Cluster 3: Socio-Cultural and Historical Perspectives

This cluster reflects our conviction that the study of contemporary Europe cannot be separated from that of Europe’s deeper past. If the study of contemporary Europe involves the analysis of various structures of economy, politics, society and culture, the study of historical Europe involves the analysis of the evolution of such structures across time. Neither can be complete without the other.

All courses listed below count for 3 credits. The availability of a course for any given academic year should be verified with the department.


ANTH 7020: History of Anthropological Theory II

Analyzes the main schools of anthropological thought since World War II, a half century during which separate English, French, and American traditions have influenced each other to produce a broad and subtle international discipline.

ANTH 7050: Ethnographic Writing and Representation

Seminar on the craft of ethnographic writing and the ethical, political, and practical challenges of describing studied people in scholarly books and articles. What can student researchers do during fieldwork to help them write better dissertations more easily? How should they analyze and present field data? Prerequisite: ANTH 7040 or instructor permission. Suitable for pre- and post-field graduate students.

ANTH 7589: Topics in Archeology

  • Topic 2017: Archeology of Europe

Art History

ARAH 8051 Theory and Interpretation in the Visual Arts

Investigates problems in the theory and interpretation of the visual arts

ARAH 9505: Hellenistic Greek Art

This graduate seminar explores the arts of Hellenistic Greece, with particular emphasis on painting, sculpture, and luxury arts. Students will be introduced to the history of the study of Hellenistic art, including recent developments and scholarly research in the field. Themes will include: public and private, ethnicity and identity, memory and monumentality, functionality and realism.

ARAH 9515 - Paris and Prague: Twilight of the Middle Ages

Investigates problems in medieval art.

  •  Recent topic Gender and Medieval Art

ARAH 9535- Prints and Travel


ENMC 9500 - Studies in Modern and Contemporary Literature.

  • Topic 2017: Victorian to Modern Drama

ENRN 8510 - Studies in Shakespeare

Topics vary annually. Recent examples are “Shakespeare's Histories and Roman Plays” and “Reinventing Shakespeare.” For more details on this class, please visit the department website at

ENSP 5559 - New Course in Special Topics in Literature

  • Topic 2017: The Idea of Venice.


FREN 5100 - Seminar in Medieval Literature

Chansons de geste, chroniques, memories. Vies des saints, romans. Poésie non-narrative, théâtre. (d) Satire et humanisme.  [Taught in French]

  • Topic 2016 Medieval Literature in Modern French I: Poetry in Motion: Circulation of Medieval Poetry. What happens to literature if we release it from the bound book and recognize that it is in constant formation? Founded on the notion that art is neither produced in a vacuum nor received by passive participants, this course will consider the ways in which fellow writers, artists, patrons, and bookmakers transformed medieval literature through their engagement. We will also move with poetry over time and space to examine the impact of continuations and rewrites, textual networks (especially patronage), material transmission across media, and the role of cultural memory in shaping the French medieval canon. Primary texts will include the Roman de la Rose, Christine de Pizan’s intervention in the Débat sur le Roman de la Rose, Guillaume de Machaut’s Fontaine amoureuse, and Charles d’Orléans’s collaborative poetic project. These works will be examined as both literary texts and material artifacts. In the latter case, we will draw on the riches of the UVa Gordon early print collection as well as facsimiles and digital surrogates that recreate the medieval book experience.

FREN 5150:  Medieval Literature in Modern French II

An inquiry into the literary culture of the period from the late thirteenth century to the late fifteenth. Topics include the Roman de la Rose, Joinville, and Froissart; the development of drama; new lyric forms, early humanism; Villon; and problems of literary history and hermeneutics for a neglected period in French culture.

FREN 5400 – Literature of the Eighteenth Century

Religious, moral, and political thinking as reflected in the works of Bayle, Fontenelle, Montesquieu, Voltaire, Rousseau, Diderot, Helvetius, and others.

FREN 5510 - Topics in Medieval Literature

  • Topic 2013:  Art and War:  The State of Literature During the Hundred Years War. From 1337 to 1453, Europe was shaped by a political and military feud that began as an Anglo-French conflict before triggering a civil war in the French kingdom and a series of territorial conflicts that spread across the continent and beyond. During this period, societies endured unparalleled degrees of widespread violence, corruption, and disillusionment, but it was also a time of creative energy, a time when intellectuals and poets used their words to challenge authority, to assert social responsibility, and to record the trauma endured. This class will explore the impact of war on shaping literature as much as the power of literature to shape war and society. We will read a diverse selection of writings, ranging from escapist courtly literature to political manifestoes, debate poetry to the writings of the first recognized “war correspondent,” poetry by and for prisoners, propaganda, and the legal, political, and artistic treatment of Joan of Arc. These primary texts will be read in conjunction with theoretical writings, especially those of Bourdieu, Bataille, Kristeva, and de Certeau.

FREN 5520 – Topics in 16th Century Literature

  • Topic 2016 : Masculine/Feminine: Writing the Self and the Other in Late Renaissance France. Through the lens of gender, this course will examine texts of a variety of genres in which men and women write about themselves and each other, constructing similarities and differences, expressing love or hatred, admiration or rivalry, perplexity or a claim to know. In a period marked by new humanist models of learning, the perennial querelle des femmes, and the outbreak of civil war, sexual, social, political, and religious categories are at once circumscribed and fluid; the stakes of writing are high; the exploration of the self and the other in history is an undertaking at once urgent, tentative, and contested. Principal texts: Ronsard, Labé, D’Aubigné, Marguerite de Valois, Montaigne, Gournay, and others [Taught in French]

FREN 5540 – Topics in Eighteenth-Century Literature

  • Topic 2015: Le Corps humain au dix-huitième siècle.This course will examine how thinkers of eighteenth-century France conceived of the human body and how these concepts informed the literature of the era. These thinkers dealt with questions such as: what is the connection between the soul and the body? How can we explain differences between various races and nationalities? Does science justify gender roles, in particular Rousseau's new ideas about motherhood? Could too much or too little sexual activity kill you? What was the physiological basis for emotion? How do we explain exceptional cases like albinos or so-called monstrous births? And to what extent did society control the individual's body? These questions will be part of a series of bodily issues that we will discuss during the semester. Primary texts will include articles from the Encyclopédie, chapters of Rousseau's Emile, works by Buffon, Diderot, Voltaire, Thomas Jefferson, and a number of eighteenth-century scientists. We will also consider scientific treatises from Antiquity that influenced medical thought about national differences and gender roles. In addition to these primary texts, we will also look at scholarly research about the body in the eighteenth century, such as works by Anne Vila, Michel Foucault, and Philippe Ariès.

FREN 5560– Topics in Nineteenth-Century Literature

  • Topic 2016: The Smelly Nineteenth Century. In nineteenth-century France, doctors, public officials and health reformers battled the insalubrious odors of Paris’s public spaces, while the private individual attended to the scent of home and body. It took decades and a convergence of ideas (scientific discoveries, a shift in political thinking toward Republican positivism, increased secularization, France’s mission to “civilize” the peasantry and colonies) to discredit persistent folk etiologies of miasmic contagion (the spread of disease via contaminated, smelly air), in favor of germ theory. This heightened interest in eliminating, masking, and improving odors corresponds to an uneasy relationship between humans and their primitive past. After all, bipedal creatures rely on visual horizons, not scent trails, for safety. Quadrupeds sniff the ground; humans read poetry. Ironically, it is difficult to write about olfactory perception without turning to poetic devices such as metaphor and simile. To write about scent is to join a mode of communication unique to humans, with a sense considered by many to be an evolutionary throwback.The suggestion of odors has long contributed to the narrative, poetics, and cultural resonance of French literature. This is especially true in the nineteenth-century, at the height of what Alain Corbin called the golden age of osphresiology. The attentiveness to smell evident in scientific and medical writing of the time parallels a proliferation of novels and poetry featuring fragrant materials and odor perception, despite a much lamented scarcity of words adequate for communicating about smell. Passages rich in aroma express in various ways (depending on the author, the work, the aesthetic inclination) a convergence of mind, body, language, and culture, concentrated in evocations of smelly matter and olfaction. Fragrances seduce, linger, betray and forebode. They twist plots, stir memories, blur borders and signal social status. At the same time, representations of odor (there is no word for olfactive ekphrasis) stylistic innovation.  [Taught in French]

 FREN 5570 Topics in 20th & 21st Century Literature: 

  • Topic 2016 : Palimpsestic Culture: Remakes, Rewritings, Recyclings and Other Aesthetic Borrowings in Modern and Contemporary France. Every text, as Roland Barthes wrote, is “a tissue of citations.”  This course proposes to test that claim through a series of discussions around works of modern and contemporary French fiction and film, mostly, that borrow from, echo, steal, rewrite, remake, or recalibrate, sometimes explicitly and sometimes less so, other works of art or portions thereof.  Topics and artists under consideration will very likely include the following: New Novels, and the New New (Robbe-Grillet, Echenoz, Toussaint); Strangers, three ways (Camus, Daoud, Houellebecq); Waiting for the Apocalypse in Gracq and Rolin; Readymades, or Nothing New Under the Sun (Viel, Duchamp);  France? France. (Fienkielkraut, Zemmour, Bailly, Depardon); Traces and Shadows (Perec, Resnais, Haneke); Narrative as Theme (Flaubert, Ozon).   Course taught in both French and English. 
  • Topic 2013: Thinking the Visual/Writing the Image in Modern and Contemporary France. Conceived as an introduction to the field of word and image studies, this seminar invites graduate students to examine some of the most intriguing points of intersection to have emerged between literature and visual culture in France over the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.  We will begin by exploring how the development of new visual technologies in the middle of the nineteenth century sparked new ways of seeing, and of writing about, the world.  Students will investigate the impact of the proliferation of “the visual” in modernity, and its role in shaping a variety of literary modes (like Realism, Symbolism, and Surrealism).  Throughout the semester we will call on major works of narrative, poetry, cinema, photography, painting, criticism, and theory (a term that implies how sight might lead to insight) to help us ponder the distinctive pull of intermedial or interart hybridization (to invoke just a few of the many terms currently à la mode).  What happens when cinema “thinks” photography, when poetry “dreams” of film, or when literature “envisions” painting?  How do French writers, filmmakers, thinkers, and visual artists engage with vision and the act of seeing?  How have critics devised new ways of reading the aesthetic sparks that fly from the interdisciplinary convergence of the image-text? Course taught in French and English. Featuring work by authors, artists, and thinkers including, but not limited to: Baudelaire, Poe, Zola, Buñuel, Mallarmé, Alféri, Godard, Resnais, Viel, Daeninckx, Varda, Eustache, Marker, Ozon, Perec, Modiano, Michon, Barthes, Crary, Foucault, Virilio, Sontag, Bazin, Benjamin, Krauss, and Bellour.  Required reading in French, though much of the material is available in English translation.  

 FREN 5584 Topics in Cinema

This course explores the development of French cinema (both documentary and fiction) from the 1990s to the present, with particular attention to genre, film esthetics, narrative form, and political engagement. We will read widely in film history, theory, and cultural history. Students will be expected to acquire a working knowledge of film vocabulary in French, to write a publishable seminar paper on cinema in French or English, and to complete a digital video project in French.      

  • Topic 2015: Cinéma, histoire, mémoire. Some scholars argue that film, an essentially twentieth-century medium, has shaped the mental universe of the century. Throughout the century, cinema has maintained a complex and evolving relationship to historical events and circumstances. Film has played a role both in recording and shaping history, as well as in shaping collective and individual memory of past events. In this course, we will explore the interconnections among history, memory, and cinema with regards to two periods from the French past that have ongoing historical and memorial legacies in contemporary France: the colonial period and the Second World War. We will address questions such as whether films are products of a particular socio-historical context, how they have shaped and reflected historical events, and how they have actively intervened in debates over the writing of history and memory. Throughout the course, we will pay particular attention to the specificities of film form and language in negotiating these relationships.
  • Topic 2013: Contemporary French Cinema. This course explores the development of French cinema (both documentary and fiction) from the 1990s to the present, with particular attention to genre, film esthetics, narrative form, and political engagement. We will read widely in film history, theory, and cultural history. Students will be expected to acquire a working knowledge of film vocabulary in French, to write a publishable film analysis paper in French or English, and to complete a digital video project in French.
  • Topic 2012: Topics in Cinema: Masterpieces of French Cinema. This seminar aims to introduce students to the rich history of French cinema, from its origins in the birth of photography and other proto-cinematic technologies in the nineteenth century, to the advent of digital film at the dawn of the twenty-first. Provides a broad overview of key movements and genres, as well as concurrent trends in film theory and criticism. Students will be invited to reflect closely on film form, and to consider each film in light of the social and historical context within which it was produced. Films may include, but are not limited to, works by Lumière, Méliès, Feuillade, Gance, Buñuel/Dalì, Vigo, Carné, Renoir, Godard, Marker, Truffaut, Varda, Resnais, Chabrol, Tavernier, Besson, Pialat, Ozon, Kechiche, Cantet, Audiard, Asseyas, Desplechin, and Jeunet.

FREN 5585-Topics in French Civilization/Cultural Studies

Interdisciplinary seminar in French and Francophone culture. Topics vary.

  • Topic 2013: France in the Long Nineteenth Century, 1789-1918. This course focuses on the cultural and historical influences that have shaped Modern France. We will explore the essential relationship between culture and political power in France, the changing role of government, and how ordinary men and women experienced social change. Topics to be studied include: the French Revolution and its legacy; French literary and political culture; the writing of history in the 19th century; the role of caricature, public art and visual culture; the expansion of empire; religion and republicanism; Paris versus the provinces; regional migration and immigration; the rise of a commercial mass society; the Dreyfus Affair and the Belle Époque; changing gender relations; and the cataclysmic effects of the First World War. Readings, in English and in French, will be drawn from primary historical and literary sources, memoirs, and secondary historical texts. Course discussion and writing will be done in French, unless otherwise arranged with the instructor.
  • Topic 2011: Lingua Franca - Language and Nation in Modern France. This course proposes to examine the historical roots of the tight articulation between language and national identity in France. From at least the late 18th century, political debate focused on the question of the French language as a tool for national cohesion. Within the context of 19th century French imperial expansion, the dissemination of the French language and the institutions and cultural values associated with it played a pivotal role in attempts to achieve colonial dominion. Today, within the context of the European Union and the changes wrought by globalization, issues of citizenship, immigration, language, and French national identity have once again risen to the fore of public preoccupation and debate. Students should expect a general course on the cultural, social, and political history of modern France with a particular focus on the construction of nationhood and the role of the French language in that process.

FREN 7500: Topics in Theory and Criticism.

  • Topic 2017: Literary Theory. This course serves as an introduction to theoretical texts we encounter most frequently in the discourses of literary criticism. Our aim is to gain a deeper understanding of how literature has been thought and debated as well as how literary criticism has been practiced over time. In the first part of the course, we will read key texts of the critical tradition from antiquity to the early twentieth century. In the second part of the course, we will survey the major theoretical movements of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries such as formalism/ structuralism/ deconstruction, reader response theory, psychoanalysis, feminism/ gender studies/ queer theory, postcolonial studies, eco-criticism/ animal studies.


GREE  5150 - Sophocles

Selected plays of Sophocles with studies of their dramatic techniques.  For more details on this class, please visit the department website at

GREE 5160 - Herodotus

Readings in the Histories.  For more details on this class, please visit the department website at

GREE 5180 - Thuycidides

Selections from the History of the Peloponnesian War, emphasizing the development of Greek historical prose style and the historical monograph.  For more details on this class, please visit the department website at

GREE 5559 - Survey of Hellenistic Literature 

This survey focuses on the evolution of Greek literature during the Hellenistic period, and will include a rigorous study of the texts and their cultural and historical contexts.


HIEU 5001 - Dark Age Greece

Examines the structural, political, and conceptual rise of the Greek polis and explores other aspects of the archaeology, art, history, and literature of the “iron age” and early archaic period

(1000-600 BC) in Greece.  ­

HIEU 5062 - Philosophy and Theory of History

HIEU 5021- Greece in the Fifth Century

Examination of the political, diplomatic, and social history of Greece from the end of the Persian Wars in 479 b.c. to the end of the Peloponnesian War in 404/3 b.c. Investigates the origins, course, and importance of the latter war, the major watershed in classical Greek history. Prerequisite: HIEU 2031 or equivalent.

HIEU 5031- Greece in the Fourth Century

Advanced course in Greek history that examines in detail the social and economic history of Greece from the end of the Peloponnesian War in 404 B.C. to the defeat of the Greek city-states at Chaeronea in 338.  Prerequisite: HIEU 2041 or equivalent.

HIEU 5051- Roman Empire

Studies the founding and institutions of the Principate, the Dominate, and the decline of antiquity.  Prerequisite: HIEU 2041 or equivalent.

HIEU 5061- Roman Imperialism

Examines Roman transmarine expansion to determine how and why it happened and what consequences it had, both in Rome and abroad.  Prerequisite: HIEU 2041 or equivalent.

HIEU 5201 - Culture of the Renaissance

Surveys the growth and diffusion of educational, literary, and artistic innovations in Europe between 1300 and 1600.      

HIEU 5322 - Era of the World Wars, 1914-1945

HIEU 8231- Early Modern Europe

A research seminar in topics pertaining to the history of Europe in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. Offered as required.

HIEU 7002 - Early Modern European History

The second semester of a two-semester sequence of graduate colloquia introducing students to the major themes in European history and historiography in the period before the eighteenth century and structured around central themes in early modern European history.

HIEU 7211 -The Renaissance

Studies European politics and society from the commercial revolution to Chateau Cambresis.

HIEU 9021 -History of the Human Sciences.

Readings predominately drawn from European authors: Freud, Durkheim, Darwin, Weber, etc


ITAL 7900 - Italian Avant-Garde Literature

This graduate course discusses texts belonging to the Italian Avan-garde and Modernist periods.  Prerequisites:  Reading knowledge of Italian. (May also be offered in translation)


LATI 5110 - Catullus

Studies the surviving poems of Catullus, with particular attention to questions of genre, structure, and literary history.  For more details on this class, please visit the department website at

LATI 5140 - Cicero’s Rhetorical Works

Readings from the orations and from the rhetorical treatises.  For more details on this class,please visit the department website at


PHIL 7510 – Seminar on Ancient History: Psychology and Epistemology: Aristotle and Plato

Deep introduction to issues of philosophical psychology and epistemology in the works of Plato and Aristotle. Plato  readings include: Timaeus and the first third of the Theaetetus.  Readings from Aristotle will focus on his own account of the human soul, with a special emphasis on what, in his view, makes human cognition different from that of other animals. We’ll have to do some epistemology in order to figure that out.


PLCP 8500 - Special Topics in Comparative Politics

  • Topic 2017 Feminist Theory/ Feminist Practice.  We will investigate feminist thought both as a theory and as a practice. Students will read classic and contemporary work by feminist theorists, such as Beauvoir, Butler, Collins, and Mahmood. The course will also include empirical research by gender scholars who investigate how issues raised by feminist theorists unfold in the real world. Topics may include women’s movements, gender and sexuality in transnational politics, intersectionality, and multiculturalism and women’s rights. .

 PLPT 5150 - Continental Political Thought

Surveys the main currents of Continental political thought from the eighteenth century through the present.  Prerequisite: One course in PLPT or instructor permission.

PLPT 5795 - The Icon in Orthodox Christianity

Course explores the history and theology of the icon. How is the icon itself a form of theology, and how does it function in liturgy and worship? Iconography understood as interpretation of Scripture and dogmatic teaching. Study of the theological aesthetics of the icon and of the images themselves, both traditional icons of the Byzantine and Russian type and gospel illuminations of the Armenian, Ethiopic, and Coptic traditions.

PLPT 5190-Russian Drama and Theater

Studies works from Fonvizin to Shvarts with emphasis on the major plays of Gogol, Chekhov, and Gorky. Includes production theories of Stanislavsky, Meyerhold, and other prominent Russian directors.

PLPT 7360-Tolstoy

Study of the major works.

Religious Studies

RELJ 5559/JWST 5559/GERM 5500, Germans and Jews

In his wide-ranging and highly readable history, The Pity of It All, historian Amos Elon traces the onset of what he called “the German Jewish epoch” to the entry of a 14-year-old Moses Mendelssohn into Berlin in 1743.  Why this date and event? And what was the German Jewish epoch? What did the German Jewish epoch mean for Jews and non-Jews in the German-speaking context?   What impact did it have on the culture, thought, and history of the period?  What kinds of transformations in society, culture, and identity did it bring about? How did Jews and non-Jews respond to this new situation? Did such responses de-form old notions of self and identity, of the individual and the collective, of religion and secularity, the national and the territorial, European and Other. Drawing on a range of texts—philosophy treatises, fiction and poetry, on essays, and various other textual interventions, we will address these questions and others in this course. Readings will include works by Moses Mendelssohn, Kant, Heinrich Heine, Hegel, Kafka, Freud, Joseph Roth, Arnold Zweig, Else Lasker-Schüler, Martin Buber, Franz Rosenzweig, Hannah Arendt, Walter Benjamin, Gerschom Scholem, among others; we may also screen Paul Wegener’s 1920 film “Der Golem” or one or more other films.  It is recommended that before the start of the semester students read Amos Elon’s The Pity of It All for historical background.

RELJ 5559: Topic 2013 History, Anti-Historicism, Meta-History in Modern Jewish Thought

The seminar will focus on concepts of history, historicism, and anti-Historicism in 19th and 20th century Jewish thought. It will begin with a general introduction to Jewish notions of history in relation to tradition, memory, and sacred history, and will then explore Jewish philosophical approaches to history and meta-historical models in thinkers such as Hermann Cohen, Franz Rosenzweig, Isaac Breuer, Abraham Joshua Heschel, and others.


RUSS 5500 - Russian Culture and Identity

RUSS 5380 - Russian Postmodernism


SOC 5030 - Classical Sociological Theory

A seminar focusing on the writings of Marx, Weber, Durkheim, and other social theorists. Open to students in related disciplines. 

SOC 7360-European Social Theory

Presents a survey of recent developments in continental social theory, including, but not restricted to, structuration theory (Giddens), actor-network theory (Latour), systems theory (Luhmann), and the theory of communicative action (Habermass). 


SPAN 5559, Sepharad: Iberian Jews, Conversos, and the Sephardic Diaspora

The history of the Sephardim (defined broadly to include individuals of Ibero-Jewish origin, whether they self-identified as Jews, Muslims, or Christians) is truly global. Before 1491, Jews, although a small minority, played a significant role in the cultural life of Islamic and Christian Spain.  After their expulsion from Spain in 1492 and from Portugal in 1497, the Sephardim traveled throughout the Mediterranean, north into Europe, across the oceans to the Americas, the Far East, and Africa, sometimes maintaining ties with or returning to the peninsula. The history of the Sephardim and the Sephardic diaspora raises a number of issues that are the subject of intense inquiry and debate today: the origins of anti-Judaism, anti-Semitism, and racism; the role of religion in state formation; torture and juridical confession; the dynamics of conversion; the origins of religious tolerance and skepticism; and the labile nature of religious and ethnic identities. The course, taught in English, will be interdisciplinary—we will study legal, religious, literary, and historical documents and address theological, historical, ethical, anthropological, and aesthetic questions, focusing mainly on the 14th through the 17th centuries. (The last two or three weeks of the semester will be dedicated to the modern period.) 

SPAN 5650 - Realism and the Generation of 1898

Studies the major texts, authors, and literary trends of the second half of the Spanish nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries.

SPAN 5750 - Contemporary Spanish Literature

Studies the major texts, authors, and literary trends of the Spanish twentieth century.

SPAN 7100 - Literary Theory.

Studies the modern theories of literary criticism, including formalism, structuralism, semiotics, and the application of theory to major Spanish authors

SPAN 7710- Literature and the Civil War