History 3011 Medieval Cosmology [0.5 credit] Fall Term
Professor W. R. Laird (wrlaird@carleton.ca)

Ascent of the Soul (Paris, Bibliothèque nationale Ms. 3236A, f. 90r)

Ascent of the Soul (Paris, Bibliothèque nationale Ms. 3236A, f. 90r)

Medieval ideas of the cosmos from Macrobius to Dante. (Field a or e)
Prerequisite: a 2000-level history course or third-year standing and 1.0 credit in history.
Lectures three hours a week.

The medieval cosmos was the visible image of the intelligible structure of all of reality. In this course we shall examine the development of ideas of the cosmos in the works of Macrobius, Avicenna, Bernardus Silvester, Robert Grosseteste, and Dante. Students will be expected to analyse and assess these works historically with the aid of secondary sources.

This course is designed for history students with a continuing interest in the Middle Ages. A general familiarity with the medieval period and its historical events and institutions, such as can be found in Maurice Keen’s The Penguin History of Medieval Europe (London: Penguin, 1968; reprint 1991) or other recent, college-level general histories of the Middle Ages, will be assumed. A good preparation is History 2001 Early Medieval Europe and History 2002 Later Medieval Europe. Students who seek a general introduction to medieval intellectual life are referred to David Knowles, The Evolution of Medieval Thought (1962; 2nd ed., London and New York: Longman, 1988), and Michael Haren, Medieval Thought: the Western Intellectual Tradition from Antiquity to the Thirteenth Century (1985; 2nd ed., Toronto and Buffalo: University of Toronto Press, 1992). Since medieval cosmology was largely philosophical, some experience in philosophy is also desirable.

Readings will include

Bernardus Silvestris. The Cosmographia of Bernardus Silvestris. Tr. Winthrop Weatherbee. New York:  Columbia University Press, 1973; repr. 1989.

Dante Alighieri. Paradiso. Trans. Dorothy Sayers and Barbara Reynolds. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1962.

Lewis, C. S. The Discarded Image. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1964.

Macrobius. Commentary on the Dream of Scipio. Tr. William Harris Stahl. New York: Columbia University Press, 1952.

Robert Grosseteste. On Light (De luce). Trans. Clare C. Riedl (Milwaukee, WI: Marquette University Press, 1942).

Grades will be based on three written assignments on the primary sources (60%) and class participation, including in-class written responses (40%). Correct English and proper form and style on the written assignments are required.

Regular attendance at and participation in class are required: students who attend fewer than 19 lectures will receive F on the course.

This is classroom course: no lecture notes will be posted on-line. No electronic devices are permitted in the classroom; notes may be taken only with pen and paper.