All seniors writing a thesis in medieval history meet regularly at lunch to enjoy their company, exchange ideas, and work on their ongoing projects. We also organize full day workshops to present and discuss their senior theses. Our eight concentrators met regularly with me, Helmut Reimitz, Director of the Program in Medieval Studies, to discuss their ongoing research — from the first ideas, reports about trips to archives, discussion of practical and methodological challenges, writing blocks or the opposite, until the completion we shared anxious and exciting moments in the composition of the theses. It is hard to write a book, and it was hard to finish them under the circumstances of COVID 19. But, everyone succeeded in finishing a truly impressive study on the highest scholarly standards. What I found particularly exciting was the enormous range of themes and research foci — from late Antique patristic thought to high medieval religions and societies in France, Italy, and Spain, to the medieval layers of the British parliamentary system, to 20th century art (and its medieval inspiration), and 21st century approaches to the teaching of Latin (and its emancipation from medieval practices). My sincere congratulations to all of our certificate students on finishing their certificate and a truly exciting thesis.
Director of Medieval Studies
Professor of History
Please see below for photos and thesis abstracts for each Class of 2020 Medieval Studies certificate student.
Advisor: Professor Devin Fore
‘Against the Malaise of Time:’ Embodied Fragmentation and Temporalities of the Dada Creaturely
In this thesis, I explore the work of the German Dadaists primarily through the lens of the creaturely, a figure of fragmentation most notably explored by German-Jewish philosopher Walter Benjamin in his 1925 Habilitationsschrift on the baroque mourning play. I argue that the temporality of the creaturely is a paradoxical convergence of creation and destruction, and that creaturely temporality was therefore able to connect two moments or epochs that are historically non-continuous and often seemingly incompatible. The work of the Berlin Dadaists relied on a similar impulse of cutting through and exposing the temporal vulnerability of the creaturely as a way of reconceptualizing the modern body’s relationship with a fraught and fragmented post-war history. Following a similar ‘creaturely’ impulse in my methodology, I rely on the paradigm of deliberate anachronism to propose a new approach to montage as an act of spoliation, drawing heavily from art historical scholarship on early Christian spoliation and Medieval relics and reliquaries to ultimately reimagine the practice of Dada architectural and visual montage as a creation of a shared space for multiple simultaneous temporalities, past and present.
French and Italian
Advisor: Professor Simone Marchesi
Francis Clarified: A Reading of Bonaventure’s Legenda Maior in the Light of Clare of Assisi
This thesis analyzes the interior life of St. Francis of Assisi. Basing its analysis of Francis on Bonaventure’s biography of the saint, it takes Clare of Assisi’s life in the cloisters as a hermeneutical guide to Francis’s life in the world. Ultimately, the goal of the thesis is to clarify Francis. That is, the thesis hopes to show that Francis may be seen as another Clare. In the end, it argues that just as the cloister of Clare became an outward sign that invites those in the world to enter into the mystery of God’s love, so too did Francis’ stigmatized body become a sign that points those in the world to the glory of the eschaton, in which the blessed will enjoy union with their loving Creator.
Advisor: Professor Daniela Mairhofer
Sero Te Amavi: North African Church Controversies and the
Maturation of Augustine’s Theology of Love
My thesis addressed a formative early Church controversy in late Antique northern Africa (the Donatist controversy) by examining the theologies of St. Augustine and St. Cyprian, his predecessor. I reached two main conclusions. The first is that Augustine’s harmonization of diverse viewpoints concerning the nature of the Church (especially those of Cyprian) is consistent with the regula dilectionis of his interpretive theory. The second is that his own thinking about this same concept of dilectio is subtly shaped by and matured through his engagement with the Donatists. In sum, Augustine’s polemical work in the controversy both influences and is influenced by his theological understanding of love (in its various forms).
Spanish and Portuguese
Advisor: Professor Marina Brownlee
Marian Miracles in Pre-Inquisition Castile: An Annotated Translation of Codex 1 from the Archive of the Monastery of Guadalupe
Codex 1, of the Monastery of Guadalupe in Extremadura, contains miracles reported by pilgrims who visited this monastery between the years of 1412 and 1503. I translated into English the monastery’s origin story at the beginning of the codex, along with annotations to explain the purposeful insertion of Guadalupe into national and church history, as well as the first sixteen of these miracles, spanning the years 1412 to 1424, in order to document popular devotion to the Virgin of Guadalupe during the beginning of an era of weak Castilian kings. This translation is preceded by a brief explanation of my translation theory and an introduction to the symbolism of the monastery and its Virgin. Following the translation, I place these miracles in the context of Castilian politics, propose that the codex was composed immediately after Isabel I’s reign in the first decade of the sixteenth century, and discuss these miracles’ implications on society, religion, and popular perceptions of miracles in fifteenth-century Castile. The appendices include maps that show the spread of miracle locations across the Iberian peninsula and in coastal towns across Europe.
Advisor: Professor William Chester Jordan
When Fine Words Fail: War, Peace, and the Administration of the Negotium pacis et fidei in Languedoc, 1208-1249
Elizabeth’s thesis studies the Albigensian Crusade and its aftermath. It attributes the success of the Dominican inquisition by 1249 to the bailes, officers of the count of Toulouse who were charged in various postwar documents to hunt down remaining cells of heresy. Immediately following the conclusion of the crusade, the bailes, like many of their countrymen, were deeply nativistic and hostile to the imposition of foreign customs and tribunals in Languedoc. A series of high political crises in the 1240s, the thesis argues, finally forced the count of Toulouse to mobilize his bailes toward the extirpation of heresy, which he had long promised to the pope and to the king of France. Throughout, the thesis considers the ideological matrix which justified the crusade and the inquisitions, interrogating the twin concepts of pax and fides in various contexts. It also draws from archival research Elizabeth did at the Bibliothèque nationale de France, which was made possible by the generous support of the Program in Medieval Studies via the Uitti Fund for undergraduate research.
Advisor: Professor Joshua Katz
Viva Latinitas: An Essay on Language and Learning in the Classics
Teaching ancient languages is a problem with no obvious solution–– it is a problem because we no longer have access to native speakers as teachers, or even as a standard of pronunciation, and because our ultimate goal is reading, not conversational fluency. The prevailing solution for the past two centuries has been the Grammar-Translation Method which, though incredibly convenient, is deeply flawed. In Viva Latinitas, I explore these flaws and propose speaking dead languages, according to the model of the Direct Method as described and practiced by the co-founder of the famous Loeb Library series, W.H.D. Rouse, as a method which corrects the flaws of G-T and goes further still. My analysis involves the metaphysics of language, philosophy of education, historical and social linguistics, ethics and psychology, Princeton’s educational history, memoirs and humorous (I’m told) vignettes, dialogues à la Plato (but in Latin), and a little Aristotle, Dante, and Aquinas–– just to keep things interesting. Above all, Viva Latinitas is a personal essay about the poetry, music, logic, and life of the classical languages.
Advisor: Professor William Chester Jordan
“The Most Grieving Grievance That Ever Was”: Billeting and the Democratization of England’s Governance Crisis, 1625-1628
This thesis revolves around the collapse of governance in the early years of Charles I’s reign, particularly as it relates to the material, legal, and constitutional problems of billeting soldiers in private homes. In particular, the thesis argues that billeting soldiers in a deliberately retributive fashion democratized the crisis of governance which Charles exacerbated by pursuing overly ambitious foreign policy goals. Though not strictly medieval in a temporal sense, the problems which this thesis addresses stemmed from an inherited system of norms, institutions, and fiscal structures which were largely developed in the High Medieval period. Its central theme is how medieval ideas– of “rights of liberty,” of royal prerogative, and of the relationship between law and necessity– could be manipulated and reshaped in early modern disputes over good governance and kingship.
Advisor: Harriet Flower
St. Augustine and the Roman Institution of Slavery: A Phenomenological Look at a Project of Legitimation and Reform
In this thesis, I examine Saint Augustine’s views on the Roman institution of slavery, arguing that his project is one of legitimation and reform. I employ an experiential lens to do this, making heavy use of the Confessions. I also take a close look at how Augustine comes to a new way of construing identity and I connect that to his views on slavery.