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 Medieval Seafaring in the Mediterranean


Fall Semester 2010

Instructor: Filipe Castro
Class Time: Wednesdays, 14:00 - 17:00 P.M.
Room: ANTH, Rm. 105
Office hours: 12-16 Mondays or by appointment (Anthropology Bld. 105A).

Syllabus  - Readings

Read Dr. Crisman's "Guidelines to write your paper" before you start.

Start early: papers delivered after the deadline will be graded to 90 points.

Intellectual content

Medieval Seafaring in the Mediterranean is an overview of the history of seafaring and shipbuilding technology in the Mediterranean from the Late Roman period to the upper Middle Age period and beginning of the Italian Renaissance of the 15th century.

Students are expected to become familiar with the basic political, demographic and economical changes of the history of the Mediterranean during the millennium under analysis. A special emphasis in placed on the changes of the cultures that successively controlled the shores and harbors of the Mediterranean, namely the Roman, Byzantine, Umayyad, Holy Roman, Abbasid, and Seljuk empires.

The history of seafaring aspects of these cultures are analyzed in view of the archaeological remains, written descriptions and iconographic evidence of the ships they have produced.

Teaching strategy

For this seminar course, students meet for three hours weekly. The class format consists of a 45 - 50 minute lecture - with Power Point slide aids - in which an historical overview of the period and region under analysis is presented.

Four discussion periods follow. The four discussion topics, related to the class theme, were assigned to individual students in the first class of the semester. The topic presenter opens the discussion with a 15 to 20 minute Power Point presentation, supported by a handout with the main points and consulted bibliography.

The two most important learning opportunities of this course - besides the material taught - are the training in public speaking it provides, and the training in professional writing, aimed at a peer audience.

Learning assessment

Fifty percent of the final course grade is determined on the quality of a term paper, which must be submitted following the style and format of a peer reviewed journal chosen from a list given by the professor. The oral reports are also assessed, and contribute to the remaining fifty percent of the final grade.

Because the course is built around student contributions, its quality varies from semester to semester. It is difficult to ensure that all students are completing the homework. It is especially challenging to make certain that every student delivers a strong oral report, thus contributing to a dynamic and exciting class climate. Some students are less exciting than others presenting their cases orally, some students tend to do the bare minimum work, and we all have our days. I want all students to understand that I am available to assist in the preparation and to critique their performance. My role is not to judge but rather to guide them through the course, strengthening their presentation skills in the best possible way.

Since 2004 I have submitted an anonymous mid-term questionnaire to assess the success of my teaching strategy, but less than half of the students bothered to answer the questions.

The students who answered this questionnaire - about half of the class - did contribute with some interesting suggestions, although not all pointing in the same direction. For example, some students would prefer a more standardized and predictable format, both for classes, handouts, and timing of the oral reports, and others clearly thrive in more competitive and creative (messy) environments.

I am planning to film their oral reports and watch them with the students in order to help them improve their public speaking skills.


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Last Updated: 10/14/08