Special Programs: Byzantine Studies, Medieval Studies

Higher Studies in Byzantine Studies

The program is based on the philosophy that a Byzantinist should be fully conversant with the history, literature, and art of the Empire, and be able to do research in all three areas. Its aim, therefore, is to offer students the opportunity to pursue a course of studies that will give them competence in all three fields. It is an interdepartmental program drawing on the human resources of Harvard University and Dumbarton Oaks. It is supplementary to, and does not preempt, the departmental programs, through which a student whose primary interest is in the Byzantine field may receive a PhD degree in history, classics, or art history.

Admission — Students are required to seek admission into one of the existing departments and, if admitted, to work for one year in the regular program of the department of admission. After one year, students must petition the dean for admission into the program, after having first secured the agreement of the members of the Committee on Byzantine Studies. The student then moves outside the departmental framework. It is wise, however, for students to keep in touch with the department originally entered, as a source of recommendations for fellowships and, later, for teaching positions. Upon the successful conclusion of his or her studies, a student will receive a degree in Byzantine studies, or Byzantine history, literature, and art.

Admissions Requirements — 1) Good standing in the department of admission; 2) Languages: Greek and Latin. Candidates must demonstrate a reading knowledge of two of the following languages: French, German, Italian, Russian. Examinations in the modern languages will normally be completed by the end of the first year.

Course of Study — Students will take at least one full-year course (or the equivalent in half-courses) in each of the three Byzantine fields, one of the courses to be taken in the first year. Students will also take at least one seminar (of one term) in each of the three fields. Two of the seminars will be taken in the second year. The rest of the student’s program will be determined in accord with his or her interests, and after consultation with the departmental advisor in the first year and with the chair of the committee thereafter. Students will also be expected to acquire familiarity with one auxiliary discipline, such as Greek paleography, codicology, epigraphy, numismatics or sigillography, and archaeology.

Students will normally take their examinations at the end of their third year of study. After successful completion of the examinations, and provided that the student is in good standing, he or she will be supported at Dumbarton Oaks for the fourth year. It is expected that, at the end of the fourth year, students will return to Harvard and become teaching fellows, normally in the department of admission.

Examinations — Students will be examined in the three Byzantine fields plus one field among those offered by the department of admission.

A. By May of the second year, students will take a three-hour written examination, consisting of:
1. translation of a Byzantine author
2. a special subject within Byzantine art history
3. a special subject within Byzantine history

B. By the end of the third year, students will take a two-hour oral examination in the following fields:
1. Byzantine history
2. Byzantine literature and philology
3. Byzantine art history
4. A related field chosen from those offered by the department of admission

Dissertation — By the end of the term following the oral examination, students will present a dissertation prospectus to a committee composed of three Byzantinists and one other faculty member.

The dissertation must be completed by the end of the sixth year. It will then be read and judged by the student’s dissertation committee.

Committee Research Interests

John Duffy, Dumbarton Oaks Professor of Byzantine Philology and Literature. John Duffy teaches a variety of courses that cover several genres of Byzantine literature and different aspects of medieval Greek culture. His research has centered on the transmission and editing of texts in philosophy, medicine and theology, and he has special interests in issues of aesthetics and literary style, the medieval book as a cultural object, and the intellectual tradition of the Cappadocian Fathers.

Ioli Kalavrezou, Dumbarton Oaks Professor of Byzantine Art. Ioli Kalavrezou’s teaching covers a wide range of topics in art and architecture from the early fourth century to the fall of the Byzantine Empire in 1453.

Fields of interest and publications range from monumental wall paintings and mosaics to objects carved in ivory and steatite, icons, and manuscripts. Of special interest are topics in political history: the representation of the relationship of Church and State, images relating to the Schism, and imperial art. Recent research has focused on the Byzantine body language.

Angeliki Laiou, Dumbarton Oaks Professor of Byzantine History. Angeliki Laiou’s research has been concentrated on Byzantine history, with special emphasis on social and economic institutions, legal history, and history of women and the family. Her work also includes the history of the Mediterranean in the Middle Ages and the history of modern Greece.

Michael McCormick, Francis Goelet Professor of Medieval History. Michael McCormick’s Byzantine research interests concern the social, political and cultural history of the late antique and middle Byzantine periods, particularly imperial rulership, the transition from ancient to medieval civilization, hagiography, and the interrelations of social and economic structures with patterns of communication between Byzantium and the West in the early Middle Ages.

Higher Studies in Medieval Studies

For over a century, medieval studies have played an important part in the curriculum at Harvard. This tradition is reflected in the splendid holdings of books on medieval subjects in the various Harvard libraries. For many topics the Widener Library shelf list is a standard bibliography. In recent years the field has expanded rapidly, and almost all the departments of the humanities, and several of the departments of social sciences, as well as the Divinity and Law Schools, now offer work on medieval subjects. A Standing Committee on Medieval Studies was therefore established in the spring of 1969 in order to promote and coordinate work in this area, to publicize it within and outside the University, and to sponsor occasional events and activities of interest to medievalists.

The Medieval Studies Committee works in cooperation with the Seminar on Medieval Literature and Culture at the Center for Literary and Cultural Studies, which includes both faculty and students interested in all aspects of medieval studies. Lectures are offered under the auspices of the committee, and in past years it has sponsored conferences on medieval historiography, medieval poetics, 12th-century renaissance, medieval drama, Islamic studies, power and society in the 12th-century, and medieval social control and aristocratic creation. It was empowered by vote of the faculty in 1973 to offer courses in medieval studies.

The Medieval Studies Committee organizes special seminars designed to introduce students from around the Yard to important disciplines and source materials that bridge departmental boundaries. The first was held by Philip Grierson in 1999. The Medieval Studies Committee sponsors a special exchange fellowship program with Dumbarton Oaks, which allows advanced medievalist graduate students and professors to spend a week of research and discussion at each other’s institutions.

No degree specifically in medieval studies is offered on either the undergraduate or graduate level, although it is possible to develop within many departmental programs an individual program emphasizing the medieval aspects of the field. A graduate student who is interested in following medieval studies exclusively, however, is required to enter and to work for at least one year in one of the regular departmental programs for the PhD.

After a year, he or she may request the dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences to appoint a special committee to administer an interdepartmental program involving work in medieval studies from more than one discipline. Such a committee is made up of members of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and other faculties within the University who teach medieval subjects and who have expressed their willingness to serve on the committee. A graduate student interested in such a program should therefore become acquainted during the first graduate year with several medievalists, obtain their preliminary consent to a proposal, request one (normally the student’s principal advisor) to be chair, and then, toward the end of the year, formally submit a request in writing to the dean, listing the composition of the proposed committee.

The program will thus reflect the student’s individual interests, within the limits of what is approved by the members of the committee and by the dean, and will be described on the student’s diploma in terms not simply of medieval studies but of its actual composition (that is, i.e., medieval history and medieval Latin, or medieval French, medieval English literature, and medieval art). Once the committee has been set up by the dean, the student moves outside the departmental framework. It is wise, however, for the student to keep in touch with the department originally entered or in which the student’s major work lies as a source for recommendations for scholarships and, later, for teaching positions.

Applications for admission from incoming graduate students must be directed to one of the relevant departments (Celtic languages and literatures, the classics, comparative literature, English, history of art and architecture, Germanic languages and literatures, history, history of science, linguistics, music, Near Eastern languages and civilizations, Romance languages and literatures, Slavic languages and literatures, and sociology), or to one of the relevant committees (Middle Eastern Studies, Study of Religion). Specific questions concerning medieval studies at Harvard should be addressed to the chair of the Committee, 201 Robinson Hall, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138.

Those who are interested in planning individual programs are urged to contact the Committee on Medieval Studies for updated listings of Medievalists at Harvard; this listing must be used in conjunction with the annual catalogue of Courses of Instruction. For more information, visit the Medieval Studies Committee’s website.