Ancient Medieval and Renaissance Studies
A Brief Account of an Innovative Program Studying a Long Western History

by Donald Lateiner

In the early 1970s, faculty at Ohio Wesleyan in a variety of humanistic departments decided to create a program named “Pre-Modern Studies.” It would provide a major for students with interdisciplinary interests in Philosophy, Classics, Comparative Literature (Humanities), Religion, History, Politics and Government, English, Fine Arts and Romance Languages. The focus would be on the European and Mediterranean World from 2500 BCE to 1650 CE. The men and women of this area, and their human values, thought, achievements, and ephemeral deeds would provide the material.

Some graduates would and did go on to careers as teachers, archaeologists, lawyers, museologists, librarians; others found satisfaction in publishing, the foreign service, the corporate world, public information services, and similar. Work in the appropriate languages was already strongly encouraged: Greek, Latin, Italian, German, French, Spanish, and English. From the first, the program invited visiting lecturers from this country and abroad, including archaeologists, historians, literary critics, etc. Many students now spend a summer, semester, or year abroad, and field trips to relevant events and places have taken place on this continent and others.

In 1980, the name of the multi-faceted program became “Ancient, Medieval, and Renaissance Studies.” Three tracks with separate curricula suit the interests of the varied students. The group now renamed itself for what it was, not for what it preceded and was not. Faculty shared slides, other electronic images, book and map resources, and developed a Medieval Latin Reading Group-not for academic credit, but for the sheer joy of reading texts usually left beyond the undergraduate curriculum, such as Abelard and Heloise’s correspondence or the poetry of Constance of Angers. Faculty, staff, and students help each other translate difficult passages. AMRS students produce the Trident, a newsletter reporting events past and future, student and faculty travel and research, puzzles with relevant AMRS clues, book reviews, etc. It has appeared twice each semester for most years, sometimes less frequently.

Faculty members develop courses especially for the program, although most are listed under the home department of the faculty member offering them. Some students focus on a culture or historical period, some have pursued a concept such as the holy man, a mythical figure such as Medea in ancient and Renaissance contexts, or the tradition of an artistic or architectural style such as the Baroque. We now offer a capstone opportunity in which students spend a semester writing a paper usually in their senior year. An interdisciplinary committee of three faculty members supervise. To the original departments mentioned above, we have added Geography and Music. Some members have specialties in linguistics, gender studies, paleography, drama, and other disciplines not represented by an OWU department. Many of our faculty have studied and taught abroad, in Ireland, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Germany, and England.

Professor Jan Hallenbeck was a founding father and the first chairperson of the program. Donald Lateiner succeeded him in the early 1980s. Carol Neuman deVegvar took over the chairpersonship in the early 1990s and served until 2004, when Julian Arribas took on this exciting organizational responsibility.