Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2024

Course Description

This course examines illuminated manuscripts produced during the medieval period, roughly the 5 th through the 15th centuries. These chronological bookends are provided by two technological changes of monumental importance in the history of communication: the shift from papyrus scroll to codex (the modern book format) in late Antiquity, and the invention of printing with moveable type in the late Middle Ages. These two landmark changes have a particular resonance and relevance for us today, as we undertake another seismic shift, from printing to digital communication. Meetings will generally be structured around the in-depth study of a single book: we will study its physical format and appearance, consider its patronage and reception, and explore the specific purposes behind its creation. But each book will also serve as a springboard into broader cultural issues, including text-image relationships; the diverse ways that written texts (both narrative and poetic, sacred and secular) received illustrations; the conditions and functions of reading and viewing among particular groups; issues of orality and the transmission of texts; and the use of books and book illumination in the formation of personal and group identities during the Middle Ages. By the end of the course, students will have gained the essential tools for identifying and interpreting manuscript illumination in its diverse theological, liturgical, institutional, and ideological contexts

Student Outcomes

Students successfully completing this course will be able to:

  • Identify and describe major manuscripts from the European Middle Ages and their meanings/function within their specific cultural and historical contexts.
  • Analyze specific images and texts critically: in terms of how they work together both graphically, semantically, and ideologically.
  • Formulate and craft a convincing art historical argument, supported by thoughtful, accurately-cited evidence and communicated in clear, readable prose