Course Description

All five boroughs of New York City bear traces of the medieval, despite having been built, as we see them, long after the period that corresponds with the European Middle Ages (c. 500-c. 1500 CE) ended. This course aims to explore the medieval, broadly understood, in New York City, informed by the sources, tools, and methods of medieval history; modern history and criticism of medievalism; and the history of art and architecture, and using the methodologies of digital humanities. In doing so, we will keep in mind several broad categories of what constitutes medieval:

  • Medieval objects and artifacts in New York City. How did they get here? Where and when are they from? This embraces both medieval history and the collecting activities of tycoons and scholars as they decided what was medieval. How do the accumulations of cultural patrimony show the history of the city, and how are they experienced by different populations within the city today?
  • Medieval-inspired objects and architecture. Why do “medieval” structures within the city look the way they look? From apartment buildings to houses of worship to colleges and universities to monuments, the medieval takes a particular form in New York City and has a number of not always obvious meanings.
  • Medieval-inspired people and communities of practice. How do self-professed medieval practitioners (crafting, music, art, combat, etc.) define their relationship to the medieval? How have public literary or artistic figures interpreted the medieval in New York?
  • New York during the Middle Ages. What did New York look like during the period that corresponds with the European Middle Ages? How did the indigenous people who lived there experience and interact with the land that we stand on now? How can we, standing at such a distance, hope to glimpse what they might have seen?
  • New York City through the lens of the medieval city. What can New York, arguably the archetypical modern megalopolis, tell us about medieval cities, and vice versa? How can we use comparison with a medieval city to shed light on urban life more broadly?

Students will participate in the Medieval New York project sponsored by Fordham’s Center for Medieval Studies. This project aims to investigate these issues and to craft walking itineraries around the city, showcasing these sites and ideas through the use of audio guides and multimedia materials for a broad public audience. By the end of this project, in addition to talking through these issues, students will collaboratively craft an itinerary of Fordham’s Rose Hill campus and its surroundings, and lead a walk-through of the itinerary for members of the community. The itinerary and related materials will be featured on the project’s site.


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