In 1996 the Medieval and Renaissance Studies Program had its plan for its undergraduate major and minor accepted. This past fall we celebrated our fifteenth anniversary of the major with a display throughout Love Library during the months of September and October that emphasized four major aspects of the program: the large amount of high quality scholarship produced by faculty at the University of Nebraska from its beginning that focused on medieval and Renaissance studies; the excellent scholarly and creative work of our undergraduate and graduate students; the connections and interaction with the Lincoln and Nebraska communities; and the global perspective and cultural diversity of our program. Last academic year we revised our undergraduate major so that it included a global perspective. Over sixty people from the campus and the community were at our library opening, and hundreds went through the library in those months to see the exhibit.
From the inception of the Medieval and Renaissance Studies major, the faculty at the University of Nebraska have produced a tremendous amount of high quality scholarship. The excellent scholarly and creative work of our undergraduate and graduate students has resulted in awards and national recognition. We were also able to announce the creation – through the generosity of Virginia Knoll – of the Robert Knoll award for best graduate student essay. The lecture series remains enormously popular, and hundreds of students, faculty, and members of the communities attended our two major lectures. Professor Bonnie Wheeler presented the inaugural Mary Martin McLaughlin Memorial Lecture, which was followed by the Pauley Lecture, co-sponsored with the Department of History and featuring Professor Tim Harris of Brown University. The success of these events highlights the success and impact of the program at the University of Nebraska.
Our program is unique in that it actively charts three axes of cultural diversity: that which occurs across geographical boundaries, within disciplinary cultures, and spanning nearly nine hundred years of chronological distance. It has one of the most interdisciplinary faculties at UNL, involving professors from the College of Arts and Sciences, the Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts, The College of Education and Human Sciences, and the University Libraries. Students who take courses in the Program examine through multiple methodological lenses the relations between the many disparate cultures in Europe, Africa, and Asia from the end of Classical Antiquity to the beginning of the Modern Age. By locating European history alongside the histories of Africa, the Americas, and the Near East, and by casting the European “self” as a temporal “other,” Medieval and Renaissance courses challenge students to develop an alternate, more open and more culturally complex historical place from which to articulate their own contemporary histories (Goal 4).
Medieval and Renaissance Studies sponsors one or two programs per month, many of which are co-sponsored; in keeping with our cross-disciplinary mission, we attempt to work with other programs and departments whenever we can. We have a number of students majoring and minoring in Medieval and Renaissance Studies, many of whom have won national awards and have gone on to excellent graduate programs. A number of our majors and minors have participated in the UCARE program with our program faculty. The program also supports numerous graduate students in various participating departments such as English, History, and Modern Languages. These students frequently draw on Medieval Renaissance faculty from other departments as readers and committee members, a practice that increases the interdisciplinary rigor and appeal of our graduate students’ work. As a result of this collaboration and the good work of faculty and students within their departments, our students have presented at national conferences, published in respected academic journals, and continued on to become faculty colleagues at other institutions. Both our students and our faculty are greatly assisted in their research goals by our affiliation with the Center for Renaissance Studies at the Newberry Library, which allows us to participate in programs both at the Newberry Library in Chicago and the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC, and raises UNL’s national profile as a premier research institution.