Teaching the Mediterranean Middle Ages
Over the last four decades, many historians of medieval Europe have been re-conceptualizing their field in much closer connection to the histories of the Byzantine Empire and the Islamic world. This shift from a predominantly European to a Mediterranean Middle Ages quickened with the rise of world history and increasing US awareness of the Muslim world in the aftermath of 9/11. While research is advancing rapidly through new journals, publication series, and seminars, the pedagogical challenges of introducing students to the Middle Ages via the Mediterranean are still significant. This session addresses both those Mediterranean specialists already developing courses from this perspective and medievalists whose training has been more Eurocentric who want to incorporate new sources and perspectives into their teaching. Presentations will directly address the two chief challenges in this endeavor. The first is accessing sources in translation for classroom use, particularly from Arabic. While a wide variety of sources for European medieval history are available in print and through Fordham's Internet Medieval Sourcebook, the corpus of translations from Greek and Arabic sources, although rapidly growing, is generally less familiar to European medievalists. Two presentations – those of Giovanna Palombo and Kalani Craig – will focus on print and digital sources, providing primary source materials, bibliographies, and website addresses. The second challenge in teaching the medieval Mediterranean has been unifying themes. While traditional surveys of medieval Europe often trace a "rise of the west," courses on the Mediterranean Middle Ages have tried to focus on cultural interaction rather than hegemony, usually struggling to expand their students' horizons beyond the violent confrontation of the crusades. The presentation of Ken Wolf and comment of Valerie Ramseyer – both of whom have taught Medieval Mediterranean courses for many years – will offer critical assessments of different thematic approaches and engage the audience in a discussion of productive pedagogical strategies.