Brown College recently passed a $1,800 budget proposal for a Renaissance Fair April 14 on Monroe Hill. Due to low enrollment in the Medieval Studies major, the fair aims to increase student interest in medievalism and the related program offered at the University. The fair will be free for attendees and feature local performances from the Virginia Renaissance Faire, a photo booth and a Medieval costume contest. Booths will also be set up and run by professors that represent the different courses offered in the Medieval Studies Program.
Currently, only five undergraduates have declared Medieval Studies as their major — two of which are graduating this year. Students in the department study history, literature and art, and are required to compose a senior thesis.
Travis From, a current thesis student in the Medieval Studies program and one of the performers for the event, was an active voice in leading Brown College to obtain funding for the fair. From is the undergraduate representative chair for College Council for the Medieval Studies Degree Program and a resident of Brown College. Some of the other Medieval Studies majors also live in Brown College, which further encouraged Brown College to sponsor the event.
From planned the event with the hope that University students will learn more about the program and the opportunities of the major in an exciting and interactive way.
“I want people to see what Brown, and specifically the Medieval Studies major, have to offer,” From said. “I want people to come and learn and see how great our school can actually be and I hope that this was a good way of doing it.”
The Medieval Studies Department has scheduled two additional events in the days leading up to the fair. Marisa Galvez — an associate professor at Stanford and specialist in Medieval literature — will deliver a lecture April 12. A screening of “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” will be presented April 13 and the Renaissance Fair will follow the next day.
Though the fair has not yet occurred, Eric Ramirez-Weaver, director of the Medieval Studies Department, has already found a growing interest among students in Medieval Studies.
“Compared to the current graduating class of two, we are already growing,” Ramirez-Weaver said. “Second-years are registering now. We already have more people inquiring about and signing up for Medieval Studies than in recent years.”
Students in the program said they find that examining Western society’s past prejudices explains and illuminates the intolerance seen in society today.
“One material reason for the new enthusiasm has been our response to the events of last August,” Ramirez-Weaver said. “Our colloquium and major gateway course, MSP 3801, Medieval Identities: Cultures and Conflicts, has had fifteen active participants exploring how medieval art, politics and culture supply a meaningful lens for a reexamination of contemporary bias, intolerance and social injustice.”
According to Ramirez-Weaver, white supremacy is a warped version of Medieval cultural belief systems. By taking MSP 3801, students have found a connection between ancient cultural beliefs and the racist ideologies of today.
With the upcoming Renaissance Fair and the recent commitment of second-year students to the Medieval Studies Major, Ramirez-Weaver said he is optimistic for the program’s future despite the low enrollment in recent years.
“It’s an exciting time to be part of Medieval Studies at U.Va. where history and culture inform intelligent citizenship,” Ramirez-Weaver said.