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Early Modern World

The Center for the Study of the Early Modern World promotes interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary approaches to historical cultures around the world between the waning of feudalism and the arrival of global industrial capitalism, from the 1300s to the end of the 1800s. Characterized by new global aspirations as well as new modes of domination, resistance, and conflict, this period yielded significant technological transformations and cultural inventions whose study contributes to the historical understanding of the modern world.

Students take courses in a wide range of departments in the humanities and social sciences and from faculty affiliated with the Center. Students are invited to take advantage of this breadth of offerings in order to enhance their understanding of the period as well as to gain a sense of the uses, limitations, and interrelationships of particular disciplinary approaches.


Concentrators are required to take a minimum of eight courses. These include the following:

  • Three courses on early modern topics in one field in which the student has primary interest or training, e.g., literature, history of art and architecture, or history.
  • Three courses related to the early modern period chosen from two other fields.
  • A senior project. The senior project constitutes the capstone for all concentrators. Examples of possible senior projects include a senior thesis (roughly equivalent to a senior seminar paper), the staging of an early modern play, the performance of early modern music, or an exhibition. The final project will be developed in consultation with two faculty advisors who work closely with the student. Credit is granted through registration for Independent Study in the department for which the topic of research lies.
  • Other relevant courses of the student's choosing.

In addition, the student must be able to demonstrate a reading knowledge of a relevant modern or ancient language other than English. This language requirement does not count as one of the eight courses.

Under the supervision of the director of the program, students may choose courses from the following:
Dutch and Flemish Art: Visual Culture of the Netherlands in the Seventeenth Century
Altered States
Shakespeare's Present Tense
History of Medicine I: Medical Traditions in the Old World Before 1700
Shakespeare: The Screenplays
Gold, Wool and Stone: Painters and Bankers in Renaissance Tuscany
Constructing the Eternal City: Popes and Pilgrims in Early Modern Rome
Cultural History of the Netherlands in a Golden Age and a Global Age
New Worlds: Reading Spaces and Places in Colonial Latin America
De l'Amour courtois au désir postmoderne
On the Dawn of Modernity
When Leaders Lie: Machiavelli in International Context
L'univers de la Renaissance: XVe et XVIe siècles
The French Renaissance: The Birth of Modernity?
Pouvoirs de la scène: le théâtre du XVIIe siècle
Le Grand Siècle à l'écran
Molière et son monde
Firing the Canon: Early Modern Women's Writing
The Origins of American Literature
Imagining the Individual in Renaissance England
Restoration and Early Eighteenth-Century Literature
Shakespeare and Company
Shakespearean Tragedy
Between Gods and Beasts: The Renaissance Ovid
Shakespeare and Embodiment
The Many Faces of Casanova
Italy and the Mediterranean
Word, Image and Power in Early Modern Italy
Collections and Visual Knowledge in Early Modern Europe: 1400-1800
Jews Between Christians and Muslims in the Early Modern World
Science, Medicine and Technology in the 17th Century
Form and Feeling in Renaissance Poetry
Age of Impostors: Fraud, Identification, and the Self in Early Modern Europe
Early Modern Globalization
Independent Study in EMOW
Senecan Tragedy
Corps et esprits libertins
Façons d'aimer: Discourses of Sexuality in Early Modern France
Don Quixote: Contexts and Constructions
Irony and Satire
Thinking with Romance in the Renaissance
Alternative Miltons
Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz in Her Literary Context
Gender Matters

Liberal Learning

This concentration develops aesthetic awareness, close reading skills, collaborative skills, cultural understanding, facility with symbolic languages, historical awareness as well as speaking and writing skills.


Interested and eligible students petition to write a thesis and the faculty chooses the Honors group for that year from the applications, making every effort to accommodate all eligible proposals. Selection is based upon the quality of the application, the preparedness of the student to undertake the project, and the availability of appropriate advisors for the subject. 

Students accepted in the Honors program sign up for EMOW 1980 in the Fall and again in the Spring, with the section number of their advisor (REMS 1980 will become EMOW 1980 as of Fall 2019). Students must meet regularly with their advisors and second readers throughout the year according to a schedule determined by each student and advisor. Finished drafts of the thesis (which will be about 35 pages in length, not counting bibliography and visual or other supporting materials) will be due to the advisor and second reader on April 1 of the Spring semester. Comments will be returned to the students for final polishing and corrections at that point. Students will receive Honors when both their primary advisor and their second reader have provided written statements in support of the finished project. The finished paper, which should be a polished and revised, edited, professional work of original research, will be made available to the entire Early Modern World faculty for comments. There will be a public presentation of the Honors work at the end of the Spring semester.

Students planning a December graduation will not be eligible for the Honors Thesis program, but they are welcome to work out other ways to pursue projects of independent interest in consultation with an academic advisor.

Students wishing to write an honors thesis must have an A average in the concentration, which means that they will not have received more than one “B” or “S” in any course used for the concentration. Classes taken S/NC may be considered as qualifying the student for Honors if they are marked “S with distinction,” meaning that had the student taken the course for a grade, the grade would have been an “A.” It is advisable for them to have taken at least one class with the person who will advise the thesis, and have already written a research paper before choosing to undertake this year-long writing project. Honors students are strongly encouraged not to take more than 4 classes either semester of their senior year—the Honors class being considered one of the four classes.

Honors Application Process

Applications are due to the Director of Center for the Study of the Early Modern World in mid-April of the student's junior year. Each application shall consist of:

1. A very brief (one or two paragraph) cover letter identifying the most appropriate advisor and second readers, and stating also the student’s preparation for the project. Second readers may be professors who work in areas related to the topic, or in some very special cases (and with the advisor’s approval) may be practitioners with whom the student already worked closely, for example.
2. A two-page double-spaced abstract stating and explaining the topic (subject and argument) of the research to be undertaken, written as clearly as possible.
3. A one-page working bibliography of the most relevant books and major articles to be consulted for the project.
4. A current resumé.
5. A printout of the most recent transcript.