The original liberal arts education

The original liberal arts education

Medieval Connections

Students and professors in Augsburg’s “Medieval Connections” course wear academic robes, just as they did in medieval universities. In 2006, “Medieval Connections” was no. 6 on College Bound’s list of “25 Cool, Funky, and Controversial Classes.”

In a 1999 interview, noted medievalist Caroline Walker Bynum was asked two provocative questions: “Why study the Middle Ages, and are there any parallels between the Middle Ages that we can draw to modern life?” This was her answer:

Those are big questions. Why study the Middle Ages? The answer is implicit in the two kinds of approaches to studying it. The older one, which sees the Middle Ages as the roots of the modern world, is still in many ways valid. We do not actually understand modern constitutional government if we do not understand the … Middle Ages. Without knowing their medieval roots, one cannot understand … the modern university, or the modern curriculum.

The other reason is almost the contradiction of that: The Middle Ages in many ways is not like the modern world. I think understanding this is just as useful because it gives you a built- in contrast within your own tradition. The only way to understand yourself or your own society is by seeing how it might be other. Where some things are familiar, the differences stand out more starkly.

Bynum’s brief answer points to some of the many ways that Augsburg’s program in Medieval Studies helps to fulfill the college’s mission. Augsburg’s program is nationally recognized for its innovative pedagogy, which combines active learning with performative and experiential methods. Stories about the program have appeared on Minnesota Public Radio, in the Chronicle of Higher Education, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the Saint Paul Pioneer Press, the Chicago Tribune, Teaching History, and Renaissance Magazine.