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Term Paper Topics 19th Waves 2014 March



We are going to study Medieval History - one specific area of history.

The Middle Ages are a strange period in history, because they are essentially defined by what they are not. They are not part of classical Graeco-Roman Antiquity, and they are not part of the Modern Era. The Middle Ages lasted roughly for a thousand years; within this millennium, lots of changes happened and it makes sense to further subdivide this period, into the Early Middle Ages, the High Middle Ages and the Late Middle Ages.

Our sources of information can be divided into primary and secondary sources.
PRIMARY SOURCES are sources which have been written by persons who lived during (or just after) the time they wrote about. For example Frankish monk Eginhard wrote the "Vita Caroli Magni", the Life (biography) of Charlemagne. Charlemagne died in 814; the Vita Caroli Magni was completed in the early 9th century.
SECONDARY SOURCES are written by persons who have not personally witnessed what they wrote about; in case of the Middle Ages, such secondary sources mostly were written from a HINDSIGHT perspective.

BIAS : Both primary and secondary sources can suffer from a bias.
Snorri Sturlusson, an Icelander who lived in the early 13th century and wrote down many Icelandic SAGAs, regarded his Viking heroes as heroes, although most contemporary Europeans regarded the same Vikings as the worst of villains. Although Sturlusson was a Christian, he may actually have believed in the existence of dragons who appear in some of the sagas. It was difficult for medieval historians to distance themselves from beliefs prevalent among their contemporary countrymen. They may also have written their accounts from their national, social, professional perspective.
Secondary sources which treat the Middle Ages as one coherent entity (and fail to differentiate Europe by country or region) contribute to the upkeep (or revision) of a cliche. This cliche has its origins in 13th century minstrel literature which idealized valiant knights and amiable ladies. It was rediscovered by 19th century Romanticist novelists (Sir Walter Scott et al.) and in the 20th century by Hollywood (World-of-Chivalry Utopia).
Many modern historians have tried, in their books, to correct the misconceptions of the World-of-Chivalry Utopia. Those secondary books written with serious intention not differentiating the Middle Ages by factors such as time, region or social class, by implication, create the misconception of the Middle Ages having been a homogeneous unit, and thus replace one cliche by another.
Secondary sources which treat medieval topics with proper differentiation may not use the term "Middle Ages" in their title, and therefore many of these books or documentaries may be difficult to find, when you google for "Middle Ages" or search for "Middle Ages" in a printed bibliography.


This semester we will do 3 presentations :

Group Presentation (1st week in March) :
(1)      LJW + HJW + WHR      Comparison of Historical Atlases on the Middle Ages
(2)      NHJ + LYR + PKH      Feudal Society - The Social System
(3)      JYJ + KHK + SMK      The Codes of Chivalry and Courtly Love
(4)      KDO + MHJ + LGW      Heroes, Saints, Villains, Heretics - Medieval Biography and Hagiography
(5)      PDR + KMK + JHM      Farmhouses, Townhouses, Monasteries and Castles


Based on movies, documentaries, books and websites, the 2nd presentations (early April) will be on these topics :
        
(6)      PKH      Outstanding Women : Authors (Roswitha von Gandersheim, Hildegard von Bingen)
(7)      WHR      Outstanding Women : Founders of Monastic Orders (St. Birgitta, St. Clara of Assisi)
(8)      JYJ      Outstanding Women : Mystics (Jeanne d'Arc (Joan of Arc), St. Birgitta of Sweden (St. Bridget), St. Catherine of Siena, Julian of Norwich
(8a)      LJW      Outstanding Women : Mystics (Jeanne d'Arc (Joan of Arc), St. Birgitta of Sweden (St. Bridget), St. Catherine of Siena, Julian of Norwich
(9)      LYR      Outstanding Women : Queens : St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Margarethe of Denmark, Eleanor of Aquitaine
(10)      KMK      More Queens : The Wives of Charlemagne
(11)      HJW B      The Queens of the Plantagenet Dynasty
(12)      KHK      The Object of Affection : Heloise, Ximena, Iseut/Isolde
(13)      SMK      Plantagenet Kings : Henry II., Richard II., John
(14)      LGW      National Heroes : William Wallace of Scotland, Wilhelm Tell of Switzerland
(15)           Famous Monks : St. Odo of Cluny, Bernard of Clairvaux, Norbert von Xanten (St. Norbert)
(16)      MHJ      Famous Vikings : Rollo, Leif Ericsson, Harald Hardråde (Harald Hardrada)
(17)           Famous Minstrels : Chretien de Troyes, Walther von der Vogelweide
(18)      NHJ      Heroes of Medieval Literature : King Arthur, Roland
(19)      KDO      Killed as a Convicted Witch : Agnes Bernauer, Matteuccia di Francesco
(20)      LCW      Famous Inventors : Peter Henlein, Master Orban
(21)      JHM      Famous Travellers : Leif Ericsson, William of Rubruck, Marco Polo
(22)      PDR      Famous Characters of Medieval Tales : Melusine, the Lady of the Lake


3rd presentations (early May) will be on these topics :
        
(23)           The Representation of Serfs in Primary and Secondary Sources
(24)           The Representation of Peasants in Primary and Secondary Sources
(25)           Technical Progress in the Middle Ages
(26)           Economic Change in the Middle Ages
(27)           What did it take for women to be recognized as outstanding in Medieval Society
(28)           Medieval Witchhunt - Cliche and Historical Reality
(29)           Colonization (turning "wilderness" into cultivated land) in Medieval Europe
(30)           What criteria make a person a villain in medieval literature ?
(31)           What criteria make a person a hero in medieval literature ?
(32)           Natural environment as portrayed in medieval literature
(33)           Behind the Smokescreen (of Christian Chivalry) : Superstition
(34)           Behind the Smokescreen (of Christian Chivalry) : How did the knights make a living ?
(35)           Behind the Smokescreen (of Christian Chivalry) : How did noble ladies spend their time ?
(36)           Behind the Smokescreen (of Christian Chivalry) : The concept of law and justice
(37)           The Interpretation of Disasters
(38)           Strategies to Prevent a Recurrence of Disasters
(39)           What did noble women do with their time ?
(40)           Entertainment in the Middle Ages
(41)           What did Monks do with their time ?
(42)           The Concept of Leisure in the Middle Ages


The topic of the second or third presentation will be the topic of the term paper, due date of the first draft June 15.
Due date for revisions July 10.

Every topic only once; first email claims the topic.




         February 8th 2014          Alexander Ganse






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