About the Institute

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The GW Medieval and Early Modern Studies Institute was founded in 2008 by faculty and students in English, History and Romance Languages. We have quickly grown to include twenty-one professors and numerous students in five departments, making us the largest humanities initiative at GW.

Our mission is to bring fresh critical perspectives to the study of the literature and culture of early Europe within a global perspective, connecting the past to the present. Appropriate to our location in DC, we emphasize the international character of the period: the connections that entangled Britain and France with the North Sea, Ireland, the Mediterranean and the New World. We have an abiding respect for well known authors such as Shakespeare, but we research and teach them alongside the texts that they read and within the wider worlds they traveled: narratives of China, India, Jerusalem, the Americas; adventures on the seas and along pilgrimage routes; stories of magic, possibility, loss, trauma and transformation. We never conduct this work in isolation. We are committed to ensuring that our work is available to all, from undergraduates in introductory courses to the graduate students who will someday write field-changing books and teach the next generation of students. Every lecture, symposium, and other event we sponsor is free and open to all who wish to attend. Many are co-sponsored with other humanities units. We support the research of our award-winning faculty, who have been extraordinarily successful in obtaining the grants and fellowships that boost our international ranking. We believe strongly that a keen and critical engagement with history can help to bring about a more just future.

And yet there is so much more that we would like to be able to undertake: a lively program for bringing scholars to GW for long term residencies; an undergraduate course that enables our students to spend a portion of the class abroad visiting the locations that they study; mentored postdoctoral teaching opportunities for our graduate students as they hone their classroom skills and prepare themselves for the difficult humanities job market; a revitalized undergraduate major and minor; an expanded program of public lectures; better support for faculty in the final stages of completing book projects; the launching of a new line of electronic books with the Institute’s imprimatur that would make access to primary and secondary texts immediate and inexpensive; a deeper alliance with the Folger Shakespeare Library. And more.

Please consider supporting us. Every penny of philanthropic support for GW MEMSI goes directly towards our programs. Contributing is easy. You may donate by telephone (800-789-2611) or by mailing a check to The George Washington University, 2100 M Street, NW, Suite 310, Washington, D.C. 20052 (please designate the Medieval and Early Modern Studies Institute on the memo line or in an accompanying note). You may also donate online, but please ensure that under the category "Other" you designate your gift for the "GW Medieval and Early Modern Studies Institute." As director of the Institute, I am happy to speak with you about any particular initiative that intrigues you. I can be reached easily by email (jjcohen@gwu.edu) or telephone (202 455-8157).

I have taught at GW since 1994. I've never seen anything have quite the impact that the Institute has had upon every facet of what we do, from undergraduate education to faculty research and teaching. I hope you will find MEMSI's mission as laudable as I do.

Thank you!


Jeffrey J. Cohen
Director, GW MEMSI