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Wilfrid Laurier University Faculty of Arts
September 20, 2014
 
 
Canadian Excellence

The Medieval Studies Program: a Year by Year Description



The Medieval Studies Program: a Year by Year Description

First-year courses are designed to appeal to students new to the university setting and to reflect the levels of understanding of students who are typically engaging with specific academic disciplines and their requisite course content for the first time. The instructors therefore select topics and issues that are both interesting for, and significant to, the entry-level student. Courses employ lectures, class discussion, and often group projects. The principal aim of our first-year course is to introduce the students to interdisciplinary study and to the persons, events, and forces that have shaped ideas, intellectual traditions, artistic movements, and political developments during the Middle Ages, and that have shaped understanding of the Middle Ages subsequently. Further aims are to broaden the studentsí understanding of medieval culture by taking into consideration the perspectives of disciplines traditionally alien to medieval literary and historical studies, including anthropology, visual and material cultural studies, music appreciation, ethnography, historiography, and medievalism. Instructors introduce methods of analysis through readings and assignments. This last year, the Program decided to put even more emphasis than previously on research and writing techniques.

Assignments engage students with new concepts and ideas and typically include short essays and tests. Instructors provide guidance as to how these assignments should be approached, and the methods of quality research and essay-writing receive particular attention, which is commended by our students. There is a mid-term exam in 100-level classes and always a final exam (worth at least 30% of the final grade). First-year courses usually have about 64 students. A student wrote of our ML100 course: ďa great 100-level introductory course that was responsible for my majoring in Medieval Studies in the first place.Ē

Second-year courses build the foundation for upper-level courses by improving the student's understanding of the Middle Ages and also key concepts, processes, approaches, and methodologies introduced to them in year one. This aim is accomplished through more integrated writing assignments, seminars, and discussions. Class size averages around 55 students. The main method of instruction is the lecture, with discussion of significant themes and aspects of the medieval period based on readings from assigned texts. Second-year courses are intended to provide students with the chronological, thematic, practical, and methodological frameworks on which they can build more specialized knowledge of particular concepts, movements, and issues.

Third-year courses reinforce what has been learned previously and foster greater specialization and depth. In comparison to second-year courses, 300-level offerings offer a more intense study of specialized themes, genres, historical events, case studies, or other more narrowly defined topics. Having been introduced to the Middle Ages itself, students can now be instructed more thoroughly in later ideas concerning this period (eg., Medievalism). New interdisciplinary topics are introduced. Third-year courses combine both lecture and discussion. The classes rarely exceed the limit of 40 students.

Fourth-year (400-level) courses are seminars and must be taken by all majors. These courses promote in-depth and intensive discussions of ideas, issues, and methodologies fundamental to understanding the Middle Ages. In particular, seminars typically involve research concerning specific themes and perspectives. These courses give students opportunities to engage in their own research projects and provide a forum for the presentation and discussion of each student's research. Ideally, students will finish these courses with a more nuanced sense of the professional demands of undertaking sustained research on topics in medieval culture. Class sizes are restricted to 15-22 students each.