Faith, Reason and Medieval Society


Block 5, 2013-14


Carol Neel

Palmer 223E, 719.389.6527,



"Faith, Reason and Medieval Society" will consider European intellectual and religious life in their broad cultural context, from their foundations in the work of the Latin Fathers of Christianity to principal trends of the thirteenth century.  Central readings will be among major monuments of medieval thought as well as lesser-known evidence for ordinary people's religious lives.  These primary texts will be supported by a new survey of the thought and sprituality of the High Middle Ages and one important recent work on the most famous of medieval religious heroes, Fracis of Assisi.  Discussion sessions will assume some rudimentary understanding of the shape of the western past and of Christian thought.  Students unfamiliar with the Christian tradition are advised to read at least the Gospel of Mark before they undertake the assignments described below; those who have made no prior study of the European Middle Ages may borrow a Western Civilization textbook from the instructor and read its introduction to medieval civilization in order to engage effectively with the common materials..

This year’s version of HY 312 will center on the long twlefth century, that is the period from the moastic revival of the last years of the twelfth through the career of THomas Aquinas, who died in 1274.  Common readings and discussions will emphasize the ways in which the Church, broadly speaking, and its constituent institutions both managed and responded to impulses of reform and revival.  Students will be encouraged, in their independent research, to develop knowledge of the primary materials and critical perspectives on historical figures or religious movements outside of the course's direct attention.  Papers will be developed in careful cooperation with the instructor.



The following works or collections, required for the entire class, are available in the College Bookstore.  Several of these texts are in print in variety of translations.  Students are nonetheless urged to use those selected for class, so that discussion may easily refer to selected passages. 

John D. Cotts, Europe’s Long Twelfth Century: Order, Anxiety, and Adaptation, 1095-1229 (Palgrave Macmillan 2012).  ISBN-10: 0230237851

Anselm of Canterbury, The Major Works, trans. Brian Davies (Oxford 2008).  ISBN-10: 019954008X 

Guibert of Nogent, Monodies and on the Relics of Saints: The Autobiography and a Manifesto of a French Monk from the Time of the Crusades (Penguin 2011).  ISBN-10: 0143106309 

Bernard of Clairvaux, Steps of Humliity and Pride, trans. Basil Pennigton (Cistercian Publications 1989).  ISBN-10: 087907115X 

Life of Christina of Markyate, trans. Samuel  Fanous (Oxford 2010).  ISBN-10  0199556059 

Thomas Aquinas, On Law, Morality, and Politics, trans. Richard J. Regan, 2nd ed. (Hackett 2003).  ISBN-10: 0872206637 

Francis and Clare of Assisi, Francis and Clare: The Complete Works, trans. Regis Armstrong and Ignatius Brady (Paulist 1986).  ISBN-10: 0809124467 

André Vauchez, Francis of Assisi: The Life and Afterlife of a Medieval Saint (Yale 2013).  ISBN-10: 030019837X


The following further readings are available on this course's PROWL site: 

Gospel according to Mark, in The Four Gospels and the Revelation, trans. Richmond Lattimore (New York: Scribner, 1962).

Augustine of Hippo, On the Happy Life, in Augustine of Hippo: Selected Writings, trans. Mary T. Clark (New York: Paulist Press, 1984), 165-193.

Benedict of Nursia, Rule of St. Benedict, trans. Timothy Fry (Collegeville, MN: LIturgical Press, 1982).

The following films will  be subjects of critical discussion:

                         Philip Groning (dir.), Into Great Silence (2005)


    Ingmar Bergman (dir.), Seventh Seal (1957)

                         Carl Dreyer (dir.), Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)                                      



Students will be responsible for careful reading  and thoughtful consideration, demonstrated in classroom discussion, of all assigned texts.  Each will also be required to complete

One third of the final grade will depend on class participation, one third on the research essay, and a final third on the two elements of the final considered together.  All students will be expected to finish assigned readings before class meetings on the day for which they are listed.  Readings for which no page numbers are listed are to be read in their entirety.  No written assignments will be accepted late without prior excuse.  Papers will offer full bibliographical references in footnotes according to The Chicago Manual of Stytle.  All written work will conform to high standards of academic integrity and signed with the College's Honor Pledge.



Discussion titles are indicated below in bold face, written assignments and special scheduling or locations in upper case.  The class will meet in Palmer 233 at 9:30 AM, unless otherwise noted, except for the first day of the block, when class will be at 9 AM for an introduction to the material and discussion of the syllabus. 

Mon.                Intellectual history, cultural history, medieval history

                        INTRODUCTION 9 AM

Tues.               Fisherman, orators and Latin Fathers

                        [Mark], Augustine

Weds.              The background to medieval thought

                        Cotts 1-107

Thurs.             The monastic context

                        CLASS BREAKFAST DISCUSSION 8:30am

                        Benedict, Cotts 107-136

                        FILM: Into Great Silence

Fri.                  Reasoning about God 

                       Anselm 82-122 (individual assigments in others of Anselm's works)


Mon.                Confession in the twelfth century

                        Guibert 3-105

Tues.               A medieval reformation


Weds.              Materliality and sprituality

                        Life of Christina

Thurs.              AM--INDIVIDUAL PAPER CONFERENCES                       

Fri.                   Books and ways of being/thinking



                              AND THE ST. ALBANS PSALTER



Mon.                Toward understanding Thomas

                        Thomas 1-39, Cotts 151-182                       

Tues.               Universal and human order

                        Thomas 40-68, 164-172, 190-196


                        Cotts 136-150, 183-201

                        FILM: Seventh Seal

Thurs.              PAPER WORKSHOP

                        1 pm FILM: Passion of Joan of Arc            

Fri.                  The people's saints

                        Francis and Clare 25-48, 189-232


Mon.                Revisiting Francis

                        Vauchez 3-184, 312-323

Tues.                REVIEW BREAKFAST


Weds.              SMALL-GROUP EXAMS 


Click here for the ORB, a good collection of primary materials on medieval civilization, and here for the Fordham Medieval History Sourcebook, another useful internet library.