Medieval Studies

Laurel Brook, Tomson 368

Founded by the Department of Classics in 1971, medieval studies is one of St. Olaf’s oldest interdisciplinary programs. In scope it spans the more than ten centuries between the fall of the Roman Empire and the flowering of the Renaissance. Combining art, history, language, literature, philosophy, religion, and theater, it encourages students to take a broad look at medieval European culture, examining it from multiple perspectives.

The medieval studies program has no courses of its own; instead it relies on courses offered by individual departments. Students who major in medieval studies choose electives from the various departmental courses that deal primarily or entirely with the Middle Ages. Many of these courses also satisfy general education requirements. The required courses in Latin can simultaneously fulfill the college's foreign language requirement.

It is common for St. Olaf students to combine a medieval studies major with a B.A. major like art history, English, history, music, philosophy, or religion. Even mathematics or natural science majors often complete a second major in medieval studies. The major provides a useful background in the humanities for students interested in virtually any career.

Overview of the Major

The objectives of the major are competence in Latin at the intermediate level, familiarity with medieval European civilizations, and in-depth knowledge of one subject area within the major.

Any student interested in a medieval studies major should draw up a contract with the program’s director. The contract may be changed at any time up to second semester of the senior year.

Intended Learning Outcomes for the Major


See Academic Honors

To attain distinction in medieval studies, a student must demonstrate talent with Latin, skill in conducting research on a medieval topic, and broad knowledge of medieval European civilization. Specific guidelines are available from the director of medieval studies. Medieval studies majors who wish to pursue distinction should notify the director of the program no later than January 1 of their senior year.

 Every student majoring in medieval studies must complete the following:

Fourth semester (or higher) of Latin1.00
One medieval history course1.00
One medieval literature course1.00
Four electives chosen from various departments4.00
One independent research1.00
Total Credits8

The following courses have been approved for the major (seminars and topics courses are acceptable only when they focus on the medieval world):

ART 263 Medieval Art

ART 275 Topics in Art History

ART 278 Topics: Art, Identity, and Experience in the Early Medieval World

ENGL 220 Topics in Literary History

ENGL 223 Old and Middle English Literature: The Weird and the Wonderful

ENGL 262 Topics: Literature and History

ENGL 330 Advanced Studies in Literary Eras: British

ENGL 391 Major British Authors

ENGL 395 Chaucer from an Ethical Perspective

ENGL 399 The Major Seminar

GCON 116 The Tradition Redefined: The Medieval Synthesis

HIST 188 Topical Seminar

HIST 189 Topical Seminar

HIST 190 Europe from the Ancients to the Renaissance

HIST 210 Major Seminar: European History

HIST 211 Viking and Medieval Scandinavia

HIST 237 Gender in Medieval Europe

HIST 289 Topics in History

HIST 299 Topics in History

HIST 310 Seminar: Medieval Europe

LATIN 235 Medieval Latin (or any other Latin course beyond 231)

MUSIC 345 Advanced Study in Music History

NORW 240 Vikings Past and Present

NORW 399 Seminar

PHIL 374 Seminar in the History of Philosophy

REL 246 Islam -- Religion and Community

REL 302 History of Christian Thought I

REL 303 History of Christian Thought II

REL 392 Studies in Religion Seminar

REL 399 Thematic Seminar

THEAT 270 History of Theater up to 1700

298: Independent Study

398: Independent Research

Interim courses such as:

ART 255 Italian Art in Context (abroad)

HIST 237 Gender in Medieval Europe

HIST 299 Topics in History

Norwegian 224 Topics in Contemporary Nordic Literature (when taught as Nordic Folklore)

and other courses offered occasionally or only once (including courses at Carleton College) may also be used as electives.

See the director for information on courses offered in a particular year.

Director, 2020-2021
Anne H. Groton
Professor of Classics
Greek and Roman drama; classical languages and literature

A list of the Ancient and Medieval Studies Steering Committee members can be found here.