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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This class explores medieval Islamic history from the bottom up -- through everyday documents from Egypt produced and used by men and women at all levels of society: state decrees, personal and business letters, legal contracts, court records, and accounts. Even the smallest details of these everyday writings tell us big things about the world in which they were written. Each week will focus in depth on a particular document or cluster of documents that open different doors onto politics, religion, class, commerce, material history, and family relationships in Egypt from just before the Islamic conquests until just before the Ottoman era.
How can we reconstruct quotidian life in premodern society? This course takes history to the micro-level, with rigor. Sometimes simple questions (what did people eat, wear, do for a living? whom did they marry?) can be most challenging to answer. Our laboratory will be medieval Cairo, a burgeoning metropolis astride the Mediterranean and Indian Ocean trade routes and an excellent place for take-out food. You will contribute to an evolving state of knowledge by handling artifacts, reading letters written by the men and women of medieval Cairo, and through hands-on experiments, including paper-making, cooking and staging a medieval shadow play.
In this course the different types of manuscripts, languages and texts from Ancient Egypt will be discussed. Papyrus is a prominent material from Ancient Egypt and we will study several examples in Princeton Collections. We will also discuss the use of modern techniques in manuscript studies like databases, ink analysis, x-ray and computer tomography. An overview will be given of the different materials including those from Elephantine Island. At the end, the students will curate a small exhibition demonstrating the specialties of ancient Egyptian manuscripts.
How do 17th-century readers think of printed books and libraries? And how do 21st-century readers spin the text in the digital age? This course considers the Quixotic confrontation of materiality and abstract ideas, of objects and digital surrogates. By means of close readings, digital resources, rare books and objects from the museum, we will explore this iconic text to better understand both cultural moments. The visual, tactile and interactive experiences will help us appreciate the reading experience both then and now.