History of the Medieval Studies Program

Origins and History of the Program

The inception of the Medieval Studies Program at the University of Connecticut was the informal formation of an interdisciplinary Medieval Studies Committee at a faculty luncheon in the fall of 1966. In the spring of 1967, the Committee was formally established as part of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. At the time, the Committee was chaired by Fred A. Cazel, Jr. (History) and included Joyce Brodsky (Art History), Stephen J. Kaplowitt (German), Gardiner H. London (Spanish), Arthur S. McGrade, Jr. (Philosophy), James A. S. McPeek (English), Charles A. Owen, Jr. (English), Joseph Palermo (French), and Thomas A. Suits (Classics).

The purposes of the Medieval Studies Committee were to offer both undergraduate and graduate programs with a core of courses in fields related to medieval studies, as well as to sponsor a Medieval Colloquia series of invited lectures. In the spring of 1969, a graduate program offering degrees of Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy in Medieval Studies was established, with the admittance of graduate students the following fall. The initial proposal of the Medieval Studies Program included the following descriptions:

This program, intended to provide a synthesis of broad areas of medieval culture and thought as a basis for constructive research in specialized aspects of medieval cultural and intellectual history, is interdepartmental in nature and would include course offerings in the areas of medieval languages and literature…, history, art, philosophy, and philology.

The program, cutting across all academic disciplines chronologically, is by its nature related directly to all areas of academic interest, especially those (history, literature, philosophy, language, art, and social science) which study the evolution of modern civilization. Within a given discipline (English literature, for example), the program would permit a specialized focus on a chronological segment of the discipline from the wider vantage-point of related interdisciplinary studies.

In the 1980s, the Medieval Studies Program inaugurated the annual invitation of the Charles A. Owen, Jr. Visiting Professor in Medieval Studies to teach an interdisciplinary graduate seminar for the Program and to present a lecture on current research for the Colloquia series.

In 1989, the Medieval Studies Library was dedicated in honor of the Medieval Studies Program’s co-founder Charles A. Owen, Jr. More information about the library and its holdings may be found here.

For over forty years, the Medieval Studies Program has continued to flourish: faculty from a variety of disciplines continue to offer courses on medieval subjects for both undergraduate and graduate students, and the Program remains the only one of its kind at a public institution in the northeast which grants both the M.A. and the Ph.D. The Medieval Colloquiua series has also continued the long-standing tradition of invited lectures, including an annual lecture by the Charles A. Owen, Jr. Visiting Professor.


[Much of this history is based on documents in the Fred Cazel Papers, Files 234-44, in the Archives and Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries. Access to these documents and help from the staff of the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center is much appreciated. Quotations are from Joseph Palermo to Nathan S. Whetton, with “Recommendation of New Field for Graduate Study,” March 15, 1969, Folder 237.]