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   Course Title    Popular Culture in Mmedieval and Early Modern Europe
Lecturer    Yuriy Zazulyak
Institution    Lviv State Ivan Franko University
Country    Ukraine

Since the 1960s the history of popular culture has become a field of historical research that developed original and interdisciplinary approaches to historical sources and problems. Nevertheless, there is no precise definition of the “popular culture”, elaborated in the historical literature. Often it was described through the use of polar opposition - “official” vs “popular” culture. Formulated in such terms, the popular culture of pre-industrial Europe was regarded as interior and distorted version of a “higher”, “learned” culture of elite. This definition most frequently treated the popular culture as “superstitious” culture.


Today many scholars point out the irrelevance of such an approach. They tend to see the popular culture as a variety of cultural practices and experiences, which represents an intricate cultural mixture, in which elements of both “folkloric” and “learned” traditions found complex ways to intermingle.


The aim of the course is to familiarize students with the ways in which the popular culture has been defined and studied. The course will concentrate mainly on various aspects and nature of collective religious mentalities, including popular cosmology; popular views of rituals and magic; celebrations such as Carnival; beliefs in saints and holy men; miracles and thaumaturgy; prophets and prophecies; the activity and manifestations of devil in the world, etc.


The marks will be given on the basis of participation in class discussions and an oral presentation that should also be delivered as a short written outline.


Seminar 1. Introduction: definitions, concepts and methodology of popular culture.


Jean-Claude Schmitt, “Religion, folklore, and society in the medieval West,” in Debating the Middle Ages: issues and readings, ed. by Lester K. Little and Barbara Rosenwein, (Malden,Massachussets: Blackwell Publishers, 1998), pp. 376-87.

Roger Chartier, “Culture as appropriation: popular cultural uses in early modern France,” in Understanding popular culture. Europe from the Middle Ages to the Nineteenth Century, ed. by Steven L. Kaplan, (Berlin, New York, and Amsterdam: Mouton Publishers, 1984), pp. 229-54.

Suggested by the CEU Medieval department:

Burke, Peter: Popular culture in early modern Europe, Aldershot, Hants, England: Scolar Press, 1994


Seminar 2. The Universe of Popular Magic.


Alexander Murray, “Missionaries and magic in Dark-Age Europe,” in Debating the Middle Ages, pp. 92-104.

Robert Scribner, “Cosmic order and daily life: sacred and secular in pre-industrial German society,” in his Popular culture and popular movements in reformation Germany, (London and Roucerverte: The Hamblendon Press, 1987), pp. 1-16.

Jean-Claude Schmitt, The Holy Greyhound. Guinefort, Healer of Children since the 12th century, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), pp. 14-36, 68-82.


Seminar 3. Patterns of popular devotions: preaching, communion, processions, and confessions.


John Bossy, “The Mass as a social institution,” Past and Present, no. 100 (1983): 37-60.

Bronislaw Geremek, “The Exemplum and the spread of culture in the Middle Ages,” in his The common roots of Europe, (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1996), pp. 40-69.

Miri Rubin, Corpus Christi: the Eucharist in late medieval culture, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), pp. 213-87.

David Warren Sabean, “Communion and Community: the refusal to attend  the lord’s Supper in the Sixteenth Century,” in his Power in the Blood. Popular Culture and Village Discourse in early modern Germany, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), pp. 37-60.


Seminar 4. Saints: Miracles, Relics, and Pilgrimages.


William A. Christian Jr., Local Religion in Sixteenth-Century Spain, (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1981), pp. 28-69.

Patrick Geary, “Sacred Commodities: the circulation of medieval relics,” in his Living with the dead in the Middle Ages, (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1994), pp. 194-220.

Aaron Gurevich, “Peasants and Saints,” in his Medieval Popular Culture. Problems of belief and perception, (Cambridge: Maison des Science de l’Homme and Cambridge University Press, 1990), pp. 39-77.

Andre Vauchez, Sainthood in the later Middle Ages, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), pp. 425-78.


Seminar 5. Popular Beliefs in Devil and Witchcraft.


Robin Briggs, “‘Many Reasons Why:’ Witchcraft and the problem of multiple explanation” in Witchcraft in early modern Europe. Studies in culture and belief, ed. by Jonathan Barry, Marianne Hester, and Gareth Roberts, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), pp. 49-63.

Norman Cohn, Europe’s Inner Demons: the demonization of Christians in medieval Christendom, (London: Pimlico, 1993), pp. 1-15, 35-78, 118-143.

Carlo Ginzburg, “Deciphering the Sabbath,” in Early Modern European Witchcraft. Centers and perepheries, ed. by Bengt Ankarloo and Gustav Henningsen, (Oxford: Claredon Press, 1993), pp. 121-38.

Gabor Klaniczay, “Shamanistic elements in Central European Witchcraft,” in his The uses of supernatural power. The transformation of popular religion in medieval and early modern Europe, (Princeton and New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1990), pp. 129-50.


Seminar 6. The World of the Dead and Popular Eschatology.


Patrick Geary, “Exchange and Interaction between the Living and The Dead in Early Medieval Society,” in Living with the Dead, pp. 77-94.

Jacques Le Goff, The birth of purgatory, (Cambridge: Scholar Press, 1990), pp. 289-333.

Aaron Gurevich, “The Divine Comedy before Dante,” in his Medieval Popular Culture, pp. 104-52.


Seminar 7. Carnivals and World Turned upside-down.


Natalie Zemon Davis, “The reason of misrule,” in her Society and culture in early modern France, (Stanford, 1975), pp. 77-123.

Aaron Gurevich, “‘High and ‘Low’: medieval grotesque,” in his Medieval popular culture, pp. 176-210.

Robert Scribner, “Reformation, carnival, and the World Turned upside-down,” in his Popular Culture and Popular Movements, pp. 71-210.

E. P. Thompson, “Rough music,” in his Customs in common, (London: Penguin Books, 1993), 467-538.


Seminar 8. Popular rebellions and rituals of violence.


Yves-Marie Berce, History of peasant revolts: the social origins of rebellion in early modern France, (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1990), pp. 244-319.

Natalie Zemon Davis, “The rites of violence,” in her Society and Culture, pp. 152-187.

E. P. Thompson, “The moral economy of the English crowd in the eighteenth century,” in his Customs in Common, pp. 185-258.


Seminar 9. Sacral kingship and popular beliefs.


Marc Bloch, The royal touch, (NY: Dorset Press, 1989), pp. 28-91, 177-230.

Norman Cohn, The pursuit of the millennium, (London: Secker and Warburg, 1957), pp. 53-58, 99-123.


Seminar 10. Spread of Literacy and Popular Reading Practices.


Peter Burke, “The uses of literacy in early modern Italy” in The social history of language, ed. by Peter Burke and Roy Porter, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), pp. 21-42.

Roger Chartier, “The Bibliotheque Bleue and Popular Reading,” in his The cultural uses of print in early modern France, (Princeton and New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1987), 240-64.

Carlo Ginzburg, The cheese and worms: the cosmos of a sixteenth-century miller, (London and Henley: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1980), pp. 27-60.

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