Why Study Medieval and Renaissance Studies at New College?

Small class sizes and lots of personal interaction with faculty who are experts in the field are hallmarks of New College’s Medieval and Renaissance Studies AOC, which features a wide variety of courses. We focus on the critical period in Western history between the end of antiquity and the birth of modernity.

Medieval and Renaissance Studies area of concentration

This interdisciplinary program is focused on the critical period in Western history between the end of antiquity and the birth of modernity (roughly, 400 to 1600 C.E.). The periods of the Middle Ages and Renaissance encompass vast and exciting transformations that saw the creation of many of the institutions and habits upon which our world and worldview rest. Study of the period will provide students with the valuable perspective on the contemporary scene that can only be acquired at a considerable distance.

In many cases, students will be best served by pursuing medieval and Renaissance interests in concentrations such as Literature or History. An interdisciplinary approach, however, recognizes that the modern division into academic disciplines does not adequately reflect pre-modern European culture, when theology might be argued in verse or in painting, and when history, literature, and religion were inextricably entwined.

Area of Concentration Requirements

An Area of Concentration in Medieval and Renaissance Studies normally includes the following:

Acceptance: Students may apply to one of the above faculty members to discuss requirements and evaluate previous work dealing with the period. Applications should be made in the second year but no later than the beginning of the third year. Acceptance is based on the student’s demonstrated aptitude for the field.

Students wishing to include Medieval and Renaissance Studies as part of a ‘slash concentration’ are generally expected to fulfill all requirements for the concentration; exceptions are considered on a case-by-case basis.

Program: Students are encouraged to seek both a broad historical and cultural knowledge of the period as a whole and knowledge in depth of some important segments of it, by taking appropriate courses and tutorials. To ensure breadth, students must take at least one relevant class in each of the following areas:

  1. Art History/Music
  2. History
  3. Literature
  4. Philosophy/Religion

At least three classes or tutorials should be in one of the four areas, to provide the student with a disciplinary “base.” Students should also take at least two courses in related fields such as classical antiquity, early Judaism and Christianity, Byzantium, pre-modern China, or the seventeenth century. Students must take three semesters of a foreign language. Normally this will be Latin, but for some programs, at the sponsor’s discretion, another language might be substituted.

Finally, a senior thesis in some area of Medieval and Renaissance Studies is required.


Recent Theses

  • For the Love of the Gods: The Rhetoric and Reality of Religious Authority in Late Antiquity
  • Imagining Heaven and Earth: Cosmology and the Irish Tradition in the Saltair na Rann
  • Bohemond and the Byzantines: The Political Career of Bohemond of Taranto, 1096-1108
  • Romanization and Reform: Liturgy as a Mechanism of Change in Leon-Castile in the Eleventh and Early Twelfth Centuries
  • Norsemen without a King: An Analysis of Executive Authority in the Icelandic Commonwealth
  • Reconsidering Humanism: The Life and Works of Poggio Bracciolini


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