Early Modern Europe; Medieval Italy, with particular focus on thirteenth and fourteenth century Tuscany (social, economic, cultural, political)

Courses I Teach:

  • Ancient and Medieval Civilization
  • The Black Death
  • Culture and Society in Medieval Italy
  • Early Modern Europe
  • The Franciscans
  • The Historian's Craft
  • Honors Colloquium
  • Joan of Arc (First Year Seminar)
  • Medieval Europe
  • Renaissance and Reformation
  • Senior Seminar
  • Topics in Medieval History: (topics vary and include "Women and Gender in the Middle Ages")

Kristin Juel, PhD

Associate Professor of Classical and Modern Languages and Literature: French

Contact Professor Juel

Klein Hall 111
Box 382
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M.A., Ph.D. Indiana University
B.A. St. Olaf College

Area of Expertise:

Medieval French literature

Courses I Teach:

  • Grammar and Composition (FR308)
  • First, Second, and Third Semester French (FR101, FR102, FR203)
  • French Film (FR430)
  • French Poetry (FR445)
  • French Theater (FR425)
  • Medieval French Culture (FR 315)
  • Senior Seminar (FR460)

My Saint Michael's:

I chose to teach at a small private college because I enjoy teaching a little of everything. I love to see the progress of language students as much as I love watching students come to appreciate the literature.

The Saint Michael’s environment is a very caring one, one that will facilitate your intellectual, spiritual and personal growth. I appreciate the diversity of the student body and the faculty and the energy that they bring to the institution.

Saint Michael’s students seem to have a real curiosity about, and respect for, other people and their cultures. I love giving oral exams at the end of FR101 and FR102. While it’s probably the aspect of the course that students fear the most, it’s incredibly satisfying to see how much they can actually communicate after just one or two semesters.

Raymond Patterson, PhD

Religious Studies Department Chair, Associate Professor of Religious Studies

Contact Professor Patterson

Saint Edmund's Hall 225
Box 201
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Ph.D. The Catholic University of America
M.A. Yale Divinity School
B.A. Dartmouth College;

Courses I Teach:

  • American Catholicism
  • American Protestantism
  • Celtic Christianity
  • Saints and Holiness
  • Sacraments, Worship, and Ritual
  • Religion and Film
  • Varieties of Christianity

My Saint Michael's:

Saint Michael’s graduates look at their time in Vermont as a special time in their lives -- many spend the rest of their lives trying to find ways to get back here!  I like the size of the community, which has allowed me to develop strong working relationships with students, staff and other faculty.

Kerry Shea, PhD

Associate Professor of English

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Saint Edmund's Hall 339
Box Box 392
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M.A., Ph.D. Cornell University
B.A., M.A. Middlebury College;

Areas of Expertise:

I have published on women and film as well as Middle High German and Old Norse literature and am working on a book, Engendering Romance: Women and European Medieval Romance.

Courses I Teach:

I teach courses in film, early British Literature, mystery fiction, utopian fiction and women’s literature.

John Kenney, PhD

Emeritus Professor of Religious Studies
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Durick Library 302
Box 375
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Ph.D. Brown University
A.B. Bowdoin College

I studied ancient philosophy at Bowdoin, majoring in Classics and Philosophy. I did graduate work in Philosophy at the University Pennsylvania, and then completed my Ph.D. at Brown in Religious Studies. After a post-doctoral fellowship at Harvard, I taught for 15 years at Reed as Professor of Religion and Humanities. I came to Saint Michael's to be Dean of the College in 1995. Since 2006 I have been teaching full-time as Professor of Religious Studies. I also offer courses in the Humanities Program

Areas of Expertise:

Philosophy of Religion, Ancient Christianity

Courses I Teach:

  • Ancient and Medieval Civilization
  • Catholic Christianity
  • Medieval Christianity
  • Understandings of God
  • The Problem of Evil
  • Christian Mysticism

Students may choose to take an 18-day academic study tour course in Burgundy, France. It emphasizes the historical, political, artistic, religious, literary, cultural, and social developments of medieval Burgundy. Based in Pontigny, a striking site from where Saint Michael’s College draws its roots, students travel to cities, abbeys, castles, cathedrals, museums, and archaeological sites. This counts as a full course and offers an optional applied language component. An additional academic study tour to Assisi, Italy is currently under development for the future.

Students may choose to complete their minor with a major research paper in a particular area of interest to them. They can do this within the format of a senior seminar of an existing major, such as History or English or Religious Studies. Student-faculty research grants in the summer are also available for Medieval Studies minors. For example, one summer a student worked with a faculty member to explore the vexed relations between Christians and Jews in the European Middle Ages.

The minor emphasizes critical and intensive thinking, writing, and speaking about primary sources that date from the medieval past. These are skills that translate well into any major profession, whether it is in diplomacy, law, academia, or business. Medieval Studies minors have gone into a variety of professions, including teaching, law, and public history. It has also helped provide a strong academic preparation for students who have gone on to pursue graduate degrees in a variety of subjects.

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