REACTING TO THE PAST: RELIGION AND POLITICS IN THE MIDDLE AGES – HSTAM 320
Robin Stacey, instructor -- no prerequisites – I & S credit –
Enrollment limited to 28 students only
Reacting to the Past is an innovative (and now national) curriculum consisting of elaborate role-playing games set in the past. Students are asked to take on roles grounded in sources contemporary with the events; their choices are also informed by relevant secondary materials found by themselves through research or suggested by the instructor. As in any game, participants work towards the realization of goals that can be either faction-driven, personal, or both. Class sessions are run and structured by students, who make oral and written presentations on behalf of their positions, enter into negotiations and form alliances, and sometimes even declare war against their opponents. The instructor will set the parameters of the games, provide background and readings, offer guidance and strategy advice, grade oral and written work, and serve also as the source of unexpected challenges such as plagues or famines with which participants must then cope. The main purposes of the class are to immerse students in the complexities of particular historical situations and to help them engage meaningfully with ideas and texts. Additionally, reacting classes provide students with the opportunity to practice life skills such as working together in groups, articulating and defending points of view orally and in writing, and negotiating compromises. Three games will be played in this class, all centered on particular aspects of religion and politics in the middle ages. The first presents students with Emperor Henry IV barefoot in the snow outside the walls of Canossa in 1077 seeking pardon from the Pope; the second plunges them into the debates taking place in the French and papal courts as King and Pope go head to head in 1302; and the third recreates the debates convulsing the French court as to what to do in the wake of Joan of Arc’s capture in May of 1430. No previous acting experience is assumed; the only requirement is a willingness to commit oneself fully to the game!
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