Cornell's Link to Antiquity and Modernity

by Elizabeth Nelson

The Medieval Studies Program is part of the College of Arts and Sciences, and is the only program in the college to offer a PhD. The program has 29 distinguished faculty members who represent twelve departments in the college, including Asian Studies, Classics, English, German Studies, History, History of Art and Visual Studies, Linguistics, Music, Near Eastern Studies, Philosophy, and Romance Studies.

The wealth of classes offered by the program give students a chance to form their own research interests. Current students in the program study anything from critical cartography to Old and Middle English literature to feminist, gender and sexual studies. The program is active each year with brown bag lunches, guest speakers, and conferences, as well as Quodlibet, a student organization associated with the program, which sponsors outside lecturers.

Olin Library houses a large collection of medieval source materials, articles, and manuscripts that support faculty and student research. One example is the Fiske Icelandic Collection, which has a strong medieval component. The largest repository of works on Iceland and Nordic studies in North America, the Fiske collection contains over 32,000 titles in a variety of European languages, and attracts scholars from around the world.

“We are the link between the years 500 and 1500, between Antiquity and Modernity,” says David S. Powers, director of the Medieval Studies Program. “Our approach is global: from European languages and literatures to Byzantine visual culture; from the Vikings to Chinese intellectual history; from the rise of Islam and the Arab conquests to Andalusian art, architecture, and poetry.”

The Medieval Studies Program celebrated its 50th anniversary earlier this year. Its history is steeped in the work of notable Cornell professors intent on training undergraduate and graduate students. 

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