This page lists undergraduate courses only. Courses can be filtered by region, period, core languages, technical skills and object of study. Our listings are current and reflect the last three years of course offerings. If a course has been offered more than once, our listings reflect only the current iteration.
The Virgin Mary is the world's most storied person. Countless tales have been told about the miracles she has performed for the faithful who call upon her. Although many assume that African literature was only oral, not written, until the arrival of Europeans, Africans began writing stories about her by 1200 CE in the languages of Ethiopic, Coptic, & Arabic. This course explores this body of medieval African literature and paintings, preserved in African Christian monasteries, studying their themes of healing, reparative justice, & personal ethics in a violent world. It develops skills in the digital humanities & comparative literary studies.
This course is about the Red Sea region (modern-day Ethiopia, Yemen, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Sudan, and others) as a significant cultural, intellectual, and political domain in antiquity. Students will learn about how Red Sea societies spanning ancient Africa and Arabia connected the Eastern Mediterranean and Indian Ocean worlds. They will be introduced to the formative histories of scriptural communities Jews, Christians, and Muslims in the region, and explore various Red Sea writings including the Axumite inscriptions, the Kebra Nagast, and the Quran.
Conducted entirely in Arabic, this course will explore the ways in which Arab travelers and intellectuals have struggled to make sense of Europe and the people who live there, in both the medieval and modern eras. We will start first with more modern texts, and move back in time toward the 10th century. Students will offer weekly responses to the readings, and prepare a final project on a text of their own choosing.
The course explores how art worked in politics and religion from ca. 300-1200 CE in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Students encounter the arts of Catholicism and Orthodoxy, Judaism and Islam; great courts and migratory societies; dynamics of word and image, multilingualism, inter-cultural connection, and local identity. We consider how art can represent and shape notions of sacred and secular power, and examine how the work of 'art' in this period is itself powerful and, sometimes, dangerous. Course format combines lecture on various cultural contexts with workshop discussion focused on specific media and materials. Via Zoom in 2020.
The course explores how art worked in politics and religion from ca. 300-1200 CE in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Students encounter the arts of Catholicism and Orthodoxy, Judaism and Islam, great courts and migratory societies; dynamics of word and image, multilingualism, intercultural connection, and local identity. We examine how art can represent and shape notions of sacred and secular power. We consider how the work of 'art' in this period is itself powerful and, sometimes, dangerous. Course format combines lecture on various cultural contexts with workshop discussion focused on specific media and materials, or individual examples.
What was the Renaissance, and why has it occupied a central place in art history? Major artistic currents swept Europe during the fourteenth through sixteenth centuries, an age that saw the rise of global trade, the development of the nation state, and the onset of mass armed conflict. To explore the art of this period, we consider themes including religious devotion, encounters with foreign peoples and goods, the status of women, and the revival of antiquity. We study artists including Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci as well as some who may be less familiar. Precepts visit campus collections of paintings, prints, drawings, and maps.
This course explores the technology and function of books in historical perspective, asking how illuminated manuscripts were designed to meet (and shape) cultural and intellectual demands in the medieval period. Surveying the major genres of European book arts between the 7th-15th centuries, we study varying approaches to pictorial space, page design, and information organization; relationships between text and image; and technical aspects of book production. We work primarily from Princeton's collection of original manuscripts and manuscript facsimiles. Assignments include the option to create an original artist's book for the final project.
Located at the crossroads of the ancient Silk Road, Dunhuang is one of the richest Buddhist sites in China with nearly 500 cave temples constructed between the fourth and the fourteenth centuries. The sculptures, murals, portable paintings, and manuscripts found in the caves represent every aspect of Buddhism, both doctrinally and artistically. This course will explore this visual material in relation to topics such as expeditions, the role of Dunhuang in the study of Buddhist art and Chinese art in general, Buddhist ritual practices, image-text relationships, politics and patronage, and contemporary attitudes toward Dunhuang.
In this course, we will examine archaeological evidence for and art historical depictions of plagues and pandemics, beginning in antiquity and ending with the COVID-19 Pandemic. The course will explore bioarchaeological investigations of the Black Death, the Justinianic Plague, and other examples of infectious diseases with extremely high mortalities, and students will complete six "Pandemic Simulation" exercises throughout the semester. We will also consider the differing impact of plagues during the medieval, early modern, and modern periods: themes in art; the development of hospitals; and the changing ideas of disease and medicine.
With a highly developed system of aesthetics, Chinese art is not what meets the eye. In China, artworks have represented and also shaped sociocultural values, religious practices and political authority throughout the ages. With an emphasis on the persuasive, and even subversive, power of art related to imperial and modern Chinese politics, this course reflects upon how art has worked in changing historical contexts and for serving political, religious and social agents in Chinese history. It covers a wide range of artifacts and artworks.
This course surveys the art and architecture of the Islamic world from the 7th to the 16th centuries. It examines the form and function of architecture and works of art as well as the social, historical and cultural contexts, patterns of use, and evolving meanings attributed to art by the users. Themes include the creation of a distinctive visual culture in the emerging Islamic polity; urban contexts; archaeological sites; key architectural types such as the mosque, madrasa, caravanserai, and mausoleum; portable objects and the arts of the book; self-representation; cultural exchange along trade and pilgrimage routes.
This course examines the role of the senses in art and architecture to move beyond conceptions of art history that prioritize vision. While the experience of art is often framed in terms of seeing, the other senses were crucially involved in the creation of buildings and objects. Textiles and ceramic vessels invite touch, gardens involve the smell of flowers, sacred spaces were built to amplify the sound of prayers and chants. The focus will be on the medieval and early modern Mediterranean. Readings will range from medieval poetry and multisensory art histories to contemporary discussions of the senses in design and anthropology.
Antioch was unique among the great cities of the classical world for its position at the crossroads between the Mediterranean Sea and the Asian continent and for being a new foundation of the Hellenistic age that shrunk almost to insignificance in the modern era. Students in this course will get exclusive access to the archives and artifacts of the Princeton Antioch excavations of the 1930s. In the 2019 course, the focus will be on the Bath F Complex, the site of the greatest concentration of materials datable to the transition from the classical and late antique periods to the Islamic era.
Roman history courses usually cover grand narratives based on literary evidence and usually no room for discussing how knowledge is created and the different methods for studying ancient history. This course instead looks at different questions to shed light in fruitful collaborations between scholars from different fields. Students will engage with STEM and digital humanities methods as they consider historical questions. Through different case studies and hands-on activities, students will learn how different scientific, technological, and computational methods help us employ a multi-disciplinary approach to learning about the ancient past.
Roman history courses usually cover the grand narratives based on the more traditional, literary evidence. Usually these courses leave no room for discussing how knowledge is created and the new and different methods for studying ancient history. This course instead looks at different questions to shed light in fruitful collaborations between scholars from different fields. Students will engage with STEM as they consider humanistic questions. Through different case studies and hands on activities, students will learn about different scientific, technological and mathematical methods and how knowledge of the past draws on multiple disciplines.
This course offers a survey of the book in the Latin West, its cultural history and its functions as both object and text. It discusses production, readership and censorship, from antiquity up until the printing revolution.
An introduction to Greek palaeography and its potential for research on ancient and medieval texts, medieval book culture, and pre-modern literacy. Students will learn medieval Greek scripts, the rudiments of critical editions, and how to study manuscripts as material objects. Projects will be tailored to the research interests of the participants. We will simultaneously examine how "remote" research is consonant with online palaeography and the possibilities for what used to be privileged access to otherwise rarefied historical sources. This course is aimed at both graduate and select undergraduate students with the requisite level of Greek.
A first course for students in reading ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs. Serious work in ancient Egyptian grammar, vocabulary building, etc. (the staples of a classical language course) plus work on the relation between hieroglyphs and Egyptian visual arts.
Many assume that pre-twentieth-century Africa has no history. Rather, it has so much history that communicating all its richness can be a challenge. In this class, therefore, we focus on particular instances that speak to the tremendous diversity of the period from 300 to 1500 in Africa - its political systems, religious communities, and dynamics of cultural and economic conversation. We also address Africa's interconnectedness within and to the rest of the world as a vital part of the global middle ages. Primary sources include letters, treatises, and chronicles but also maps, archeological layouts, frescos, inscriptions, and rock art.
The seminar introduces the manuscript culture of ancient and medieval China from the 4th century BCE to the advent of printing in around 1000 CE. We discuss the creation, uses, purposes, and the visual and material aspects of writings on bamboo, wood, silk, and paper. Examining texts buried in ancient tombs, left in watchtowers, or stored in desert caves, we look at writings to accompany the dead; personal letters; calligraphic masterpieces; copies of the classics; and carriers of medical, legal, administrative, or mantic knowledge cherished by the cultural and political elite and soldiers and peasants alike. With two museum visits.
In this course we will see how texts have been written, made into books and read in the West, from ancient Greece to modern America. We will read primary sources and modern case studies and make a number of visits to the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections in Firestone, where we can examine manuscripts and early books. Through the semester we will track the ways in which the experience of reading has changed - and remained the same - over the centuries.
This course will offer an intensive introduction to the history of the making, distribution and reading of books in the West, from ancient Greece to modern America. By examining a series of case studies, we will see how writers, producers, and readers of books have interacted, and how the conditions of production and consumption have changed over time.
A survey of extraordinary writing, ideas, characters, and voices from the medieval period through the 18th century. We read diversely from Chaucer to Shakespeare, Milton, Austen and others, to trace the origins of our own modernity. What did reading and writing mean in the early modern world? Are they different today? We examine England in relation to the globe, and we ask who gets included and excluded from "great books." What do people, places and situations that existed on the margins of early English society and literature teach us about the problems we currently face? Does seeing things their way help us view our own world differently?
How does the poem Beowulf work? Who made up Beowulf, and what makes it up? We'll reply to these queries, examining the poem through its immediate manuscript context, its poetics, its performance values, its cultural and historical millieux. Topics emphasized will include the poem's analogues and afterlives, its place in race-making, its crafting of poetic space, and its troubled relationship to both deep time and our times. Tune up your harp, sharpen your wits, and get set to voice a startling and crucial poem.
How did Mesoamerican cultures of the Americas survive colonialism? How did they adopt European culture and writing systems? What were the linguistic and cultural barriers for both Indigenous peoples and Europeans in understanding each other? In this seminar, students dive into one of the most captivating ancient civilizations of Mesoamerica, the Aztecs, to reflect on their rich history and legacy from pre-Columbian to colonial times. Based on the analysis of chronicles, códices, illustrations, and contemporary texts students will be able to understand the Nahua culture of the Aztecs in the context of Spanish transatlantic expansion.
Over the course of the semester, we will examine how historians and other scholars can use archaeological methods to interpret the lives of the people we study, especially the people who are not mentioned in texts. How is archaeology related to history, and vice versa?
Accurately read, transcribe, and transliterate from manuscripts and inscriptions. Comprehend the grammar and syntax of complex clauses. Translate short passages comprising multiple sentences. Problem-solve complex queries, and uncertainties. Explore the historical contexts of Ge'ez writing in the Horn of Africa and Red Sea region.
To explore the development of institutions and theories of government in England from the Norman Conquest to about 1700.
In the Middle Ages, dozens of city-states in Italy were governed by citizens elected by the populace (limited to men of property, as was the American republic in its early years). These communes grew out of the anarchy following the dissolution of the Roman Empire in the West and flourished by playing off the German emperors to the north against the papacy. In the course of the later Middle Ages, many of these cities became autocracies, but some remained republics well into the modern era. Each student will follow the history of a single city, using documents, coins, and art works from Princeton collections.
Working with Princeton's Western Americana collections, students will explore what archives are and how they are made. Who controls what's in them? How do they shape what historians write? Using little studied collections, students will produce online "exhibitions" for the Library website, and research potential acquisitions for the Library collections. Significant time will be devoted to in-class workshops focused on manuscript and visual materials. Special visitors will include curators, archivists, librarians, and dealers.
From Antiquity to the late Renaissance, objects moved and were moved in the Mediterranean world. Trade goods crossed the ocean. Obelisks, statues and relics traveled great distances to be incorporated into new sacred sites. Automata amazed visitors to courts and awed worshipers in churches. In this course we will map the premodern Mediterranean's trade networks to try to understand how premodern men and women viewed and understood these objects in motion.
This course explores the medieval understanding of nature, the heavens, bodies, and minds. In medieval Islam and the Latin West, science was shaped by debates over important questions - the extent of divine and human power, the existence of other worlds, the generation of life, the legitimacy of magic and astrology. We will ask how medieval people sought to put this knowledge into practice, from healing sickness and prolonging life, to making automata, transmuting metals, or predicting the future. The course draws on a wide range of sources, including books, images, material objects, and our own attempts to reconstruct experiments in class.
How did the built and unbuilt environments we live with today come about? Why do our everyday objects look the way they do? Who shaped our mundane physical realities and for what? This multidisciplinary course teaches the tools to answer such questions through studying rural and urban geographies and ecologies, material culture, and human behavior in history. A sustainable future depends on us understanding the intimate historical and social logic of environmental destruction and plumbing the full archive of human actions on matter, and through energy and time for solutions. Undergrad and graduate students of all disciplines are welcome.
Alchemy provides a core theme in medieval and early modern European culture, and a key to understanding early science and medicine. From transmuting base metals into gold and silver, to prolonging human life, alchemy offered fabulous rewards. Alchemical books were studied by princes, physicians, priests, and noblewomen, who sought experimental instructions, medical remedies, and political influence. Yet alchemical ideas also challenge modern perceptions of the relationship between art and nature, science and religion, and learned and craft knowledge. We will explore these contrasts using texts, images, objects, and laboratory reconstructions.
This course focuses on the Near East from antiquity to the early centuries of Islam, introducing the most important works of literature, politics, ethics, aesthetics, religion, and science from the region. We ask how, why, and to what ends the Near East sustained such a long period of high humanistic achievement, from Pharaonic Egypt to Islamic Iran, which in turn formed the basis of the high culture of the following millennium.
How can computational tools help us to understand art and literature? This seminar offers an introduction to the 'big tent' that is called Digital Humanities (DH), emphasizing the integration of computational methods in the study of humanities. The course covers a range of digital tools and approaches designed to organize, explore, and narrate data-driven stories. Course topics will range from a critical reflection on the boundaries - or boundlessness? - of DH research, to the creation of digital cultural artifacts. Students will learn about a variety of theories and methodologies, actively engaging with a broad array of digital tools.
The Middle Ages was a period of far-ranging travel, long-distance entanglements, and cultural hybridity. This course will study how geographers and travelers - including eco-travelers like crops and disease - encountered a world grown smaller through empires, trade, and migration, ca. 750-1250 CE. By gathering texts, artifacts, and art from regions often studied separately, this course will test the possibilities for defining a "global Middle Ages" and what that means for our understanding of globalization today. Includes visits from outside experts and trips to special collections.
Selections from post-classical Latin prose and poetry, with emphasis on Late Antiquity and the early Middle Ages. Attention to developments in Latin in the period, as well as to textual transmission and the reception of the Classics. Students will participate in a trip to Europe over spring break pending travel guidelines.
Introduction to European musical culture in the period 600-1400. The course is divided in the following main periods (1) chant in Carolingian and post-Carolingian Europe, (2) the Enchiriadis tradition of polyphony; (3) troubadours and trouvères, (4) Ars Antiqua, and (5) Ars Nova. The course will make intensive use of primary sources, scores, and will also feature an extensive playlist. The objective is to provide students with a thorough introduction in fully 800 years of music history.
General historical survey of European Art Music in the period 1400-1600, covering such composers as Dufay, Ockeghem, Josquin, Byrd, Palestrina, Lasso, etc.
In an age before musical notation, Isidore of Seville could claim that unless sounds are remembered by man they perish, for they cannot be written down. The history of medieval and Renaissance music is largely entwined with the development of a technology that would prove him wrong: the ability to preserve sound in writing. This class explores the profound impact notation had on European musical culture c. 900-1600, from the emergence of musical literacy, to shifting ontologies of sound, authorship, and musical creativity. We learn to sing from dozens of early notations, and use replica tools and techniques to notate our own manuscripts.
Moving from Baghdad to Paris, Jerusalem to Addis Ababa, Iceland to Dunhuang, this course examines the musical cultures of some of the most vibrant centers of the Middle Ages. We consider what it means to study medieval music "globally," focusing on the physical traces of premodern music and key moments of cultural contact (trade, pilgrimage, conflict). Students will encounter the distant musical past in a variety of materials and formats (paper manuscripts, papyrus fragments, parchment rolls) in regular visits to Princeton's Special Collections.
Moving from Baghdad to Paris, Jerusalem to Addis Ababa, Iceland to Dunhuang, this course examines the musical cultures of some of the most vibrant centers of the Middle Ages. We consider what it means to study medieval music "globally," focusing on key moments of cultural contact (trade, pilgrimage, conflict), while remaining attuned to the particularities of specific places. Emphasis is on the physical traces of premodern music, and we encounter the distant musical past in a variety of materials and formats (paper manuscripts, papyrus fragments, parchment rolls, stone steles), meeting weekly in Special Collections.
A survey of Shakespeare's treatment of music in the plays and sonnets. The course is based on primary sources only; images will be provided. It also features multiple original songs. The focus is on their dramatic function within complete scenes. At all times we will engage in close reading. We will address a range of relevant historical themes, including: harmony and unity, sound and spirit, music education, rhetoric and decorum, male friendship, the power of the eyes, the art of letter-writing, Puritans and music, and music and melancholy. The course includes a visit to the Rare Books Room.
In the liturgical and courtly culture of the Middle Ages, music and the visual arts were inseparable. To examine art and music together is the aim of this course, integrating these two fields of study as they were integrated in their historical context. Working through case studies from the ninth through the fifteenth centuries--including the mystic plays of Hildegard of Bingen, the scurrilous satire of the Roman de Fauvel, and Jan van Eyck's Ghent altarpiece--we focus on rich sites of intersection between art and music. Final and midterm projects creative and collaborative in nature.
Course introduces the history of the Iranian world through the lens of historical memory. Study primary sources from the ancient, medieval, and modern periods as they think critically about the notion of "Iranian civilization." Themes range from geography and ethnicity to art and poetry to kingship and revolution. Gain hands-on experience working with archival and visual material through class trips to libraries and museums in and around Princeton. Approaches to large-scale problems in the study of history will be introduced, and by the end of the course, students will gain insight into the relevance of Iranian history in the present.
To what extent is globalization a new phenomenon? This seminar considers the flow of people (free and enslaved), commodities, and manufactured goods across Europe, Africa and Asia, with a focus on the human and qualitative dimensions. We will touch on the Indian Ocean, the Mediterranean basin, the overland Silk Roads and the Atlantic world; the time-span ranges from the ancient Greeks to the eighteenth century; among the trading diasporas we will consider are Jews and Armenians. Readings include classic and newer studies as well as merchant correspondence and sailors' logs.
How did the introduction of new text technologies impact premodern culture? What motivated or delayed the adoption of the codex or the various types of print? Did these technologies encourage new practices or suppress old ones? And how does the story change when we turn from European to Near Eastern contexts? By learning about past text technologies, we'll gain a fuller understanding of how today's digital text technologies leave their mark on how we interact with texts and with the world. This course teaches relevant digital humanities methods for texts and reflects critically on both our current moment and premodern pasts.
The Cairo Geniza is a cache of texts from an Egyptian synagogue including letters, lists and legal deeds from before 1500, when most Jews lived in the Islamic world. These are some of the best-documented people in pre-modern history and among the most mobile, crossing the Mediterranean and Indian Ocean to trade, study, apprentice and marry. Data science, neural network-based handwritten text recognition and other computational methods are now helping make sense of the texts on a large scale. Students will contribute to an evolving state of knowledge and gain an insider's view of what we can and can't know in premodern history.
The Cairo Geniza is a cache of texts from an Egyptian synagogue that include letters, lists and legal deeds from before 1500, when most Jews lived in the Islamic world. These are some of the best-documented people in pre-modern history and among the most mobile, crossing the Mediterranean and Indian Ocean to trade, study, apprentice and marry. Data science, neural network-based handwritten text recognition and other computational methods are now helping make sense of the texts on a large scale. Students will contribute to an evolving state of knowledge and gain an insider's view of what we can and can't know in premodern history.