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The medieval and Renaissance eras were the crucible in which the cultures we know today were formed.

Study of that time helps us understand problems and possibilities that concern us now — such as the intermingling of religion and politics, struggles for human rights, interactions between different faiths and the formation of a global economy.

Robert Bast

Robert Bast recently sat down with Tennessee Today to discuss the upcoming Marco Symposium and the value of historical research in understanding and solving today’s problems. Use the player below to hear his comments.

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Transcript of interview

That’s why it’s been so exciting for the Marco Institute for Medieval and Renaissance Studies to preside over this fall’s Medieval and Renaissance Semester.

The institute spent more than two years planning a rich and unprecedented series of exhibits, concerts, theater performances, lectures and special undergraduate and graduate courses. We coordinated our efforts with Chancellor Loren Crabtree and our many partners in the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Music, the Clarence Brown Theatre, the Frank F. McClung Museum, UT Libraries and the Ready for the World initiative.

The realization of our ambitious plans — including a world-class McClung Museum exhibit, residencies by the Boston Camerata and Actors From The London Stage, and outstanding scholarly lectures by visiting faculty as well as our own — all provide promising evidence that UT can become a national leader in the humanities while serving the interests of our own students.

Indeed, the themes selected for special prominence by the Marco Institute and its faculty — the complex interplay between religion and politics; the common roots of Christians, Jews and Muslims in the culture of the Mediterranean world; the medieval roots of some Appalachian musical and religious traditions — have demonstrated how central a sophisticated understanding of the past is to the educational mission of our undergraduate and graduate programs.

We have also been gratified by the extraordinary response of the local community to our programs, some of them bringing the city to the university, others the university into the city, all of them offered to the general public without charge.

Our experience underscores the importance of continuing to share our research and resources with the community of which we are a part. Great cities have great universities, and this semester has given ample illustration of the gratifying rewards reaped from bringing the two together.

We encourage your attendance at the semester’s remaining events. Our sixth annual symposium on "Saints and Citizens: Religion and Politics in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance" will include scholars from UT and around the world. Lectures will be held from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 15 – 16 in the Hodges Library auditorium. The Boston Camerata’s final performance of the semester entitled "The Abbey of Love: Songs of the Troubadours and Trouveres, 1200 – 1400" will be at 8 p.m. Nov. 16 in the UT Music Hall. "Sacred Beauty: A Millennium of Religious Art, 600 – 1600" will remain on display at the McClung Museum until Jan. 6, 2008.

Dr. Bast is an associate professor of history and Riggsby director of the Marco Institute for Medieval and Renaissance Studies.