Pride, Envy, Anger, Sloth, Greed, Gluttony, and Lust have animated European art, literature, and philosophy for centuries. But how did this classification of the “Seven Deadly Sins” come into being? How have ideas about the sins changed over the last thousand years? And what can a study of their history tell us about the culture of the past, and the way sin operates in today’s world?

With a historical focus on Medieval Europe (c.500–1500), this open course will investigate the origin of the “Seven Deadly Sins” and their significance in the development of European society.

Taking a different sin each week, we will consider how anxieties about the seven vices intersected with shifting medieval ideas of political and religious power, and how they continue to inform philosophies of human nature into the present.

Peter Jones is a cultural historian, specializing in the religious, political, and intellectual life of medieval Europe (c.500–1500). Originally from the United Kingdom, where he gained both a BA and an MA from the University of Bristol, Peter received his PhD in History from New York University in 2014. From 2014–16 he was an Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at the Jackman Humanities Institute, University of Toronto, and from 2016–17 he worked as a visiting scholar at the Pembroke Center, Brown University. He has published a range of articles on medieval cultural history in academic journals and edited volumes, and has recently completed a book manuscript exploring the role of humor in the political and religious revolutions of the twelfth century.

The course is taught in English. Lectures will be held in online format.
To receive links to lecture recordings more promptly you will need to register

September 22 – November 7, 2020.

The Plan:

Course Literature

1. Kenneth Baker, On the Seven Deadly Sins (London: Unicorn, 2018).

2. William C. Jordan, Europe in the High Middle Ages (London: Penguin, 2002).

3. Jacques Le Goff, The Medieval Imagination, translated by Arthur Goldhammer. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988).

4. The Seven Deadly Sins: From Communities to Individuals, edited by Richard Newhauser (Leiden: Brill, 2007).

5. Ian. P. Wei, Intellectual Culture in Medieval Paris (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012).

6. Chris Wickham, Medieval Europe (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016).