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Hendrix Students Explore Medieval Crime Narratives in France

Twelve students visit sites in Paris and Troyes to create digital humanities project

CONWAY, Ark. (September 18, 2023) — Twelve Hendrix College students representing a wide variety of majors spent two weeks in France this summer studying medieval material culture.

The student group included artists, computer scientists, and historical researchers, and was led by Professor of History Dr. Sasha Pfau. The experience was supported by the James and Emily Bost Odyssey Professorship, which Pfau currently holds.

The student cohort included:

  • Nic Curtis ’24
  • Hannah Diggs ’23
  • Kaden Franklin ’23
  • Natalya Hart ‘24
  • Isaac Jimenez ’24
  • Olivia Larson ’24
  • Grant Reilmann ’24
  • Corissa Ross ’24
  • Lily Ryall ’24
  • Lauren Seckington ’24
  • Ellery Seymour ’24
  • Josh Thomeczek ’23

While there was no prerequisite course, students read and discussed a book about medieval pardon letters. They selected seven crime narratives from fourteenth- and fifteenth-century France and conducted independent research to prepare contextual essays about the narratives they selected.

The two-week travel experience helped students place their research in context.

“Students often see medieval history as dark, dry, and distant from their own experiences,” said Pfau. “This project made the past come alive for students, as they read narratives about medieval crime, then walked through medieval streets, saw tools and building techniques, and immersed themselves in religious and secular spaces.”

Corissa Ross, a senior history and politics double major from Little Rock, Arkansas, agreed.

“I think the trip to France was especially valuable because it is hard to imagine what life was like in the Middle Ages,” said Ross. “It was helpful to contextualize the things I have been reading about in my letter with actual objects and spaces.”

The group toured medieval churches in Paris and visited the Musée de Cluny, Château de Vincennes, Musée Carnavalet, Sainte Chapelle, Tour Jean Sans Peur, and Medieval Louvre, and had dinner with Al Haidar ’12, a Hendrix graduate currently living in Paris. Students also visited Guédelon Castle and explored churches and other sites in Troyes, including a stained-glass museum and a tool museum.

“The students pretty uniformly agreed that our visit to Guédelon, where they are building a castle using medieval methods through experiential archeology, the Château de Vincennes, where they were able to see the room where the royal notaries worked to compose these letters, and the Sainte Chapelle in Paris and the Cité of Stained Glass in Troyes, where they saw examples of medieval stained glass that the artists are using as inspiration for their work, were the highlights,” said Pfau.

The research and travel experience are part of a digital humanities project. The students are now developing a website to share original manuscripts, transcripts, translations, contextual essays, and visuals from material culture, resulting in an interactive online experience where the audience can see a more complex and complete vision of the medieval past.

This summer’s group is the first of two student cohorts funded by the Odyssey Professorship. Pfau is currently recruiting a second set of students to join her in June 2024.

About Hendrix College

Founded in 1876, Hendrix College is featured in Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About Colleges and celebrated among the country’s leading liberal arts colleges for academic quality, engaged learning opportunities and career preparation, vibrant campus life, and value. The Hendrix College Warriors compete in 21 NCAA Division III sports. Hendrix has been affiliated with the United Methodist Church since 1884. Learn more at

“… Through engagement that links the classroom with the world, and a commitment to diversity, inclusion, justice, and sustainable living, the Hendrix community inspires students to lead lives of accomplishment, integrity, service, and joy.” —Hendrix College Statement of Purpose