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The Art of Psalms in Medieval European Culture

Semester and Year FA 2016
Course Number ELEC-GG2825
Section 001
Instructor Andrew Romig
Days R
Time 3:30 PM - 6:10 PM
Units 4
Level G
Foundation Requirement  


Same as MEDI-GA 2200 001. Team-taught with Kathryn Smith. Open to advanced undergraduates with permission of the instructors (


“The Art of the Psalms in Medieval European Culture” is a team-taught graduate seminar designed to introduce students, including doctoral candidates, master’s students, and BA/MA students across a range of departments and programs, to the study of the Old Testament Book of Psalms, with particular interest in its collection, dissemination, interpretation, and illustration in medieval manuscripts from roughly the fifth through fifteenth centuries CE. Taught by Kathryn A. Smith (Department of Art History) and Andrew Romig (Gallatin School of Individualized Study), the course takes a multi- and inter-disciplinary approach to medieval cultural study. We will regard the Book of Psalms as a text that was used and reused for multi-layered purposes throughout the European Middle Ages. We will consider the ways in which the Book of Psalms served as an object of and vehicle for veneration, commemoration, and pictorial innovation. We will explore how it both facilitated the expression of cultural identity and served as a means of intercultural connection between contemporary communities and their collective pasts. Finally, we will define “Psalm Art” as broadly as possible, so as to include not only the calligraphic presentation and pictorial illustration of the Psalms, but also the poetics of the Psalms themselves, the arts of translation and exegetical interpretation, and the devotional practices that placed the Psalms at the center of spiritual life for professional and lay Christians alike for more than a millennium. While the course has its foundations in the fields of literature, history, and art history, as well as the study of medieval manuscripts as material artifacts, readings will invite students to use the Psalms as a case study for a wide range of methodological and theoretical pursuits – the history of emotions, gender studies, literary theory, theology, and philosophy, to name just a few. Students will have the opportunity to examine manuscripts in local collections (the Morgan Library, the Columbia University Rare Book Room, the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library) and to examine works in both digital and paper facsimile.

Course Type

Graduate Electives (ELEC-GG)