Seton Hall University Honors Program

HONS 1102


Spring 2014

Sections of the class meet in Fahy Hall, Rooms 101, 103 and 108
February 17, 2014 version; stay tuned for further revisions


Peter Ahr
Office: Fahy Hall 313
Office Hours: Tuesday and Thursday 1-2; and by appointment
Telephone: (973) 761-9741

Raymond Capra
Office: Fahy Hall 231
Office Hours: Tuesday and Thursday 11:30 - 12:30, and by appointment
Telephone: 973-275-5822


Martha Easton
Office: Art Center,

Office Hours:


Ines Murzaku
Office: Fahy Hall 329
Office Hours: Tuesday and Thursday 11 - 12:00; Tuesday 2-3, and every day by appointment
Telephone: 973-275-5845

John Ranieri
Office: Fahy Hall 305

Office Hours: Tuesday and Thursday 11-12, and by appointment


Todd Stockdale
Office: Arts and Sciences Hall 224

Office Hours: Tuesday and Thursday 1:30-3 pm; and by appointment
Telephone: 973-761-9481

Course Description


In the colloquium on medieval civilizations, we will be looking at several major cultures during the period from approximately the fifth century C.E. to the fifteenth century C.E. Throughout the course we will focus on four civilizations: the Byzantine Empire, China, the Islamic world, and Western Europe. In addition to following the development of each of these civilizations, we will also be attentive to the ways in which they encountered and entered into relationship with one another.


The colloquium will consist primarily of discussions guided by the professors. Your teachers will also provide the necessary context and background to help you to understand the texts. The readings and other assignments noted for each topic are to be done before class, as they are the basis for class discussions. Topics from Western Europe are in blue; topics from the Byzantine world are in purple; topics from the Muslim world are in green; and topics from China are in red.  Hyperlinks in the syllabus are in black.


On completion of this course, you will be able to:

·         Understand the development and interaction among the four civilizations studied in the course

·         discuss the principal ideas embodied in the texts we have studied;

·         relate these ideas to their historical contexts, and compare them with each other;

·         develop and support an argument on the basis of primary texts;

·         compare texts and draw conclusions on the basis of close reading and critical analysis.


Course requirements


This is a six-credit course, requiring a correspondingly significant time commitment in terms of reading and preparation.


1. There will be a short in-class writing assignment each class, in which you will discuss the readings in response to posted questions. These writing assignments will cumulatively be worth 20% of your grade.


2. There will be a longer course paper based on primary texts, which will count for 20% of your grade. You will receive a list of topics from which to choose. A detailed outline of your paper should be submitted prior to handing in the final product. After your graded paper has been returned to you, you may revise and resubmit it if you wish.


3. There will be a midterm exam, worth 20% of your grade. The exam will consist of two parts. In the first part you will be asked to identify a selection of quotes taken from the primary texts we have read, indicating the author, the work from which each quote is taken, and explaining what it means in its context. For the second part of the exam you will be provided with three essay questions ahead of time. You are to be prepared to write on all three questions, but only one of them will appear on the exam.


4. The final exam will constitute 20% of your grade. It will be identical in format to the midterm.


5. Class participation counts for 20% of your final grade. This course is meant to be a "colloquium" in the formal sense: an ongoing conversation about the medieval world. In most cases, the conversation will focus on one or several texts of the period. Your preparation for each conversation will include your reading the assigned text(s) before the class. There is no substitute for knowing what you are talking about. Obviously, active participation is important in this type of class, and each person’s input is valuable. Come to class prepared to discuss the readings, even if that means just asking relevant questions about material you did not understand. Come to class prepared to be active and engaged. The participation grade depends on both the quality and the quantity of your participation. Obviously the most basic form of class participation is regular attendance. More than 3 unexcused absences will result in a failing grade for class participation; more than 6 unexcused absences will result in a failing grade for the course. For an absence to be considered excused you must have documentation from a medical professional or the Office of Student Affairs (or Athletic Dept. in the case of athletes) indicating that you were unable to attend the particular class from which you wish to be excused. In cases of an extended absence (due to serious illness or emergency) you must obtain documentation from the Office of Student Affairs indicating the reason for the absence. If you stop attending class it does not mean you have withdrawn from the course. In order to withdraw you have to fill out a withdrawal form (obtainable from the dean’s office or the Honors office). Non-attendance is not withdrawal. Being late 3 times is the equivalent of one absence. This includes returning to class late after the break. Breaks in class are given at the discretion of the instructors (including the length and time of the break). Normally a break is given around 9:30 or so. Chronic lateness is disrespectful and disruptive. Please take care of personal matters before class (e.g., bathroom, meals, etc.); apart from an emergency there is no good reason to get up and leave the classroom while class is going on. Since this is a text-based class, having the required texts with you in class is essential – it is not optional. Bring the necessary hard copies of the texts with you to class; failure to do so will negatively affect your grade, since it indicates a lack of preparedness. Doing work for other classes during this class is unacceptable. Private conversations, whispered commentary on what others say during class, and/or passing notes are inconsiderate to others and destructive of the learning process. Laptops, tablets, ipads, cell phones and other electronic devices may not be used during class.  Please silence your cell phones before class, put them out of sight and do not check for text messages.  Texting is rude to the rest of the class, and will not be allowed.  It is entirely appropriate on your private time, but it has no place in the common time of our class meeting.

Criteria for evaluating class participation

Grade range

- participates actively and voluntarily every class by contributing to classroom discussion
- demonstrates familiarity with readings
- insightful
- answers questions knowledgably
- asks questions relevant to readings and displaying intellectual curiosity
- always brings relevant texts to class
- responds to others’ comments with respect and interest
- takes responsibility for the success of the class on a daily basis

(if all of these criteria are met most of the time)

- participates voluntarily and actively most days and at least every week
- shows some familiarity with readings
- always brings relevant texts to class

(if all these criteria are met most of the time)

- participates occasionally and/or usually only when called upon
- shows some familiarity with readings, but little specific knowledge
- does not always have relevant texts in class

(if one or more of these criteria are present)

- in general, responds only when called upon
- does not ask or answer questions
- does not always seem prepared
- does not always have relevant texts in class
- takes no discernible active role in class
- comes late to class
- brings food to class, checks cell phone, does work for other classes
-shows lack of respect to classmates or teacher

D – F

(if one or more of these criteria are present)

- has more than the equivalent of 3 absences



Volunteering to read in class is helpful and welcome, but it is no substitute for active class participation. It is not a factor in determining the participation grade.

We expect that any work you submit as yours will be your own work, and not that of another. Any citation of another's words or ideas (other than matters of common knowledge), whether by direct quotation or virtual paraphrase, must be appropriately indicated by quotation marks, footnotes or indication in the text itself. Copying or downloading a block of material and changing a few words does not make the resultant text your own; always indicate your sources. Any instances of plagiarism, intentional or unintentional, may leave you open to serious consequences.

Disability Services Statement:

Students at Seton Hall University who have a physical, medical, learning or psychiatric disability, either temporary or permanent, may be eligible for reasonable accommodations at the University as per the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and/or Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. In order to receive such accommodations, students must identify themselves at the Office of Disability Support Services (DSS), provide appropriate documentation and collaborate with the development of an accommodation plan. The DSS phone number is 973-313-6003. For further information, please go to


This course satisfies the requirements for both the Critical Thinking and the Reading/Writing proficiencies, which are required as part of the University Core Curriculum. In addition to the content, subject matter, and themes of the course, it is also crucial to develop those skills and practices that help us to develop our abilities to read carefully, understand precisely, and articulate our insights clearly. Not only are these skills cross-disciplinary; they are an essential component in our development as intelligent persons.

To satisfy the requirements for the Reading/Writing proficiency a course must include a significant amount of writing (both formal and informal) along with an expectation that there will be several hours of academic reading per week. Approximately 80% of the course grade will be based upon writing, whether in the form of papers, short assignments, or exams. The requirements for this Colloquium have been designed with this goal in mind. Readings for the course are taken almost entirely from primary sources. This is based on the conviction that it is good to read and analyze the authors' own words, rather than beginning with what others have written about them. A goal of the course is to increase your ability and confidence in being able to read and analyze primary texts.

It is one thing to run your eyes over the words on a page; it is quite another to read attentively and critically. The Critical Thinking proficiency is geared toward developing your abilities to understand and think through the course readings. (For a brief discussion of the skills involved, see This means, among other things, learning to read texts carefully, being able to follow the author's train of thought, becoming attentive to nuance within a text, and being able to articulate your insights clearly and precisely, both in your writing and in class discussion. Critical thinking also means raising questions about what an author has to say. Is the author's point convincing? Why or why not? How does a particular author's point of view compare with that of another author dealing with the same issue? Who do you think is right? Not only is critical thinking an essential component in reading texts; it is also necessary to apply to your own writing, so that what you write comes across as clear, well-organized, and coherent. A number of course assignments are aimed at helping you develop the practice of critical thinking. As a help to improve your ability to think critically, we will use Richard Paul and Linda Eller's The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking (Foundation for Critical Thinking, 2009 ISBN 978-0-944583-10-4). It is a very handy summary of the criteria for critical thinking. Your growing mastery of this kind of thinking is a significant part of the learning we expect you to be doing; you will be graded in part on how well you master this art. Our assignments and exams are all opportunities to develop your critical reasoning; class discussions are yet another such opportunity.

Required texts:

The Norton Anthology of World Literature, Volume B.  W.W.Norton  978-039391330-9

F.E. Peters, A Reader on Classical Islam. Princeton University Press  978-0691000404

DeBary, Bloom and Adler, Sources of Chinese Tradition, Volume 1. Columbia University Press  978-0231109390

Coakley and Sterk, Readings in World Christian History.  Orbis Books  978-1570755200

Many other readings will be included in a course packet, which will be distributed in class.  Readings from this packet are noted as Course Readings in the syllabus.

 The course syllabus is a dynamic document, reflecting the development of the course over the semester; you should check it before every class.

General Resources:

How to cite Internet references
The Medieval Sourcebook
Byzantine and Medieval Studies Links
A very comprehensive set of Links to Islamic materials
A very valuable and comprehensive set of Links to materials on the study of religion
Institute and Museum of the History of Science, Florence
Italian Art History
The Louvre
The Capitoline Museums in Rome
The Vatican Museums
The National Gallery, London
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
The British Library
The New York Public Library
The Order of St. Benedict

Grottaferrata Abbey

The Monastery of Christ in the Desert webpage


 Course Schedule

Tue.,  Jan. 14

Theodosius presiding over the races in the Hippodrome in Constantinople


The cultures we will be studying this semester have in common the fact that they understood their intellectual and spiritual heritage to have derived from textual sources earlier than themselves, and saw as their cultural challenge the task of interpreting these texts in order to construct their own worlds.

This challenge was amplified by the social changes of this period brought about by the massive movement of populations that occurred in Europe and Asia over this millennium, bringing ideas into contact with new populations which found themselves forced to adapt these ideas into their own societies. The collapse of the Roman Empire in Western Europe, its transformation into a new empire based in Constantinople, the New Rome, the sudden explosion of Muslim culture into Asia, Europe and North Africa, the migration of Mongolic peoples into Europe and eastern and southern Asia, all contributed to the social and intellectual ferment that marks this epoch in human history.

Thurs., Jan. 16

Buddha from Yungang Cave

Northern Wei period, 5th century

China: The Period of Division and the Growth of Chinese Buddhism

The Han dynasty, succeeding the First Emperor, was roughly contemporary with the Roman empire, lasting from 220 BCE to 206 CE.  Following its collapse, three kingdoms divided the former empire, and the division lasted until the reunification of China under the Jin dynasty (265-420 CE), and then by another division under the Northern and Southern dynasties (420-589 CE).


Indian teachers brought Mahayana Buddhism to central Asia, and to China, beginning in the late Han dynasty.  Its teaching of the nature of suffering spoke powerfully to the suffering of the Chinese people at the time of the collapse of the Han.  The Turkic Xianbei tribe who established the Northern Wei dynasty in the north were themselves Buddhist, and Buddhism became the object of official Chinese patronage.

   Read before class:

Tues., Jan. 21


Lateran Basilica, Rome 6th century



The Confessions is the first autobiography in Western history, and it remains a classic of psychological introspection. Augustine is a writer of unparalleled skill; pay especially close attention to the beginning and the ending of each book, for they summarize his thoughts.  How does Augustine understand the meaning of human life? How does he know this? Who is his partner in the dialogue in this work? In what way is this familiar to you? In what way is it different from texts we have seen before? What difference does it make in your understanding of the text?


Augustine wrote City of God during a time in which the Roman Empire was disintegrating. In the work he responds to pagan critics who blame Christianity for weakening Rome. City of God is a wide-ranging book, including Augustine’s reflections on and criticisms of classical cultures, his views on political life, and his thoughts on the ultimate goal and direction of history. While City of God cannot be said to be the final word on Christian attitudes toward history, society, and politics (Aquinas and Dante, for example do not agree with Augustine on some important matters); it certainly represents a very influential and recurring strain of thought within the Christian tradition. When reading the selections compare Augustine’s attitude toward earthly existence, happiness, peace, and the importance of politics with the views of Plato, Aristotle, and the other classical authors you studied.


Read before class:

  • Confessions               Norton Anthology of World Literature  pp. 45-62

  • City of God                Readings in World Christian History, pp. 195-212 

Thurs., Jan. 23

Justinian and his court

San Vitale, Ravenna

Constantinople: Justinian and the Late Roman Empire

From Constantine forward, the emperors of the eastern Roman empire claimed God-given power over all aspects of Byzantine society, secular and religious. The Christian church remained part of the imperial system; and political conflicts frequently took a theological form. The Hagia Sophia, the Great Church of Constantinople, stood in close proximity to the imperial palace and was the symbolic center of the empire. At the same time, imperial power continued to be a function of military and economic strength; the emperor's role was first of all one of military command.

Read before class:

Tues., Jan. 28

St. Catherine's Monastery

Mount Sinai, 6th century


The practice of withdrawing from society to pursue the Absolute was a practice of long standing in India even before the time of the Buddha.  It became a prominent feature of Buddhism in India and later in China.  In the fourth century, Christians began the practice of withdrawing from "the world" and separating themselves from society in organized monastic communities. Monasticism, long practiced in India and China, became a significant form of Christian religious practice as well. Beginning almost with Athanasius' Life of Anthony, the seeker after God became a Christian hero; thousands of men and women in Egypt went out into the desert to follow Anthony's example. Over the centuries, the rewards and dangers of such a life gave rise to a large literature which allows us to see the value these seekers found.

Read before class:

  • The Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch                    Sources of Chinese Tradition,  pp. pp. 494-504

  • Zongze, Principles of Seated Meditation                     Sources of Chinese Tradition,  pp. pp. 522-524 

  • Hanshan  Poems                                                            Norton Anthology of World Literature, pp. 984-987 

  • Athanasius, Life of Anthony                                           Readings in World Christian History, pp. pp. 131-143

  • Benedict’s Rule for Monks                                            Course Readings pp. 6-16

  • Basil’s Rule                                                                      Readings in World Christian History, pp. pp. 144-147

Thurs., Jan. 30

14th century Quran, Damascus

Islam: Quran and Muslim Origins

The Quran ("recitation") is the record of what the Prophet Muhammad heard in his encounters with God. It is regarded by Muslims as the very Word of God itself, speaking to them as it was spoken to the Prophet. The hadiths are stories told about the Prophet's experiences, and are revered as his example of how to live a life of submission (islam) to God. The readings for these classes show the normative stories for Muslim practice and thought.

Read before class:

Tues., Feb. 4

Night-Shining White, by Han Gan, c. 750

ChinaTang dynasty 


The ideal of a united Chinese empire was revived by Emperor Wen (581-604) of the Sui dynasty.  By 589 he had achieved the unification of the empire; he promoted the spread of Buddhism, produced a unified law code, and began construction of the Great Canal to move grain from the agricultural lands in the southeast to the large capital cities in the northwest.  The Sui dynasty lasted only two generations, but the unified China they produced lasted for centuries. 

The Tang dynasty (618-907) followed on the collapse of the Sui and built on their successes.  Their capital Chang'an had a population of a million and more, and was the center of a prosperous empire that extended its reach far to the weat.  The Tang were great patrons of Buddhism and established numerous temples and monasteries throughout the empire.  They also presided over a flowering of poetry; many of the great Chinese poets lived in their time.

In the later Tang, the state was weakened by the rebellion of An Shi (755-763).  Writers such as Han Yu traced the decline of the empire to the neglect of family values caused by Buddhism and religious Daoism, and  promoted a return to Confucian values.  Partly in response to writers like Han Yu, and partly in response to the wealth of Buddhist institutions, Emperor Wuzong in 845 ordered the destruction of Buddhist monasteries and the confiscation of their lands.  Christian institutions were also suppressed as another "foreign" religion.  The ban lasted only a few years, but the Buddhist institutions never recovered their lands and revenues, and so were never again as large as they had been. 

Read before class:

  • The Great Tang Code                                                   Sources of Chinese Tradition,  pp. 546-53

  • Debates on Taxes and Enfeoffment                            Sources of Chinese Tradition,  pp. 554-64

  • Han Yu                                                                           Sources of Chinese Tradition,  pp. 568-73, 582-86 

  • Liu Zongyuan                                                                Norton Anthology of World Literature,  pp. 1051-53

  • Nestorian Stele and Chinese Christian Sutras           Readings in World Christian History, pp. 243-251

  • Chinese poetry (professors' choice from)

Thurs., Feb. 6

Kaaba, Mecca

Islam: The Prophet and his followers

After the time of the Prophet, the Muslim community was forced to find ways to institutionalize itself. The rapid expansion of the Muslim community raised questions of how to develop a social order, how law should operate, how to determine the proper way to regulate personal and social life. By the 10th century C.E., the Sufi orders of Islam—confraternities of lay persons under the spiritual guidance of local shaykhs, or teachers—attempted to model the teachings and actions of Prophet Muhammad as a way to mirror the values ascribed to Muhammad.

Read before class:

  • Ibn Ishaq, Life of the Prophet         Norton Anthology of World Literature, pp. 100-106

  • The Caliphate                                   A Reader on Classical Islam  Ch. 2 sect.15, 23; Ch. 3 sections 5, 8, 10-12, 20-24, 27, 28

Tues., Feb. 11

The coronation of David. 

Paris Psalter, Byzantine 10th century MS

Constantinople: Byzantine culture in the reduced Empire

The rise of the Muslim empire cost the Byzantine empire most of its Asian and African territories by the end of the seventh century, reducing it effectively to the Balkans and the territory we know as Turkey.  The Muslim aversion to images raised the question of images in Constantinople as well, since the majority of the army was recruited from the Anatolian provinces, near the border of the Muslim lands.  The question of the veneration of images became a matter of imperial policy as well as a church matter; divergence of opinion on this matter is one of the early divisions between the churches of Constantinople and Rome. 

The loss of the Asian territories forced the empire to turn its attention to the peoples to its north; the Christianization of those peoples became another area in which the Roman and Constantinopolitan churches were rivals.

Read before class:

  • Iconoclasm                                                                                  Readings in World Christian History, pp. 289-301

  • The Iconoclastic Council of 754                                                Course Readings  pp. 17-20

  • John of Damascus on Icons                                                       Course Readings  pp. 20-22

  • Decree of the Second Council of Nicaea on Icons                  Course Readings  pp. 22-24

  • The Christianization of Russia                                                  Readings in World Christian History, pp. 310-315

  • Life of Constantine (Cyril)                                                          Readings in World Christian History, pp. 302-310

  • At professors' choice:

  • Pope Nicholas’ responses to the Bulgars                       Course Readings  pp. 24-30

  • Michael Psellus, Chronographia Book I on Basil II      Course Readings  pp. 30-39 

Thurs., Feb. 13

Charlemagne's throne

Aachen cathedral 802

Snow Day - University Closed

Note: the topics for your term paper are available by clicking here.  The outline of your paper is due on February 27.

Tuesday, Feb. 18



Class cancelled because of weather conditions

Thurs., Feb. 20

The Wheel of Fortune, from the Hortus Deliciarum, c. 1185

Church and State in the West: Papacy and Empire in the early Middle Ages

In Western Europe, the Christian Church was the sole institution to survive after the withdrawal of Roman troops to Constantinople and the Eastern Empire. As the new populations developed their own political structures, tensions developed between these new structures and those of the Church. Beginning with Charlemagne at the beginning of th ninth century, Germanic rulers claimed the imperial title and imperial power. From the eleventh century forward, the bishops of Rome presented themselves as the authentic successors of the Roman emperors, with the concomitant claims to universal jurisdiction. The tensions between these two claimants are an ongoing theme of Western European history for centuries.

The feudal society that developed in Western Europe in this period was based on a perfectly enclosed hierarchical system mirroring, in its world view, the order of nature. Workers, soldiers and those who prayed were the three pillars of mankind: the first produced food and wealth; the second fought to protect it; and the third ensured that the relationship between man and the Divine remained peaceful. All relationships, be they commercial, military, political or religious, were based on this understanding of one’s place in the world, and on the personal relationships between individuals in their respective roles.

The aspects of this new vision of society, based on local relationships, that we don't get to cover in this class will be picked up in the class of March 4. 

Read before class:

  • Pope Gelasius on the Two Powers                                                       Blackboard, Course Documents

  • Pope Leo I and Attila                                                                             Course Readings  p. 40

  • Pope Gregory II – Appeal to Charles Martel                                       Course Readings  pp. 41

  • The Pope makes the Carolingians kings                                             Course Readings  p. 41 

  • The Donation of Constantine                                                                 Course Readings  pp.  42-47

  • Charlemagne’s coronation from Einhard's Life of Charlemagne      Course Readings  pp. 47-49 

  • The Dictatus Papae of Gregory VII                                                      Course Readings  p. 50

  • Dictates of Gregory VII forbidding lay investiture                              Course Readings  p. 51

  • Henry IV: Letter to Gregory VII                                                           Course Readings  pp.  51-52

  • Gregory VII: First Deposition and Banning of Henry IV                   Course Readings  pp.52-53

  • Gregory VII: Second Banning and Dethronement of Henry IV        Course Readings  pp.  53-54

  • Gregory VII, Letter to Hermann of Metz                                             Readings in World Christian History, p.  319-24

  • “Feudal” capitularies, 9th century                              Course Readings  p. 55

  • The Peace of God 989                                                  Course Readings  pp. 55-56

  • The Truce of God 1063                                                 Course Readings  pp.56-57 

  • A charter of homage and fealty                                   Course Readings  pp. 57-58

  • Fulbert of Chartres On Feudal Obligations               Course Readings  pp. 58-59

  • Andreas Capellanus On Courtly Love                        Course Readings  pp. 59-60

  • Medieval European Poetry (professors' choice from)

  • Marie de France, »Laval » and « Laustic »        Norton Anthology of World Literature, pp. 297-313

    • William of Aquitaine                                             Norton Anthology of World Literature, pp. 325-326

    • Arnaut Daniel                                                       Norton Anthology of World Literature, pp. 327-328

    • Arnaut Daniel, Chanson 1                                   Course Readings  pp. 60-61
    • Arnaut Daniel, Chanson 5                                   Course Readings  pp. 61-62                 
    • The Archpoet                                                       Norton Anthology of World Literature, pp. 332-335

    • Beatrice of Dia,                                                    Norton Anthology of World Literature, pp. 339

    • Bertran de Born,                                                  Norton Anthology of World Literature, pp. 340-341

Tuers., Feb. 25

Scholar in a Meadow  11th century


China: Song dynasty

The Tang dynasty collapsed at the beginning of the 10th century, and China fell apart into a number of smaller kingdoms.  This "Five Dynasties" period lasted until 960, with the establishment of the Song dynasty, which lasted until 1279.  Since most of the traditional aristocracy had died in the turbulent period, the Song came to rely principally on the literary examinations to staff the imperial bureaucracy.  The values of the literary class came to be the basis of Song society, reflecting the new emphasis on Confucian models to resolve the social and economic problems faced by the dynasty, and in strong opposition to the values of the Buddhist tradition.  Song Neo-Confucianism, the "Learning of the Way," incorporated both Daoist ideas and those embodied in the Yijing; it found its fullest expression in the writings of Zhu Xi, which became the official ideology of the imperial system.  By developing his knowledge of the wisdom of the past and by continuing to investigate the principles of the world's phenomena, the "gentleman" is prepared to work effectively for the good of society.  The Analects of Confucius, the Book of Mencius, and the Doctrine of the Mean and the Great Learning (from the Book of Rites) are the core texts of Zhu Xi's system.

Read before class:

  • Ouyang Xiu  Essay on Fundamentals                Sources of Chinese Tradition, pp. 591-596

  • The New Laws of Wang Anshi                            Sources of Chinese Tradition, pp. 609-12

  • Wang Anshi, Memorial to Emperor Renzong   Sources of Chinese Tradition, pp. 612-626

  • Chen Liang                                                            Sources of Chinese Tradition, pp. 645-651

  • Zhou Lianxi                                                           Sources of Chinese Tradition, pp. 676-678

  • Zhu Xi                                                                    Sources of Chinese Tradition, pp. 697-701, 704-707, 713-14, 720-31, 748-51

Thurs., Feb. 27

The Capture of Constantinople

Tintoretto, Ducal Palace, Venice

Christian-Muslim Encounters 1

The rapid expansion of the Muslim empire into Asia Minor and northern Africa quickly brought Muslims and Christians into contact and conflict with each other.  Since the Muslim overlords of the Muslim empire represented a small fraction of the population, the relations between ruler and ruled spelled out in the Pact of Umar formed a basis for stable relations between the two groups. 

The Berber invasion of Iberia in 711 collapsed the Visigothic kingdom; by 717 Muslim armies had crossed the Pyrenees into southern Gaul, and the Muslim advance was not halted until Tours in 732.  Memories of the Christian-Muslim battles of the eighth century and the attempts of Charles Martel's grandson Charlemagne to retake Iberia survive in the 11th century Song of Roland, although the Song clearly reflects its own time and not that of the eighth and ninth centuries.

Relations between Muslim rulers and Christian populations were often cordial and respectful, as the Apology of Patriarch Timothy shows.

The events known as the Crusades were the military expression of mutual suspicion and incomprehension among Latin Christians,  Greek Christians, Jews and Muslims in early medieval Europe. In your reading, note the values praised by each writer, and those of the other side that are disparaged. What are the alleged reasons for the actions portrayed; and to what extent do those alleged reasons appear to be the real ones?

Read before class:

  • The Pact of Umar                                                                       Course Readings, pp. 63-64

  • The Battle of Tours                                                                    Course Readings, pp. 64-65

  • The Muslim conquest of Spain                                                 Course Readings, pp. 65-67

  • The Song of Roland, Stanzas stanzas 1-4, 6, 7, 9, 13, 14, 20-22, 28-33, 38-39, 43-46, 54-55, 66, 68, 79, 83, 86-87, 89-90, 92, 104, 106, 109-110, 126-27, 129-35, 147-48, 150, 164-68, 174-84      Norton Anthology of World Literature, pp. 223-273

  • Patriarch Timothy, Apology before the Caliph Mahdi           Readings in World Christian History, pp. 231-242

  • Anna Comnena, Alexiad  On the crusaders                             Course Readings, pp. 68-73

  • Urban II's summons to crusade                                                Course Readings, pp. 73-78

  • Guibert of Nogent, The Deeds of God through the Franks   Readings in World Christian History, pp.  325-334

  • Ibn al-Athir on the fall of Jerusalem                                          Readings in World Christian History, pp.  334-335

  • Nicetas Choniates on the Sack of Constantinople                   Readings in World Christian History, p.  335-6

  • James I of Aragon on the Fall of Valencia                                Readings in World Christian History, pp. 337-338

Term Paper Outlines Due!

Friday February 28
Visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to view their exhibits of Chinese art and the art of the Muslim Lands. 

Bus leaves from the Rec Center at 9:30 am; we plan to return to campus between 4 and 5, depending on traffic.

Tues March 4

Frederick II, from a 13th century MS of his treatise on falconry in the Vatican Library

Church and State in the West: Papacy and Empire in the High Middle Ages

The issue of the proper relation between religious power and political power continued to be contested through the Middle Ages.  While the ideal of a single universal power continued to be a significant part of political theorizing, the rise of royal power centers, cities, and local feudal authorities independent of a political empire made the facts on the ground quite different from universalizing theories.  Is the proper unit of political discourse the whole (Christian) world, as both papal and imperial theorists would have it?  Or do the realities of national kingdoms and other independent polities render those theories irrelevant? 

There were many different answers to these questions, as the readings for today's class show.  In reality, neither side won conclusive acceptance, and the issue of what westerners conceive of as "church" and "state" remains contested to our day.

Read before class:

  • Aquinas, On Kingship Book I ch. 3, 6, 7, 13, 15, 16                 Course Readings, pp. 79-88 

  • Dante, On Monarchy Bk.III ch. 10, 13, 14, 16                          Course Readings, pp. 89-93   

  • Documents by and about Boniface VIII                                  Readings in World Christian History, pp.  397-402

  • The Decree Licet Juris  of the Frankfurt Diet of 1338            Course Readings, p. 93

  • Marsiglio of Padua: Conclusions from Defensor Pacis          Course Readings, pp. 94-96  

Thurs., March 6

The Triumph of Death
Pieter Brueghel, 1562
Museo del Prado, Madrid

Midterm exam

Tuse. March 11

Spring Break - No classes

Thurs. March 13

Spring Break - No classes

Tues., March 18

Madrasa bun Inania
Meknes, Morocco
Founded by Abu Inan Faris in 1350

Faith and Reason 1: Jewish and Muslim thinkers

Moses Maimonides, Al-Ghazali, Ibn Rushd (Averroes), and Ibn Khaldun are among the many thinkers whose work contributed greatly to the development of Western Christian thought in subsequent centuries, and whose work remains integral to later Jewish and Muslim thought as well.

Read before class:

  • Maimonides, Guide for the Perplexed, Introduction, Book I, ch.56-58          Course Readings, pp. 97-102

  • Issues in Muslim theology and philosophy                                    A Reader on Classical Islam, chapter 4, section 27  p. 203-205; chapter 8, sections 1-3, 6, 8-10 pp. 358-377

  • Ibn Rushd, The Decisive Treatise Determining the Nature of the Connection between Religion and Philosophy                            Course Readings, p. 103

Thurs., March 20

The Triumph of St. Thomas Aquinas, by Francesco Traini 1340

Faith and Reason 2: Anselm and Thomas Aquinas

In your preparation for this class, pay particular attention to Anselm's argument as he attempts to give a rational demonstration of his belief that God exists, and then to the nature of Thomas' handling of the same question.  Note the way in which Anselm's style is very close to that of Augustine in the Confessions, while Thomas takes a stylistically very different approach to the same question.  Note also that Thomas is disagreeing with Anselm's conclusions, and coming up with a different kind of answer to the question.  

In reading Thomas, note how his dialectic arrives at an answer in a very different way from Anselm's argument.  The dialectic argument requires him to state first, in the "Objections",  the position he ultimately refutes; Thomas own point of view is stated briefly in the "On the contrary", and articulated fully in the "I answer that".  The argument concludes by the "Replies to the objections," in which he refutes the positions opposed to his.  The dialectical method enables Thomas to arrive at certainty in his conclusions. 

Read before class:

  • Anselm and Gaunilo on knowing God's existence                                  Course Readings, pp. 104-111 

  • Thomas Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles, Book I ch. 3, 4, 5, 7, 8       Course Readings, pp. 112-115

  • Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae 1,, q.2, art.2-3                              Readings in World Christian History, pp. 360-362

Tues., March 25

The Rialto, Venice
The church of San Giacomo, to the left, has a 14th century clock with only an hour hand.  The church itself is said to date to the fifth century, but it has been rebuilt several times over the years.  The present form of the church dates to 1610, although parts are much older.

Towns and Economic Life


Constantinople, New Rome, continued to be a major trading center throughout this period; it was "The City" to its inhabitants and indeed to all who knew it. It was the western destination of the Silk Road from China, and its traders dealt in goods from as far as Indonesia and Norway. This trade included such other cultural centers as Alexandria, Antioch, and Baghdad.

From the tenth century, Venice and then other Mediterranean cities began to join in this trade, becoming middlemen bringing these goods into western Europe. With the improvement of climate and growing political stability in western Europe, other cities began to develop, often around monasteries, becoming political as well as economic centers. The rise of a new class of citizens, the merchants, largely urban, travelling between the markets of Europe, both fit into the feudal world and its values which the new merchant class was trying to imitate, and also began to undermine it.


Read before class:

  • Frederick Barbarossa, Grant of Two Fairs at Aachen                   Course Readings, pp. 116-117

  • Charter of the Citizens of Cambridge from King John                   Course Readings, p. 117  

  • The Arte della Lana and the Government of Florence                  Course Readings, p. 118

  • Guibert de Nogent, The Revolt in Laon, 1115                                 Course Readings, pp. 118-120

  • The Charter of Lorris  1155                                                                Course Readings, pp. 120-121

  • Southampton Guild Organization, 14th century                             Course Readings, pp. 121-123

  • Frederick II  The Imperial Precaria 1241                                        Course Readings, pp. 123-124   

  • Thomas Aquinas on usury                                                                Course Readings, p. 124    

  • Pilgrim’s Guide to Santiago, chapters 1, 3, 7, 9                               Course Readings, pp. 125-132  

Thurs., March 27

Sainte Chapelle, Paris  1250

Universities and Medieval Art

Among the objects moving along the new trade routes were the manuscripts of new Latin translations of Greek, Roman, Arabic and Indian philosophical and scientific texts coming out of the translation schools of Toledo and other Spanish cities.  These texts, in turn, gave impetus to a new flowering of philosophical and scientific thought.  The place of this philosophizing had come to be the new institution of the "university."  Arising out of the monastery schools of the ninth and tenth centuries, and out of the bishops' schools in the eleventh and twelfth, these new organizations of professors and students constituted themselves as corporations for the study of everything (universitas studiorum), claiming independence from both civil and ecclesiastical authority.


The European Middle Ages also saw astonishing development in the arts, architecture and music. The master masons and architects developed new technologies that enabled the construction of buildings which astonish us even today. The impulse to do so did not, however, pass unchallenged, as the points of view of Suger and Bernard demonstrate.

Contemporary with these universities, and sharing many common intellectual foundations, the guilds of architects and stonemasons systematized an astonishing flowering of art, architecture and technology. Their work remains as a powerful monument to the daring of medieval ambition.


Read before class:

  • Statutes for the University of Paris  1215                          Course Readings, pp. 133-134 

  • Frederick II on the University of Naples                        Course Readings, pp. 134-135

  • Roger Bacon's attack on medieval thinking                   Course Readings, pp. 136-139

  • Roger Bacon on Medieval Science                                  Course Readings, pp. 139-144

  • Abbot Suger on church ornament                                   Course Readings, pp. 144-148

  • Bernard of Clairvaux on church decoration                    Course Readings, pp. 149-150

  • Theophilus, Essay on Diverse Arts                                  Course Readings, pp. 150-152    

Friday, March 28

The Cloisters

Cloisters trip


The bus will leave from the side of the Rec Center at 11 a.m. We will have a guided tour of the collection for about an hour at 12:30, and you will have about an hour to explore the museum on your own afterwards. We will leave in time to be back on campus before 5 p.m.

In preparation for this trip, review the materials for the March 27 class, as well as other aesthetic information you have gathered through the course of the semester. Think particularly about the philosophical implications of the shift from the romanesque to the gothic, and be prepared to look for the growing emphasis on the individual and particular that is characteristic of the gothic.

Tues., April 1

St. Francis preaching to the birds

Giotto, Basilica of St. Francis, Assisi

Mendicants and Mystics

By the twelfth century, Europe was rediscovering trade and the dominantly rural society of the previous centuries was giving way to the development of towns and cities. The freedom of these new cities enabled a greater sense of the value of the individual person; and the religious forms of the earlier period no longer conformed to the needs of this new kind of society. The communitarian sense of the monastic and feudal world was challenged in the social and religious realm; the new mendicant orders were a response to this new sense of the human personality.

Read before class:
  • Francis of Assisi, Testament                                       Course Readings, pp. 153-154 

  • Francis of Assisi, Canticle of the Sun,                         Course Readings, pp. 155-156

  • Rule of Franciscan Order                                            Course Readings, pp. 156-159   

  • Thomas of Celano, First Life of Francis of Assisi      Readings in World Christian History, pp 354-359

  • Bernard of Clairvaux, On Loving God                        Readings in World Christian History, pp347; 350-54

  • Muslim mystics                                                            A Reader on Classical Islam , pp. 330-342 Ch. 7, sections.  10, 12-16

  • Poems of Rumi                                                              Norton Anthology of World Literature, pp. 352-354

  • Hadewiijch of Brabant                                                 Readings in World Christian History, pp 362-71

Term Papers Due; hard copy to be delivered by the end of class today.

Thurs., April 3

St. Dominic presiding over an auto-da-fe

Pedro Berruguete, 1475  Museo del Prado

Religious Outsiders in Western Europe

Western Europe in the Middle Ages understood itself as a Christian society, in which all members were members of the same Christian church.  This self-understanding left no room for non-Christians, in particular for Muslims and Jews.  Muslims, of course, were "outsiders", either as conquering rulers over Christians in Spain, or as vanquished foreigners.  Jews had no such clear place, being "outsiders" who had been there all along.  Popular Christian hostility towards Jews took many forms in the Middle Ages, as some of these readings illustrate.  At the same time, Jews, not being held to the same prohibition against interest-taking as were Christians, were integral to the functioning of the economy, and were on many occasions the object of special papal or royal protection, as Pope Innocent's constitution demonstrates. 

A very different kind of "outsider" status was accorded to Christians whose religious views were regarded with suspicion or abhorrence by the religious authorities.  Given the general understanding that the political order was an expression of the religious order, religious nonconformity frequently appeared as a political threat and was consequently punished by political authorities.  Some "heretical" groups held points of view clearly at odds with orthodox Christian belief, as the excerpts from the Cathar Gospel show; while others are far less obviously incompatible with Christian belief.  Intolerance of "deviant" beliefs continued to be a major issue in European society well into the 17th century.

Read before class:

  • Crusaders and the Jews of Mainz                                               Course Readings, pp. 160-163

  • Innocent III: Constitution for the Jews                                       Course Readings, pp. 163-164

  • The Black Death and the Jews                                                    Course Readings, pp. 164-167

  • Cathar Gospel:  The Book of John the Evangelist                     Course Readings, pp. 167-170

  • Raynaldus, On the Accusations against the Albigensians       Course Readings, pp. 171-172

  • Bernard Gui,  Inquisitorial Technique                                        Course Readings, pp. 172-173

  • Bernard Gui, On the Albigensians                                              Course Readings, pp. 173-174

Tues., April 8

Dante Aligheri, by Sandro Botticelli, 1495


The Divine Comedy was written between 1308 and 1321. It is the Christian epic poem par excellence that narrates the journey of the soul from spiritual ruin to redemption. The poem was an instant classic of Western literature. Dante's poem relating his heavenly-ordained journey through Hell, Purgatory and Paradise enjoyed immediate success: more than 600 surviving manuscripts of the Divine Comedy produced during the 14th century attest to the work's instant popularity. Consequently, Dante's Comedy was among the first books to be printed with the new technology of moveable type introduced into Italy from Germany during the 1460s and 1470s.

Read before class:

  • Divine Comedy  Inferno, cantos 1-5                Norton Anthology of World Literature, pp. 392-409; cantos 18-19 pp. 450-457; cantos 28 pp. 486-489; cantos 33-34 pp. 504-511

  • Purgatorio, cantos 1-2        Norton Anthology of World Literature, pp. 512-519;  selections from 22, 24,26,27,30 pp. 523-531

  • Paradiso, canto 33              Norton Anthology of World Literature, pp. 531-534

No late term papers accepted after today.

Thurs., April 10

Boccaccio and Florentines fleeing the plague, from a 1485 Bruges MS

Black Death; Boccaccio

The "medieval synthesis" in which all aspects of society were thought to cohere in one great unity: we have seen Thomas Aquinas and Dante confidently articulate this sense of the unity of all things. By the beginning of the fourteenth century, however, this cultural confidence began to wane. The popes' claims to universal jurisdiction were challenged by the rising power of the kings, on the one hand, and of the merchant class, on the other. Dante was himself a victim of these challenges, and he is writing nostalgically about a world that no longer corresponded to his reality. The removal of the papacy to Avignon, and the subsequent election of two, and then three, popes, further eroded the authority of the popes.

Between 1347 and 1351, the bubonic plague killed off close to a third of the population of Western Europe, after causing similar destruction from China to Constantinople.  The social disruptions that resulted from this dramatic depopulation also contributed to the cynicism and fear we see reflected in Boccaccio.

Read before class:

  • The Chronicle of Jean de Vennette on the Black Death   Course Readings, pp. 175-176
  • Boccaccio's Introduction to the Decameron                      Course Readings, pp. 176-180
  • Decameron, 1.1                                                                       Norton Anthology of World Literature, pp.609-618
  • Decameron, 4.9                                                                      Norton Anthology of World Literature, pp. 634-636;
  • Decameron, 10.10                                                                   Norton Anthology of World Literature, pp. 649-656

Term Papers returned by professors

Tues., April 15

Geoffrey Chaucer


Medieval society understood itself as composed of persons of various necessary ranks, or degrees. Virtually all social transactions in this society were based on this social model. Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales gives a clear and colorful account of this society.
Chaucer’s cast of characters shows the wide diversity of social roles in fourteenth century English society, a diversity which is matched almost everywhere in western Europe at that time.

The emergence of the merchant class posed a challenge to the feudal social order; the fluidity of this new class had no place in the fixed order of nobles, churchmen and serfs. The literature of the 14th century also reflects this reworking of the social order.

Read before class:

  • The Canterbury Tales                                                          Norton Anthology of World Literature, pp. 657-724

Thurs, April 17

Holy Thursday - No classes



Tues., April 22

Kubilai Khan, first Yuan emperor

National Palace Museum, Taipei

early 14th century

China 4: Yuan and Early Ming

The Mongols, under Temujin, whom we know as Chinghiz Khan, originated in the steppes of Central Asia, and moved to conquer territory from northern China to Russia.  They were besieging Vienna when Chinghiz Khan died in 1227.  His sons and grandsons continued through the thirteenth century; Russia, Persia, northern India all became Mongol states.  By 1279, Chinghiz' grandson Kubilai had conquered both the Jin dynasty in northern China and the Song in southern China.  The Mongol conquests created a unified society that stretched from the Pacific to eastern Europe, making travel along the Silk Road easier and safer than ever before, as is clear from the experiences of Marco Polo, who spent several years as an official of Khubilai Khan's empire..

Kubilai had adopted the title of "Son of Heaven" (huang di) in 1271, and proclaimed the new Yuan dynasty.  He managed to conquer the last of the Song dynasty by 1279 and ruled over a united China until his death in 1294.  His descendants had a series of short reigns, owing to the factional disputes among the Mongol rulers, as well as to the great population losses from the plague that struck China in the 1340s, probably the same disease that caused similar mortality in Europe.   

The turbulence of the era gave rise to a series of popular rebellions, the most significant of which was the Red Turbans, whose leader Zhu Yuangzhang captured the Yuan capital and proclaimed himself Emperor Hongwu of the Ming dynasty in 1368.  On his death in 1398 he was succeeded by his grandson, who was replaced by his son, who reigned as the Yongle Emperor from 1402 to 1424.  He moved his capital from Nanjing to the old Mongol capital of Beijing in 1420, building the Forbidden City that still stands. 

The social conservatism of Neo_Confucianism was challenged in the early 16th century by the rationalism of Wang Yangming, who argued that universal ideas are available to anyone who engages in what he called the "method of the mind and heart."

Read before class:

  • The Examination Debate under Khubilai                            Sources of Chinese Tradition, pp 774-79

  • Ming Foundations of Late Imperial China                           Sources of Chinese Tradition, pp 779-85

  • Wang Yangming                                                                     Sources of Chinese Tradition, pp 841-55

  • Marco Polo on the court of Kubilai Khan                              Course Readings, pp. 181-191

  • Ibn al-Athir on the Tatars                                                       Course Readings, pp. 192-193

  • The Lives of Mar Yahbb-Allaha and Rabban Sawma          Readings in World Christian History, pp.  373-83

Thurs., April 24

Chora Church, Constantinople  c. 1328

The Late Empire and the 14th century crisis in the West

The Byzantine Empire was recreated under Michael VIII, who captured the City from the Latins in 1260 and gradually imposed control over western Turkey and the Balkans; his attempt to secure Latin assistance by an agreement of union at the Second Council of Lyons in 1274 fell victim to the politics of his world.  Later attempts to reunify the Orthodox and Catholic churches were equally unsuccessful, despite emperors' pleas for assistance.

In addition to the social effects of the rise of cities and the plague of the mid-14th century, the prestige of the Roman church was gravely damaged by the removal of the popes and their court from Rome to Avignon from 1309 to 1377, effectively making the Pope an agent of the French crown.  From 1378 to 1417 there were two papacies, one in Rome and one in Avignon.  The Western church was reunited only with the election of Martin V at Constance in 1417.

The collapse of the scholastic tradition led scholars and preachers to formulate new aspects of doctrine, attacking both abuses in the late medieval church as well as challenging elements of doctrine.  The growing importance of nationalism added a political dimension to these theological disputations, involving both the church and the secular states.

Read before class

  • Petrarch's Letter criticizing the Avignon Papacy                                    Course Readings, p. 194
  • The Condemnation of John Wycliffe and his reply                                   Course Readings, pp. 194-197
  • The Council of Constance                                                                           Readings in World Christian History, pp.  414-415
  • The Council of Florence on Church Union                                               Readings in World Christian History, pp.  415-417
  • Patriarch Anthony on Symphonia                                                              Course Readings, p. 198

Revised term papers due, along with the original version with the professor's comments.

Tues., April 29

Pope Sixtus IV appoints Bartolomeo Platina Prefect of the Vatican Library 

Melozzo da Forli, 1477  Vatican Museums

Renaissance Humanism and Art

Humanism began as a critique of scholasticism and its perceived inability to understand the self. Beginning in the mid-fourteenth century with the Italian scholar Francesco Petrarca, a new movement arose looking to the past for answers as to how to build a person and a society with new values. This movement, later known as Humanism, peaked in the century after Constantinople fell and thousands of educated Greek-speakers brought their learning and their manuscripts to Italy.

Part of the spectacular heritage of this era is the heritage of painting, sculpture and architecture which were part of this new world view. The discovery of one-point perspective, the rediscovery of Greek and Roman sculpture and architecture as sources of inspiration, and the growing wealth of the patronage class produced a new way of doing and viewing art.

Read before class:
  • Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, Oration on the Dignity of Man        Course Readings, pp. 199-200  

  • Christine de Pizan, Book of the City of Ladies                                    Norton Anthology of World Literature, pp. 781-89, 798-803

Thurs., May 1

Niccolò Machiavelli

Machiavelli, The Prince


Machiavelli's The Prince is one of the permanent classics in political theory. How does Machiavelli understand the nature of power? How is it gained; how lost? To what extent is his understanding of power consonant with Ibn Khaldun's? with Thomas Aquinas'?  with Dante's?  Does his discussion of power and its exercise mark a break with the thought of preceding centuries? How do you see it as different?

Read before class:


  • The Prince: Preface, chapters 1, 5-8, 15, 17, 18, 25                          Course Readings, pp. 201-215  

Friday, May 9

10:10 - 12:10

The Garden of Earthly Delights: Hell

Hieronymus Bosch, c. 1510

Madrid: Museo del Prado

Final Examination

Image at top of page: Guan Yin (Avalokiteshvara), Chinese, Liao Dynasty, 11th century.  Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City

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