History 312W: 

The Middle Ages in Modern Eyes

Lycoming College, Spring 2006


Instructor:         Dr. Cullen Chandler

Office:              D-121

Office Hours:     M-W 1:30-2:30; T 3:00-4:00 and by appointment

Office Phone:    4173

Email:              chandler@lycoming.edu


Required Texts:

The texts should be available at the bookstore.  If problems acquiring books should arise, notify the instructor immediately.


Text:            Edward Peters, Europe and  the Middle Ages. Fourth edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2004.


Reader:        Lester K. Little and Barbara H. Rosenwein, eds., Debating the Middle Ages: Issues and Readings.  Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1998.


Sources:       Alfred J. Andrea, ed., The Medieval Record.  Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.


Handbook:   Laurie G. Kirszner and Stephen R. Mandell, The Pocket Handbook for History. Boston: Thomson-Wadsworth, 2004.



Purpose and Goals:

The study of history is important to the development of educated people and the leaders of society.  This course is an in-depth study of the history of medieval Europe and of modern understandings of that period.  Historical issues we will cover include the transformation of the Roman world and the emergence of European civilization, structures of political social power, and the different manifestations of medieval Christianity.  Our main objectives are two: 1) building on the knowledge gained in lower-level courses to come to a fuller understanding of medieval history and 2) gaining insight on how modern people have perceived the Middle Ages.  For both of these goals, it is important that students become historians, if only for one semester.


This is a Writing Intensive course.  It has been approved by the Writing-Across-the-Curriculum Committee and will satisfy part of your W graduation requirement.  Accordingly, writing will be incorporated into this course as a primary learning tool.  Formal and informal writing will be assigned.  Specifically, this means that the course will require a minimum of 10 pages of formal writing and a minimum of 15 pages of informal writing.  Class time and attention will be spent on the processes of writing and revision of formal writing assignments.


Policies and Requirements: 


I.  Participation

This course will be run as an upper-division seminar, meaning that its proper functioning depends on active participation by all students.  Participation will count 15% of the course grade.


A.  Attendance

This is a small class, so attendance is required of everyone for each class meeting.  Since lectures are minimized, participation in daily discussions is absolutely crucial for the success of the course.  Thus, for each absence, the Participation score will be lowered a partial letter grade, e.g., from A to A-, from A- to B+, and so on.


B.  Discussion

Every day will present opportunities for discussions of assigned readings.  We will discuss knowledge-level content of the Peters text, come to our own conclusions based on primary sources, examine the process of historical understanding in the Little-Rosenwein reader, and draw connections between them all.  We will also delve into the “how-tos” of historical research and writing on workshop days.  Each student will be assigned a leadership role for some parts of the reading, but EVERYONE MUST DO ALL THE READING.  You must be in class, ready to ask questions, give answers, and hash things out with your colleagues on a daily basis.  Discussion is graded on a letter scale daily, with the average constituting the Participation grade.  Any attendance penalty will be applied after this average is computed.


In addition to discussion of the readings, each student will make informal presentations of the books they reviewed (see below) and will work regularly in pairs or small groups during class for collaborative interim research and writing.


C.  Informal Writing

Since this class is Writing Intensive, you will engage in various forms of informal writing.  Most important is the Learning Log, a homework journal in which you will write about any aspect of the course you wish.  Some ideas are: summarizing the points from Peters or class, spelling out your thoughts for a discussion to come, bring closure to a recent discussion, clarify your own thoughts on reading and research, or to raise questions about any facet of course content so that we can address issues in class.  The Learning Log is open-ended, so you do what you need to.  Be advised that instead of lectures, we will rely heavily on discussions of these logs to cover “course content” of the knowledge-level variety.


Occasionally in class, we will have time for Exploratory writing.  In these exercises, you will be able to put your thoughts on paper without regard to grammatical correctness or making a particular point.  This kind of writing is especially helpful for dealing with difficult reading and turning over research problems in your mind.


II.  Exams

There will be three essay exams.  Each exam will consist of two responses to provided essay prompts; you will choose which two essays to write.  All exams are unit exams; there is no comprehensive test.  NO EXAM CAN BE MADE UP.  If you must miss an exam, SEE ME BEFOREHAND.  If you miss an exam, a grade of zero (0) will be recorded.  Each exam counts 10% of the course grade.


III.  Research and Writing

To further the goals of the course and prepare students for more advanced work, you will write one short book review (3 pages) on either Patrick Geary’s The Myth of Nations or Allen Frantzen’s Bloody Good.  Instructions for the book review are in a separate document (click here). 


Furthermore, you will engage in primary source research—how modern people have come to understandings of the Middle Ages.  The first foray into such activity will be a short (5-page) Source Essay based on a selection of sources in the Andrea reader.  See the separate instruction sheet for more detailed instructions.  This assignment will count 10% of the course grade.


Each student will also write an historiographical essay (click here for instructions).  This short (5-page), critical essay will review a set of three key works on one topic—the topic of your research project.  The editorial introductions to each chapter in the Little-Rosenwein reader serve as models, but there will also be an instruction sheet to guide you.  The Historiography is 10% of the grade.  Keep the books you review for the Historiography, and make sure they are on a topic you will enjoy for the entire semester, because…


In addition, each student will undertake a major research project based on primary and secondary sources.  Consult with me to find a topic, then begin the research process.  The project, culminating in a 10-page paper, will be completed in stages.  Full instructions will be distributed later.  The Research Project will count for 15% of the course grade.


Research Project Grade Breakdown:

Topic Proposal:      5%

Outline: 10%

First Version:    25%

Final Version:   60%


IV.  Reports

As noted above under Participation, some class meetings will be devoted to discussion of selections from the Little-Rosenwein reader.  On a rotating basis, each student will be assigned a leadership role in these discussions.  This means you will present an informal report when it is your turn to lead.  This will happen twice during the semester.  You will be graded on the accuracy of your information, the clarity of your report, and the depth of analysis and drawing connections to other readings.  The two informal reports together will count 10% of the grade.


You will also have to make a formal presentation of your research.  This will require attire, tone, and demeanor appropriate for a professional situation.  The formal report will detail the thesis, argument, and evidence of your research project in a maximum of ten minutes.  The formal report will weigh 10% of the course grade.


V.  Academic Dishonesty

If any student cheats on a writing assignment or exam, it will receive a grade of zero (0).  That could really sink a final grade.  Plagiarism is stealing someone else’s ideas and/or words and putting them in your written work as if you came up with them.  Not only is plagiarism cheating, it is also a crime.  It is the most serious offense in the academic world, and thus the most grievous misdeed anyone can commit in this course.  More information on how to avoid plagiarism can be found in the Kirszner and Mandell Handbook.  In addition to course penalties, Lycoming College will usually take disciplinary action against a student accused of “academic dishonesty.”


VI.  Evaluation Breakdown

Each student will earn grade credit based on participation, exams, written work, and the reports.  Letter grades will be determined as follows:


A = 90-100%, B = 80-89%, C = 70-79%, D = 60-69%, and F = 0-59%

NOTE:  On the +/- scale, approximately three points constitute a partial letter grade. 

For example:  B- = 80-82%, B = 83-86%, B+ = 87-89%, and so on.



Exam I:                           10%

Exam II:                       10%

Exam III:                        10%

Source Essay:               10%

Historiography:        10%

Leader Reports:            10%

Formal Report:              10%

Research Project:      15%

Participation:                 15%





All reading assignments for this course are preparatory.  In order to be ready for participation, read before the beginning of the week.




Week 1: 

READ:  Syllabus and Handouts

  Peters, front matter and Part I

  Andrea, Prologue

  Debating, front matter

January 10:  Introductions and Transformations; Discuss Book Review

    January 12:  The Precursors to Europe; King Arthur


Week 2: 

READ:  Debating, Part I, chs. 1-3

January 17:  Discuss Research Project; Finish and Discuss King Arthur

        January 19:  Discuss Debating

            ***Book Review Due January 20, 5:00***


Week 3: 

READ:  Peters, Part II

          Andrea, ch. 3, nos. 11-12, 14-16

    January 24:  Heirs of Rome in the East

        January 26:  Discuss Andrea

            ***Research Project Topic Proposals Due January 26***


Week 4: 

READ:  Peters, chs. 6-7

          Andrea, chs. 2 and 4, nos. 7, 8, 10, 17, 19, 23

        January 31:  Heirs of Rome in the West

        February 2:  Discuss Andrea

            ***Source Essay Due February 3, 5:00***


Week 5: 

READ:  Handbook, Part 6

        February 7:  Writing and Research; Discuss Historiography and Research Project

          February 9:  Exam I




Week 6: 

READ:  Peters, chs. 8-9

          Andrea, ch. 5

        February 14:  “A Family Who Forged Europe”

        February 16:  The Carolingian Legacy; Discuss Andrea


Week 7: 

READ:   Peters, chs. 10 and 11

           Andrea, ch. 10, nos. 64, 65, 69

        February 21:  Power and Society in the Middle Ages

        February 23:  Discuss Andrea; Peer Review

            ***Historiography Due February 24, 5:00***


February 27-March 3:  SPRING BREAK


Week 8: 

READ:  Debating, Part IV, chs. 18, 21, 22

          Handbook, Parts 1-5

      March 7:  Writing Workshop

      ***Research Project Outline Due March 7***

      March 9:  Discuss Debating


Week 9: 

READ:  Peters, chs. 14-15

          Andrea, ch. 7, nos. 38, 39, 43; ch. 8, nos. 45, 47, 49, 51

      March 14:  High (Medieval) Society

      March 16:  Discuss Andrea


Week 10: 

READ:  Debating, Part II, chs. 7-9

      March 21:  The Lion in Winter

      March 23:  Discuss Debating


Week 11:

READ:  Peters, ch. 12

           Andrea, ch. 11

      March 28:  What Were the Crusades?;  See Outline for HIST 212 on Crusades

       March 29: Ewing Lecture, 7:30 pm

       March 30:  Special Guest – Prof. John J. Contreni


       April 1: Field Trip to the Cloisters and Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City

                        (along with Dr. Preston's Medieval Literature class)


       April 4:  Exam II




Week 12:

READ:  Peters, chs. 13 and 16

          Andrea, ch. 9, nos. 53, 54, 56-59

      April 6:  Medieval Culture; Discuss Andrea

      ***Research Project First Version Due April 6***


Week 13: 

READ:  Peters, Part VI

          Andrea, ch. 12, nos. 79, 83, 85, 86, 87; ch. 13, nos. 88, 96

      April 11:  Crisis and Creativity;  See Outlines for HIST 212 for Bring out your dead, Renaissance

      April 12: Film Night, The Messenger

      April 13:  Discuss Andrea


Week 14: 

READ:  Debating, Part III, chs. 14, 16

          Handbook, Part 7      

      April 18:  Formal Reports

      April 20:  Peer Review

      ***Research Project Final Version Due April 21, 5:00***


Final Exam Week:

Exam III Day and Time TBA