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Medieval Studies

Gigondas Village Medieval Studies

Department Overview

The Middle Ages-from the 4th to the 15th centuries-were a distinct historical and cultural period in a variety of civilizations, from Western Europe across the Mediterranean and the Middle East and on to southern and western Asia. Far from being the "Dark Ages," these centuries are rich in history, art, language, literature, music, and religious expression.

Scholars in this field are inspired by an array of distinct intellectual experiences and breakthroughs. For example, a medieval scholar might study medieval Latin poetry accompanied by the tunes of the poems and appreciate how poetry has always been intimately connected with music. Or, a faculty member may have explored medieval cathedrals, castles and cloisters, and been inspired to want to know more about the lives and thoughts of the societies that produced those structures.

As one Swarthmore medieval scholar said, "one studies history of any sort to enter into conversation with the past so that we might learn from it insights helpful in our position to the present." The period is best understood through a multidisciplinary and cross-cultural approach that includes the study of art, classics, literature, history, music, and religion-all of which are found in the College's Medieval Studies Program.

Whole, Holy, Healthy: Reading Old English Charms

This lecture introduces a group of magical spells in verse from the early Middle Ages that purport to do everything from curing intractable fevers to easing childbirth to returning stolen cattle – and offer fascinating insights into disease, sex, the supernatural, and the policing of unruly bodies in the medieval period and in our own time.

Barlaam and Josaphat



Saint-Bernard- Gouttes-Lait

Beatrix de Dia Female Trobadour

Jesus wound icon

Vrigin Mary with Breast Milk and Wound

Muhammad as man of light

Barlaam and Josaphat

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Q & A with a Medievalist

Professor of English Literature Craig Williamson is the Alfred H. and Peggi Bloom Professor of English Literature. In this article (adapted from The Daily Gazette) he discusses the program and the relationship between the work of J.R.R. Tolkien and medieval literature with Robert Holowka '12.

More Q&A with a Medievalist

Old English Riddles

Test your knowledge of Old English with a series of riddle exercises.


Watch: Beowulf Read in Old English

Professor of English Literature Craig Williamson reads and then translates about 20 lines from his new translation of Beowulf during an honors seminar.

Watch Beowulf in Old English