My teaching flows from my research interests, and the two inform each other on a continuous basis. I am constantly endeavoring to expand the picture of medieval Europe that our students know and understand, and to think about the medieval world in new and different ways—perhaps even humanizing the medieval experience for them.
In my introductory classes, such as my survey of Medieval Europe, we learn about England and France, but also about Sweden, Rus’, Poland, Bulgaria, Leon and Castile, and the Medieval Roman Empire, among other polities. I have also recently begun having them read historical portraits. These imagined lives of medieval individuals, typically written by professional historians, are ways that students can gain access to medieval people as people in their own right, with thoughts and feelings. Combining imagined lives with primary sources presented in class gives the students a different, and perhaps new, perspective on medieval peoples.
I teach a variety of upper-level classes including a required class for History majors covering historiography and research paper construction that focuses on perspectives on the medieval Roman Empire (entitled “Visions of Byzantium”). One of my most popular upper-level classes is “The Viking World.” In that class we examine the medieval Scandinavian population as people, and not just as a caricature of Vikings. We do this through a series of directed readings in a seminar style. The readings are scholarly articles and book sections that require the students to do real academic work; reading, thinking, and processing the material to have in-depth discussions. Their end product, a fifteen-page research paper, is a culmination of that scholarly development, as well as a showcase of their own primary and secondary source research.
I am deeply committed to teaching and being in the classroom. At every class level I foster conversation and interaction through spontaneous questioning, close reading, and discussion. Being lectured at is fine for some students, and is perhaps what many want, but it is not as effective a pedagogical method as we would like. Additionally, the use of images, whether manuscript pages, archeological evidence, or even modern statues of historical figures, helps engage the interest and imagination of my students in the classroom. I have grown as a teacher over my years in the classroom, continuing to utilize new sources, new kinds of sources, and especially to continue to learn about the wider medieval world. I believe in continuing to evolve and grow as a teacher, and as I strive to learn more about medieval Europe and its context in my scholarly work, I also always try to better present that diversity of human experience in the classroom.
Sample SyllabiHIST 111—Medieval Europe
HIST 204—Visions of Byzantium
HIST 251—Medieval Russia
HIST 311—Viking World