Medieval and Renaissance studies programs focus on life in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance in Europe. Students learn about medieval and Renaissance culture through the study of art, music, and literature. They also learn how modern civilization emerged from these eras.
Has anyone ever called you a "Renaissance man" or "Renaissance woman?" It's a compliment that means you are talented in several areas. Maybe they noticed that you speak two languages, like to sculpt, know a lot about computers, and are good at woodworking. They're probably envious that you are talented at so many things! But what does the Renaissance have to do with it?
The Middle Ages and the Renaissance are often called "early modern" times. This historical period (from the 5th century to the 16th century) gave rise to modern life as we know it. The Renaissance was a time of great scientific and economic growth. During this period, people believed you should know at least a little about history, art, literature, and science. Leonardo da Vinci is a good example. He was a famous inventor, artist, mathematician, and philosopher. Today we still marvel at his works, especially his painting "Mona Lisa."
In medieval and Renaissance studies programs, you take courses from many different areas. For example, you take courses in literature, philosophy, and art history. You also take courses in languages, history, religion, and music. You study famous paintings, sculptures, books, and inventions of that time. You also learn about the major religions and philosophies of that period. Often you are required to learn a language spoken during that era, such as Old English, Old French, Spanish, or Arabic. This allows you to analyze original texts and artifacts.
About 60 four-year colleges and universities offer bachelor's degrees in medieval and Renaissance studies. Many schools offer a minor or concentration at the undergraduate level. Typically you finish your bachelor's degree in four years.
A small number of schools offer graduate degree programs in medieval and Renaissance studies. In many cases, medieval and Renaissance studies is offered as a concentration in other graduate programs. Art history, philosophy, and English are common departments for this concentration. Graduate programs take from two to five years after you finish your bachelor's degree. Most people who get graduate degrees in medieval and Renaissance studies become professors.