Medieval and Renaissance Studies

Medieval & Renaissance Studies

The Medieval and Renaissance Studies Programs offer the opportunity to study societies that evolved between the 5th and 17th centuries, particularly in Europe, from the perspective of various disciplines such as language and literature, history, music, theatre, or philosophy.

The courses focus on specific themes such as body and gender, heroes and narratives, travel and travelers, the perception of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance between the 19th and 21st centuries. In addition, the specific requirements of these programs include courses on this period in a variety of departments in the Faculty of Arts.

Latin, the dominant language of learning in this period, is required for the major that gives access to graduate studies.

One of the strengths of these programs is that they lead you to think differently, to open up to social practices that now seem hard to comprehend or mysterious, or to understand that these ancient societies offer alternative models to our own.

By taking courses such as those on the myths of King Arthur, long-distance travel, knights, witchcraft, or the case of Joan of Arc, you will gain access to a deep past that seems very strange today.

Middle Age And Renaissance Studies
Thomas Becket’s Murder in Canterbury Cathedral (London, British Library, Harley MS. 5102, fol. 32)

Study programs

Undergraduate studies: Major & Minor

Graduate studies: Collaborative Master’s

The specialization in Medieval and Renaissance Studies is intended for students who wish to enrich their training by including to their main program an interdisciplinary component in Medieval and Renaissance Studies. Besides a thesis or a major research paper on a topic related to the medieval and Renaissance period, the specific requirements of the collaborative program include two core courses in Medieval Studies, one of which will count as a partial requirement in the main discipline.

Medieval and Renaissance Studies
The Tiger in Medieval Bestiaries (Oxford, Bodleian, MS. 764, fol. 6v)


Part time professors

Areas of Research

  • Manuscript culture
  • Women’s writing
  • Gender and sexuality
  • History of reading
  • History of literary, religious and universitary institutions
  • History of the book and of booktrades in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance
  • Renaissance Italy
  • Jews and Christians in the Renaissance
  • French literature of the Middle Ages
  • Literature, religion, and philosophy from Late Antiquity to the Renaissance
  • Literature and historiography in Late Antiquity
  • Production and social use of writing
  • Rhetoric and education in Late Antiquity
  • Theatre in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance

Course structure

Fall 2023


Fall 2023

Winter 2024


Winter 2024

MDV 4900 : Recherche dirigée en Études médiévales et de la Renaissance

Description des cours à thème variable, 2023-2024

MDV 2100 – Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Civilization: “Heroes and Great Texts of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance”

  • Prof. Geoffrey Rector (ENG)

  • Fall 2023, Monday 4:00 – 5:20 + Wednesday 2:30 – 3:50

  • This course investigates the complex place of the epic in medieval and early modern European culture: as a kind of literary text and historical source; as a style and mode of representation; as a specific way of thinking about the world in terms of heroism, kingship, conflict, origins, and history. The course will examine a series of key texts, from ancient models through their medieval and early modern inheritors. The course will be organized around a series of lectures given by professors visiting from other disciplines and departments in the university, as well as four practical workshops that touch upon the major themes, problems, and critical approaches of the course.

MDV 2500 – Initiation à la civilisation médiévale et de la Renaissance : « Mythes du Moyen Âge et de la Renaissance d’hier à aujourd’hui »

  • Prof. Kouky Fianu (HIS)

  • Automne 2023, lundi 14h30-16h + jeudi 16h-17h30

  • Dès le 18e siècle, le Moyen Âge a suscité un intérêt souvent fantasmé, entre la dénonciation d’une période obscure et la glorification d’un passé chrétien. De nos jours encore, il est réinterprété et ré-imaginé, aussi bien dans la littérature et le divertissement (cinéma, théâtre, jeux), que dans la discipline historique. Ce cours a pour objectif d’explorer et de comprendre le sens de ces multiples manifestations modernes du Moyen Âge et de la Renaissance. Comment saisir, par exemple, les débats autour de la reconstruction de la cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris incendiée en 2019 sans comprendre ce que ce bâtiment représente depuis sa construction au XIIIe siècle, sa mise en scène dans la littérature, sa « restauration » massive au XIXe siècle et son symbolisme touristique ? C’est ce Moyen Âge et cette Renaissance régulièrement réinventés au cours des trois derniers siècles que le cours s’attachera à explorer dans une dimension pluridisciplinaire.

MDV 3100 – Selected topics in Medieval and Renaissance Studies: “Inquisitions and Repressions in the Middle Ages and Renaissance”

  • Prof. James Nelson Novoa
  • Fall 2023, Tuesdays 8:30 – 11:20

  • Aside from caricature and commonplace what was the Inquisition in the Middle Ages and Early Modern Period and how did social and religious repression play out in European societies and the places they were in contact with?  How was heresy and orthodoxy defined and enforced in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam during the period?  How were people and ideas set apart and considered as alien and dangerous, and why? The course will engage with these problems in a critical fashion using period documents in translation, artwork, material culture and film to provide a clear understanding of how important the control of people’s lives and ideas was for defining those societies over the course of several centuries.  It will also give students a chance to understand how ecclesiastical and civil justice functioned during the period under consideration and how relevant archival research can be carried out.

MDV 3100A – Selected Topics in Medieval and Renaissance Studies: “From the Visigoths to Charlemagne”

  • Prof. to be determined (CLA)

  • Winter 2024, Wednesday 13:00-14:20 + Friday 11:30-12:50

  • This course looks at the transformation of Italy in the late antique era, starting with the Visigothic Sack of Rome in 410, through the collapse of the western empire and conflicts with its barbarian successor states, to Rome’s re-emergence as the heart of a new medieval order with the papal crowning of Charlemagne (800 AD).

MDV 3500 – Thème choisi en Études médiévales et de la Renaissance : « Jeanne d’Arc: de l’hérétique à la sainte (XVe-XXIe s.) »

  • Prof. Kouky Fianu (HIS)
  • Hiver 2024, lundi 2h30-15h50 et jeudi 16h-17h20

  • Active sur la scène politique pendant deux ans seulement (1429-1431), Jeanne d’Arc est l’une des figures marquantes de l’histoire occidentale. Présentée tour à tour comme prophète, hérétique, sainte ou folle, son mythe a traversé les siècles, porté par différents mouvements religieux, culturels ou politiques.

    Ce cours a pour objectifs de comprendre comment (textes, images, représentations, films) et pourquoi ont été créées ces différentes images de Jeanne, quels usages on en a fait au cours des siècles et comment les analyser.

CLA 3530 – Thèmes choisis en littérature ancienne en traduction : « L’Histoire Auguste »

  • Prof. Marie-Pierre Bussières 
  • Automne 2023, mardi 10h-11h20 et jeudi 8h30-9h50
  • L'Histoire Auguste est une collection de biographies d'empereurs romains rédigée au début du 5e siècle. Cette collection pose divers problèmes historiques, littéraires et historiographiques de tous ordres qui nous permettront d'explorer des aspects de la culture de l'Antiquité tardive, tels que la finalité de l'histoire, le modèle moral du prince, la pseudépigraphie, ou les jeux intellectuels. Comme ces biographies ont été très populaires à la Renaissance, nous pourrons mesurer l'influence de l'œuvre et ses valeurs sur la morale politique.

MDV4100 – Seminar in Medieval and Renaissance Studies: “Imagining Others in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance”  

  • Prof. James Nelson Novoa
  • Fall 2023, Thursday 14:30 – 17:30
  • What was Asia and Africa for Europeans in the Middle Ages and Early Modern period?  How did Europeans imagine what the people, products, terrain and wildlife were like in those territories which only very few had first-hand knowledge of?  Just how much could Europeans of the time know about how people there lived and what they believed? Using the visual arts, material culture and the travel accounts of authors such as Marco Polo, John of Mandeville, Vasco da Gama, Leo the African, Ludovico Varthema, Fernão Mendes Pinto and Filippo Sassetti in English translations we will critically consider how the European imagination constructed an image and narrative about Asia and Africa from the 13th to the 17th centuries with a view to critically looking at how images about it were created, how they may have changed and been altered especially in the light of increasing contact with these places.

MDV 5100 - Medieval and Renaissance Studies Research Methods and Tools

  • Prof. Andrew Taylor (ENG)

  • Fall 2022, Wednesday, 8:30 – 11:20
  • How do you read an old manuscript? How do you find your way through an archive? This course will provide some preliminary answers, introducing you to the experience of working with a range of medieval and early modern books and documents.

MDV 5900 - Séminaire de recherche interdisciplinaire / Interdisciplinary Research Seminar 

  • Prof. Kouky Fianu
  • Hiver 2024, mercredi 14h30-17h20
  • Séminaire bilingue à thèmes variables destiné à explorer le sens et la valeur du travail interdisciplinaire en études médiévales et modernes. / Bilingual seminar using varying themes as a vehicle for exploring the meaning and value of interdisciplinary work in medieval and modern studies.



Contact us

Kouky Fianu

Desmarais Building
55 Laurier Avenue East, 9th Floor
Ottawa ON Canada K1N 6N5

[email protected]

Department of History - Office Hours

Monday to Friday
From 8:45 a.m. to 12 p.m.
From 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
(June to August: closes at 3:30 p.m.)