Augsburg News

News Archives - 2004

Augsburg gets new interdisciplinary major in Medieval Studies

February 2004
Prof. Quanbeck teaching students in the Medieval Connections class, clad in his doctoral robes.

Religion Professor Phil Quanbeck II teaching in the interdisciplinary "Medieval Connections" class.

Processionals of black-robed students traveling through the commons? Chained books in the library? Such things may have caught your interest and attention. It’s all evidence of Augsburg’s new interdisciplinary major: Medieval Studies.

According to the major’s main adviser, Phil Adamo, Medieval Studies provides "an introduction for students to the culture of the Middle Ages— its diverse history and beliefs, its arts and literature—and to the disciplinary and interdisciplinary skills necessary for its serious study."

Adamo said that medievalist professors from a variety of departments began to discuss the major in 2001. The original intent was to create an interdisciplinary major by recombining into one program the many, medieval-focused classes already offered by different departments on campus.

Yet, as the professors were putting the courses together, they realized the importance of having some kind of unity between the courses so that the new major would make sense pedagogically.

"The problem with any sort of interdisciplinary program is finding how to make it academically significant," noted Adamo. "You don’t just want to take ten courses, shove them together and count that as a major. Instead, you need to have some sort of thread that weaves through the entire process."

The group responded by creating an introductory class called "Medieval Connections"—that’s the one with the robes and the chained book. The class was designed to be interdisciplinary, which means that professors from many different departments team-teach the class, working together to explore the common theme of the Middle Ages. The success of "Medieval Connections" led to the new major in Medieval Studies.

Some might question the usefulness of a degree in Medieval Studies, but according to Adamo, a major in Medieval Studies prepares students for a range of possibilities beyond college, including graduate or law school, and even the business world. "Medieval Studies teaches students to think critically, to analyze evidence, and to communicate their ideas in both written and spoken form. It’s a fabulous liberal arts degree. In fact, the idea of a liberal arts education was invented in the Middle Ages!"

Some famous people who majored in things medieval during their college years include J.R.R. Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings series, Carly Fiorina, former president and CEO of Hewlett-Packard, Margariet Tindermans, an internationally acclaimed cellist, Terry Jones, of Monty Python fame, and Joseph Strayer, an historian and intelligence analyst for the C.I.A.