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Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies offers options for study abroad

February 11, 2011

Middlebury leads consortium of schools promoting work of CMRS

MIDDLEBURY, Vt.—The Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, based at Oxford University’s Keble College, is the latest addition to the myriad study abroad programs available to Middlebury College undergraduates.

Middlebury is now leading the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies Consortium, a select group of colleges and universities from around the country. Members of the consortium can send up to 10 students each semester to study at the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies (CMRS), and their faculty members are eligible to pursue CMRS-related research at Oxford. Other confirmed consortium members include Bates, Carleton, Colgate, Smith, Wellesley and Sewanee, the University of the South. And the consortium continues to grow: the number of schools is expected to reach at least 18 by this spring.

“This represents another exciting possibility for Middlebury students who want to spend part of their college careers studying in the special atmosphere of Oxford University, and experience the tutorial system of academic study,” said Ronald D. Liebowitz, president of Middlebury. “The Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies and founder John Feneley are committed to providing rigorous engagement for undergraduates, which for many becomes preparation for post-graduate study in their chosen fields. And as part of the CMRS Consortium, Middlebury will be able to offer its faculty, beginning in summer 2012, the chance to become CMRS Research Fellows, attending faculty conferences at Oxford, followed by month-long residencies.”

With its founding in 1975, the CMRS created a permanent institute at Oxford for interdisciplinary study of the Medieval, Renaissance and Early Modern periods, and ever since it has provided academic opportunities for overseas students who want to study at Oxford. With a curriculum rooted in the liberal arts tradition, CMRS welcomes applicants from all academic disciplines. Students who are admitted to CMRS study for a semester at Oxford, where they are associate members of Keble College, and able to use all of the college’s academic and social facilities, recognized as among the best at Oxford. Most students live at St. Michael’s Hall, a historic building located about 300 yards from Carfax, the ancient crossroads that defines the heart of Oxford.

During both the fall and spring semesters, students take a 14-week course of study, which includes what’s called an integral course, a month-long comprehensive review of the period being studied that includes lectures and field trips. In the remaining 10 weeks, students take one seminar and two tutorials. Each seminar involves a research paper on a specific topic, and the tutorials, featuring weekly one-to-one sessions with student and tutor, emphasize skills in reading, critical analysis and essay writing.

The fall semester integral course is titled “The Making of Europe, 1000-1400,” and in the spring semester it’s “Renaissance to Enlightenment.” Among recently offered seminars are “Archaeology of a Vanished World,” “The Italian Renaissance,” “The Arthurian Legend,” “Political Philosophy, Plato to Dante,” and “Chivalry and Courtly Love.” Tutorials, which can be adapted to the specific needs of each student, include such topics as “Early Christian Art,” “Mortals and Gods in the Classical World,” “Women and Literature in the Renaissance,” “The Golden Age of Aristocracy, 1660-1832,” “Introduction to Middle English,” “Shakespeare, Histories and Comedies,” “Exploring Western Music,” “Medieval Philosophy,” and “History of the Western Church, 1054-1350.”

As the lead college in the CMRS Consortium, Middlebury also plays a role in the Friends of CMRS, a non-profit organization based in Washington, D.C., which supports the work of the center, now in its 36th year. The executive director of the Friends of CMRS is Jane Margaret O’Brien, former dean of the faculty at Middlebury, and former president of Hollins College in Virginia and St. Mary’s College in Maryland.

Middlebury students who would like to know more about the possibility of studying at the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies should contact Stacey Thebodo, Middlebury’s assistant director for International Programs and Off Campus Study.