Pedagogy and the Premodern: A Symposium

Pedagogy and the Premodern 

A symposium hosted by Duke Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies

March 6-7, 2020

Duke University

Holsti-Anderson Family Assembly Room/Rubenstein Library 153

Scholars of the premodern face an increasingly difficult challenge in the modern academy: presenting medieval and early modern texts, materials, ideas, and histories in classrooms and institutions preoccupied to an unprecedented extent with the new and the now. In addition to perennial questions of the (allegedly) declining relevance and appeal of premodern study to postmodern undergraduates, we face in our classrooms potential barriers to student engagement and learning–difficulties of language; problems of unfamiliarity; questions of relatability–that are specific to our fields and require considered approaches. More troublingly, the premodern past has become in recent years a particularly explosive site of contestation as insidious and racist attempts to co-opt this past have been made ever more visible, both inside and outside the academy. In light of these contemporary concerns, what does it mean, today, to teach the premodern past responsibly and ethically? How might we effectively engage students in the unfamiliar past in a way that connects with a rapidly changing present? How can we help students to attend seriously to medieval and early modern voices, concerns, and ideas? How does the medieval and early modern classroom remain a vital and vibrant force in the modern university?


This symposium, hosted by Duke’s Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, seeks to open out conversations about pedagogical theory and practice in medieval and early modern studies that stem not from anxiety about the relevance of these areas of study, but from assurance of their value. We hope to create a space for robust and practical thinking about the pedagogical challenges and opportunities of teaching the premodern world within the postmodern classroom. We encourage interested scholars to reach out with any questions. For more information, contact Grace Hamman ( and Lindsey Larre (