Ashley Hicks, College ’14
So, what exactly is a Medieval Studies major?
A Medieval Studies major is probably one of the rarer or less-talked-about undergrad majors. But it’s super fun for weird people who like studying things like the origins of stained glass.
Can you focus on a specific part, such as medieval art or literature?
You are required to have a first “major” concentration in one medieval-related subject (since, shame, shame, there are no outright Medieval Studies classes) and a second “minor” concentration. My major concentration is Art History and my minor one is Religion.
How does it feel to be the only Medieval Studies major here?
As of last year I was told by my advisor that I was the only Medieval Studies major, but I’ve heard now that there is at least one more! We are definitely a small group, but I don’t mind at all because I have a weird fascination for the Middle Ages, and I really love the relative freedom of the major.
What led you to decide to become a Medieval Studies major in the first place?
I decided to become a M.S. major during “Love Your Major Week” my sophomore year when I saw it listed on a door poster that had all the majors on it. I’d taken a lot of medieval art history classes that I’d loved already, so I decided just to go with it!
What are the types of classes you generally take?
I take a lot of Art History and Religion classes that at least pretty seriously or entirely focus on the Middle Ages. Really, any class focusing on the origins of Christianity can be argued to be a medieval class – at least from a Western perspective – so there’s a lot of room for me to pick which classes I am most interested in.
You have to take a medieval language as well, and I took Latin because I am attentive to the little Latin inscriptions on illuminated manuscripts. I’m not an expert, though (actually far from being one).
What has been your favorite class so far?
My favorite class so far was probably the Spring 2012 Art History seminar on the medieval “Other.” It focused on visualizing marginalization in medieval art.
What is your favorite thing about being a Medieval Studies major?
My favorite thing about being a Medieval Studies major (besides my general love for the Middle Ages) is that it’s a great ice breaker when somebody asks me what I’m studying. I’m a pretty awkward person so it’s nice to have something fun to talk about.
What is the most challenging part of being a Medieval Studies major?
The most challenging part of being a M.S. major is fending off peer – and other – ridicule. Not only do a lot of B-School and pre-med people openly mock my major, but a lot of humanities folk do, too. Sometimes it’s just good fun, but sometimes I feel a bit “Other-ed,” too!
How do you think your Medieval Studies major will prepare you for your future career plans?
I know Medieval Studies will prepare me for my future career (law) because I had to study something that was relatively unfamiliar to me and outside the scope of common knowledge.
I also have to read and write a ton, and I can’t imagine better practice for a (hopefully) future lawyer.
What would you tell someone who is thinking of pursuing a major in Medieval Studies?
I have never met anyone in my time at Emory that was seriously considering becoming a Medieval Studies major, but I would hypothetically tell such a person to go for it! Life is too short and undergrad is all about studying what you love these days, so if you want to study that time period that introduced cutlery – so important – become a Medieval Studies major and be HAPPY.
Basically Medieval Studies is a superior major where professors demonstrate Middle Ages architecture with cut fruit and you never have to make an excuse for indulging in the stereotype of eating giant turkey legs with your hands and drinking bottomless wine from a goblet! Also, Charlemagne.
– Interview by Jayme Smith