Castles are one of the most recognizable symbols of the medieval past, evoking visions of both romance and violence. In Western Europe between the ninth and fifteenth centuries, castles served as status symbols and reminders of political and economic hierarchies, as focal points for military conflict, and as domestic and courtly settings. This course introduces students to the castle phenomenon, using recent work by historians and archaeologists that has considerably enhanced our understanding of the origins, physical construction, and functions of castles. Students become familiar with a range of medieval evidence, such as extant castles and ruins, medieval literature, and chronicles, and study castles from the perspectives of several disciplines, including history, archaeology, and literary studies, asking how we know what we think we know about castles. In the second half of the semester students research and write a substantial term paper with a complementary digital component. Affiliate: History.