Please note: This is NOT the most current catalog.

Medieval Studies

Director, 2008-09: Anne H. Groton (Classics)

Founded by the Department of Classics in 1971, the medieval studies program is one of St. Olaf’s oldest interdisciplinary programs. In scope it spans the more than ten centuries between the fall of the Roman Empire and the flowering of the Renaissance. Combining art, history, language, literature, philosophy, and religion, it encourages students to take a broad look at medieval European culture, examining it from multiple perspectives.

The Medieval Studies Program has no courses of its own; instead it relies on courses offered by individual departments. Students who major in medieval studies choose electives from among the various departmental courses that deal primarily or entirely with the Middle Ages. Many of these courses also satisfy general education requirements. The required courses in Latin can simultaneously fulfill the college's foreign language requirement.

It is common for St. Olaf students to combine a medieval studies major with a B.A. major like art history, English, history, music, philosophy, or religion. Even mathematics or natural science majors often complete a second major in medieval studies. The major provides a useful background in the humanities for students interested in virtually any career.


The objectives of the major are competence in a medieval language at the intermediate level, broad knowledge about medieval European civilization and in-depth knowledge of one subject area within the major.

Any student interested in a medieval studies major should draw up a contract with the program’s director. The contract may be changed at any time up to second semester of the senior year.



Every student majoring in medieval studies completes the fourth semester (or higher) of Latin, a medieval history course, a medieval literature course, four electives chosen from various departments, and an independent research. The required courses are Latin 235 (or higher); History 211 (The Early Middle Ages) or 212 (The High and Late Middle Ages) or a comparable course in medieval history; English 221 (Literatures in English to 1650) or a comparable course in medieval literature.

Students choose five electives, one of which must be an independent research, from the following (when the content of the course includes the medieval period): Art 150, 263, 275, 277; English 227, 230, 238, 282, 286, 330, 391, 395, 399; French 273, 372, 373; German 372; Great Conversation 116; History 111, 188, 190, 210, 232, 237, 310; Music 345; Norwegian 399; Philosophy 374; Religion 246, 302, 303, 392, 396, 399; Theatre 270; Independent Study; Independent Research.

Interim courses such as Art 255, 271, Classics 128, History 232, 237, Norwegian 240, Religion 259, 262, and other courses offered occasionally or only once (including courses at Carleton College) may also be used as electives.

See the director for information on courses offered in a particular year.


To attain distinction in medieval studies, a student must demonstrate talent with medieval language and literature, skill in conducting research on a medieval topic, and broad knowledge of medieval European civilization. Specific guidelines are available from the director of medieval studies. Medieval studies majors who wish to pursue distinction should notify the director of the program no later than January 1 of their senior year.