PhD Medieval Studies Seminar I: Postsocial History

Course Status: 
Academic year: 
Start and end dates: 
22 Sep 2010 - 15 Dec 2010
Daniel Ziemann
Volker Menze
Additional information: 
This Fall Term’s PhD Seminar explores various approaches to late antique, Byzantine and interdisciplinary medieval research hoping to expose all participants to new impressions and ideas. Theoretical texts should be read critically in order to understand them and see if they can be applied for one’s own research. The class is mandatory for PhD-students; MA-students are eligible by invitation through their supervisor or the class instructors.
Learning Outcomes: 
A thorough introduction to a predefined set of theoretical questions and approaches in the framework of twentieth-century intellectual developments; ability to review complex theoretical texts critically, to employ advanced skills such as analysis, synthesis and evaluation, and to apply these theoretical approaches to primary material of various kinds innovatively and independently; abilit to present ideas orally and take part in academic discussions in English. – To be assessed through the quality of individual discussion points and presentations.
Assessment : 
Participants will be expected attend sessions prepared and partake actively in discussions of compulsory readings. Additionally, each participant – including faculty – will be asked to contribute one twenty to thirty-minute presentation. Grading will be based on attendance (10 %), participation (35 %) and presentation (55 %).

The Department of Medieval Studies sees the PhD Seminar as an opportunity for high-level academic exchange among the PhD-students (from all years) and faculty members; it aims at providing a stimulating atmosphere of amicable and animated discussions offering new ideas and innovative approaches for all participants. Everyone, especially advanced PhD candidates returning to CEU and Budapest during term time, is invited to participate and to present his or her recent research within the given thematic framework of the seminar. We hope in this way to foster an intensive and enduring research community which members will enjoy participating in.

The focus of this year’s seminar is “postsocial history” and all sessions will deal with aspects of postsocial history: We begin with defining postsocial history or at least discussing the term and its possible meanings. Following this the seminar is divided into two major sections: I. Rank and Ritual (wks. 2–5) and II. Gender and its construction (wks. 6–12) which is subdivided into Gender, Body and Transgression (wks. 6–8) and Leisure, Pleasure, Lust (wks. 9–12). A couple of sessions based on the reading of theoretical texts and case studies, which apply the very theory/ies under discussion, will be followed by sessions of presentations prepared by participants, who will be requested to make use of the methodologies and theories under discussion.

Weekly outline

Week 1: What does "postsocial history mean, its history and the discussion about the construction of social phenomena

Mandatory readings:

  • Miguel A. Cabrera, Postsocial History. An Introduction, trans. by Marie McMahon, Lanham: Lexington 2004), pp. 1-60.

Optional readings:

  • Alexander, Jeffrey C., The Meanings of Social Life: A Cultural Sociology (New York: Oxford University Press 2003) pp. 11-26

First Section: Rank and Ritual

Week 2 “The construction of social rank

Mandatory readings:

  • Pierre Bourdieu, La distinction. Critique sociale du jugement (Paris 1979), engl. translation: Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste (Cambridge Mass.: Harvard University Press 1984), pp. 257-318 
  • Bell, Catherine, Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice (Oxford: Oxford University Press 1992), pp. 169-223

Week 3: Examples for the application: “Ritual, symbol and power” (Antique and Western Medieval)

Mandatory Readings:

  • Althoff, Gerd, “Friendship and political order”, in: Friendship in Medieval Europe, ed. Julian P. Haseldine (Stroud: Sutton Publishing 1999), pp. 91-105.
  • Althoff, Gerd, “Satisfaction: Peculiarities of the amicable settlement of conflicts in the middle ages”, in: Ordering medieval society. Perspectives on intellectual and practical modes of shaping social relations, ed. Bernhard Jussen, (Philadelphia, Pa.: University of Pennsylvania Press 2001), pp. 270-284
  • Flaig, Egon, Ritualisierte Politik. Gesten, Zeichen und Herrschaft im Alten Rom, (Göttingen: Vandenhoek 2003), 9-48

Optional readings:

  • Althoff, Gerd, “The variability of rituals in the Middle Ages”, in: Medieval concepts of the past. Ritual, memory, historiography, ed. Gerd Althoff, Gerd, Johannes Fried, Patrick Joseph Geary (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2002), pp. 71-87, first published as: „Die Veränderbarkeit von Ritualen im Mittelalter“, in: Formen und Funktionen öffentlicher Kommunikation im Mittelalter, ed. Gerd Althoff (Stuttgart: Jan Thorbecke 2001), pp. 157-176.
  • Buc, Philippe The dangers of ritual: between early medieval texts and social scientific theory (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press 2001), pp. 51-87 and 203-247.
  • Schmitz, Thomas, Bildung und Macht. Zur sozialen und politischen Funktion der zweiten Sophistik in der griechischen Welt der Kaiserzeit (München: Beck 1997), pp. 9-38, 97-159 

Week 4: Examples of works in progress with similar approaches by PhD students

Week 5: Examples of works in progress with similar approaches by PhD students

Second Section: Gender and Its Construction

a) Gender, Body and Transgression

Week 6: “Body and Society”

Mandatory Readings:

  • Foucault, Michel. [1984] (1990). The History of Sexuality Vol. 3: The Care of the Self. (London: Penguin 1990), pp. 97-144

Week 7: Recent examples (Late Antique/Byzantine and Western Medieval)

Mandatory Readings:

  • Brown, Peter, Body and Society. Men, Women and Sexual Renunciation in Early Christianity (New York: Columbia University Press 1988), pp. 213-240 and 323-338
  • Cameron, Averil, “Redrawing the Map: Early Christian Territory after Foucault”, JRS 76 (1986), 266-271.
  • Constantinou, Stavroula, Female Corporeal Performances. Reading the Body in Bizantine Passions and Lives of Holy Women (Uppsala: Gotab 2005), 19-89

Optional Readings:      

  • Bynum, Caroline Walker, “The Female Body and Religious Practice in the Later Middle Ages”, in: Carline Walker Bynum, Fragmentation and Redemption Essays on Gender and the Human Body in Medieval Religion (New York: Zone Books 1991), pp. 181-238.
  • Stahlmann, Ines, Der gefesselte Sexus: Weibliche Keuschheit und Askese im Westen des Römischen Reiches (Berlin: Akademie Verlag 1997), pp. 11-49

Week 8: Examples of works in progress with similar approaches by PhD students

b) Leisure, Pleasure, Lust

Week 9

Mandatory readings:

  • Foucault, Michel, The History of Sexuality Vol. 2: The Use of Pleasure (London: Penguin 1992), pp. 1-93

Week 10: Recent examples (Ancient, Byzantine and Western Medieval)

Mandatory readings:

  • Burrus, Virginia, The Sex Lives of Saints. An Erotics of Ancient Hagiography (Philadelphia: University pf Pennsylvania Press 2004), 1-18, 53-90, 128-159
  • Goodich, Michael, “Sexuality, Family, and the Supernatural in the Fourteenth Century”, in: Medieval Families. Perspectives on Marriage, Household, and Children, ed. Carol Leigh Neel, (Toronto: Medieval Academy of America 2004), pp. 302-328.

Optional readings:

  • Camille, Michael, “Manuscript illumination and the art of copulation”, in: Constructing Medieval Sexuality, ed. Karma Davey Lochrie, Peggy McCracken, James Alfred Schultz, (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press 1998), pp. 58-90.
  • James, Liz, Desire and Denial in Byzantium (Aldershot: Ashgate 1999), pp. 41-48 and 123-148.
  • McDougall, Saral: The Prosecution of Sex in Late Medieval Troyes, in: Sexuality in the Middle Ages and Early Modern Times: new approaches to a fundamental cultural-historical and literary-anthropological theme, ed. Albrecht Classen (Berlin: de Gruyter 2008), pp. 691-714.
  • Elliott, Dyan, Fallen bodies: Pollution, sexuality, and demonology in the middle ages (Philadelphia, Pa.: University of Pennsylvania Press 1999).
  • Gilchrist, Roberta, “Unsexing the Body: the interior sexuality of medieval religious women”, in: Archaeologies of Sexuality, ed. Robert A. Schmidt/Barbara L.Voss (London: Routledge 2000), pp. 89-103.

Week 11: Examples of works in progress with similar approaches by PhD students

Week 12: Conclusion