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Wilfrid Laurier University Faculty of Arts
January 21, 2017
Canadian Excellence

Medieval Studies is the study of the representational, performative, intellectual, and material culture of the period known as the Middle Ages: c. 500- c. 1500 AD.

Medieval Studies at Laurier is a relatively new and innovative program, poised to develop along a number of exciting paths. The discipline is international, influential, and growing. Lauriers program is rich, rigorous, flexible, popular, and genuinely interdisciplinary.

Laurier is nearly unique in North America for its courses in Medievalism, that is, the attitudes of people in later periods in history toward the Middle Ages. Medieval Studies thus links to contemporary attitudes toward myths, heroes, magic, fantasy, science fiction, crafts and role-playing clubs, films such as the Harry Potter series, tv series such as Game of Thrones, and video games such as Assassin's Creed.

This program continues the strong tradition of student focus at Laurier and has the potential to graduate students with two or three teachables within one major: extraordinarily beneficial for student career outcomes.

In sum, Medieval Studies is a perfect example of the kind of program that can set the seal upon the superb liberal arts education that is at the core of Lauriers reputation for excellence.


All Faculty at all levels of the program are known for the high quality of their teaching and for their helpful and altruistic attitudes toward students. Our researchers have international reputations in the areas of Medieval history, colonialism, images of saints, sermon studies, gender studies, music manuscripts from France, archaeology, spirituality, and Old English, Middle English, Old Norse, and fantasy literature. Much of this research has been continually funded by significant and prestigious government grants.

Lauriers is the only Medieval Studies program in Ontario that incorporates Medievalism (that is, the later representations of the Middle Ages) right into its program offerings.

Lauriers was the first Medieval Studies program in Ontario (perhaps in North America) that begins right in year 1 with intensive and challenging courses dedicated entirely to interdisciplinary study of the Middle Ages.

The program is very flexible. It enables students to tailor their medieval study to a literary, cultural, or historical focus, and potentially introduces students to a vast variety of critical approaches. Students can take a double major and still have much (rare) freedom with their electives, and can meet teachable requirements in English, History, French, Spanish, German, Music, and Religion. The program also includes courses in more than one Faculty at Laurier, a rare opportunity for students.

Students are able to concentrate on medieval history, literature, languages, music, philosophy, political thought, intellectual history, archaeology, art, and manuscripts. The program features many exciting disciplines such as Early Islam, Anglo-Saxon Studies, History of the Medieval Church, Roles of Women in the Middle Ages, Medieval Drama, Medieval Music, Popular Culture Influenced by Medieval Traditions, Chaucer, Vikings, Latin, Greek, French, and Italian.


By crossing traditional disciplinary boundaries and intensively studying a variety of cultural materials from the Middle Ages, students can improve their cultural literacy, cultivate their sense of internationalization, learn to use an unbounded array of theories and methodologies, and communicate with skill. Ideally, the Medieval Studies Program teaches students what it means to specialize in a period: the endless possibilities, the often permeable boundaries, the core issues, the important debates, and the most productive and useful research. More specifically, the progressive development of a Medieval Studies program at Laurier has important implications for civic engagement, personal decision-making, behaviour-adjustments, rethinking of attitudes, quality of life, and interpersonal relationships in Canada. Medieval peoples are often characterized as "barbaric" and "primitive," while their cultural materials have been frequently ignored and slighted by later societies. Research into these materials enhances in a fundamental way our understanding of prejudice and discrimination against societies perceived as distant from present-day ones, and promotes ideas of justice, tolerance, understanding, respect, and other multi-cultural concerns and initiatives that Laurier is known for internationally.

Internationalism: Study of any cultural material of the Middle Ages almost invariably leads to an appreciation of the amazingly creative, original, and vigorous communities of interpretation that flourished in diverse parts of the world during this period. Indeed, topics such as representations of race, gender, trade, colonialism, political theories, and inter-cultural artistic and musical currents all seen through the lens of internationalization are burgeoning fields within the discipline.

Annual Special Events:

We have been offering Medieval Day since 2005. The event has featured world-class speakers, faculty and student panels, and displays of medieval music, art, and drama. This event typically draws over 200 people, including members of the general public.

We have been programming the Distinguished Visiting Speaker Series since 2006. Past speakers have included Ralph Hanna III, an expert in medieval manuscripts, Carolyn. Dinshaw, an expert in literary analysis and theory, Brian Gillingham, an expert in the history of medieval music, and Pat Sutherland, an expert in archaeology.

Student Society: The Medieval Students Society is probably the strongest student group on campus, demonstrating exceptional volunteerism and enthusiasm. The Society is involved in decisions that effect the program, in enjoyable social events, and in many educational outreach programs.

History of Medieval Studies: Lauriers program was launched in September 2003, the double-cohort year, with its first-year course, ML 100: "Discovering the Middle Ages." 2nd- and 3rd-year courses were added in the following few years. We now offer courses at all levels, including 4th-year seminars.

Growth: Since 2004 numbers have increased dramatically in all courses, in many cases doubling the previous year, and the enrolment pace for our new first-year Harry Potter course has been extraordinary. Our retention rate is high, and alumni have been loyal. In 2009, a graduating student in Medieval Studies won the Alumni Gold Medal for the Faculty of Arts for the first time.

Exchange: Our program has a special exchange agreement with the University of Durham in the United Kingdom. Students can take courses there on a vast variety of medieval subjects.

ML100: Discovering the Middle Ages (Winter 2016) watch video

New Courses for 2015-16

ML102 Game of Thrones and Medieval Culture (Fall 2015), Prof. Alicia McKenzie watch video

ML200 The Middle Ages Today: Medievalism in Contemporary Culture (Winter 2016),Prof. Alicia Mackenzie watch video

ML300: Christianity and Islam in the Medieval Mediterranean (Winter 2016), Dr. Nicholas Must
[link to syllabus coming soon]


Please contact: Dr. Chris Nighman,
Phone: 519-884-0710 ext.3134
Office Location: DAWB 4-141

Senior Administrative Assistant:
Please contact: Sharon Lalor
Phone: 519-884-0710 ext.3330
Office Location: DAWB 2-119