All students, both full time and year 1 part time take the following compulsory modules.
Semester 1: Themes and Sources in Medieval and Early Modern Studies
Semester 2: Critically Reading Medieval and Early Modern Studies
Optional modules: if you are doing the MA full time, choose two optional modules in each semester; if you are doing the MA part time, choose one optional module in each semester.
Please note: Modules and course structure are subject to change. The information presented here is intended to be indicative. Please contact the team if you have specific questions about course
Themes and Sources in Medieval and Early Modern Studies
This module considers the foundations and nature of interdisciplinary study of the medieval and early modern period at level 7. It will introduce you to different themes, concepts and approaches drawn from Archaeology, English Literature, History and Theology. You will study a number of case studies based on staff specialisms which may include landscape, identity, royal power, belief, social status, diplomacy and warfare.
Assessment: seminar presentation (1200-word equivalent) 30%; comparative essay (2800 words) 70%
Critically Reading Medieval and Early Modern Studies
Building on semester 1’s modules considering the interpretation of sources, this module will encourage you to take a similarly critical approach to the scholarly discourse in the constituent disciplines of your MA programme. You will have the opportunity to construct the syllabus alongside staff and your peers reflecting the different interests of the cohort. Themes for consideration might include: how to study emotion, representation, ecocriticism, identity, theory in archaeology, mysticism, and alterity. Both the compulsory modules will equip you with the necessary skills to tackle a dissertation at MA level with confidence. This module will be taught in a reading group format.
Assessment: reflection on practice (2000 words) 50%; detailed annotated bibliography relating to dissertation topic (2000 words) 50%
The dissertation is mandatory for all students enrolled for the MA in Medieval and Early Modern Studies. It provides you with the opportunity to develop, research and write an extended piece of work that contributes to knowledge in your chosen field. It encourages you to think creatively and flexibly using the approaches and skills refined over the course of the taught modules, including using interdisciplinary techniques where appropriate. It is the culmination of Taught Postgraduate study and always something to be proud of; an accomplishment with echoes that extend well beyond the classroom.
Assessment: One 2000 word reflective research Pebblepad log (formative); one 15,000 word Dissertation.
Using Cambridge University Press’s Reading Latin course or similar you will learn the fundamentals of Latin grammar in order to translate prepared texts as preparation for reading and researching Latin sources for your future research. A range of specialists will also help you to learn about Latin culture, about how the lingua franca of knowledge, sophistication, chroniclers, and kings not only survived its slow extirpation as a spoken everyday language, but thrived as a marker of education and status
Assessment 2 class tests (1000-word equivalent 25% each); exam (2000-word equivalent 50%)
A History of Our Hopeful Tomorrows: Utopian Thought from Thomas More to Modern Science Fiction
Also offered to Modern History MA students, this bold course starts with the publication of Thomas More’s Utopia in 1516, and takes a journey all the way to the formation of modern science fiction (by way of Shelley’s Frankenstein and many other interesting texts). It does so to chart the evolution of a certain way of seeing the human world: utopian thought, a method of critiquing the contemporary organization of society by holding it up for comparison against more promising and imaginary alternatives. The course is paired with a ‘companion website’ which allows a global community of interested participants to interact with you in the classroom, and it challenges participants to consider how both historical narratives can work to produce a ‘timeline’ without alternatives (‘this is how it happened’) and how literature and the imagination can challenge the ways we live.
Assessment: Literature Review or Creative Piece (Wordpress article): (50%), 2000 words; Essay (50%), 2000 words.
Spectres Haunting the West: A History of Horror in the West
“There are worse things awaiting man than death,” and this module introduces students to them. The Enlightenment, secular society, and the ascendancy of the scientific method have done little to quiet the small voices inside us that posit the existence of something else, both of and not of our world. Spectres Haunting the West takes a range of established horror characters – the ghost, the vampire, the zombie, the witch, the product of mad science, the werewolf, the monster, the product of atomic bombs, the alien, the serial killer – and sets them in their historical context(s), examining how and why such characters came to be, have persisted, and their social, political, and cultural meanings. Also offered to Modern History MA students.
Assessment: class presentation based on a specific case study including a reflective report on the process and best practice of presenting (50%, 2000 words); essay from a range of topics or agreed with the lecturer (50%, 2000 words)
Palaeography and Manuscript Studies
Students wanting to conduct original research on manuscripts before 1650 need to learn how to read the different types of handwriting and the shorthand employed by scribes in the period. This course will teach students how to read a range of hands, and will introduce them to common abbreviations and phrases found in government, legal and personal documents. The course will be based around seminars and workshops, in which students will be introduced to new types of sources each week. Students will learn key letterforms and abbreviations in class, developing their skills through the transcription of documents in class and in private study. By the end of the course students should be able to read scripts from different periods of medieval and early modern history. These may include Protogothic scripts; the Gothic system of scripts (including English cursive book and documentary scripts of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries); the Humanist system of scripts; early modern court hands; and secretary hands. They will also learn how to use a range original sources, such as English royal government records, accounts, charters, letters, manorial documents, wills and inventories. They will be aware of the institutions that generated different sources. Students will therefore have the necessary skills to carry out archival research.
Assessment two primary document transcription exercises, with a description of the source(s) and editorial notes on palaeographic choices (equivalent to 2,000 words each, 50% each)
Individually Negotiated Topic
The module allows students to negotiate a topic with a member of staff in place of one of their optional modules or to undertake a work-related placement comprising 50 hours. Topics derived from staff expertise may include: funerary archaeology, middle English literature urbanism, peasant society and rural settlement, gender and sexuality, early modern theatre, religious difference, court culture, poverty and social welfare, legal history marginality, medievalism, travel (real and imagined), satire, ideas of space, place and landscape. Placements will be organised with the advice of the School of Humanities’ director of employability and in line with School guidelines.
Assessment: 1x4,000-word essay OR reflective piece if undertaking a placement.
Classical Christian Mysticism
The study of Classical Christian Spirituality will examine questions of Biblical origins, Patristic development, and Scholastic consolidation. Works in translation will be selected from the following indicative list of Christian writers: Paul, Origen, Augustine, Pseudo-Dionysius, Bonaventure, Thomas Aquinas, Meister Eckhart, Julian of Norwich. Ongoing debate on their work will also be considered and related to modern perspectives on Christian Spirituality, including questions of the intellect, the body, and the community.
Assessment 2 2000-word essays (50% each)
Norman Conquests and Kingdoms
This module considers the activities of the Normans outside of their Norman homeland. You will examine the significance of 1066 and whether the conquest of Britain was part of a larger Norman empire; the settlement of southern Italy and Sicily and creation of the Norman kingdom; the Normans on crusade; and how far they assimilated into the societies they conquered. You will also assess the validity of the idea of the Norman ‘myth’. This module will introduce you to, and encourage you to look in depth at Norman society in Europe as well as relations between the Normans and the different peoples they conquered or settled amongst through various primary sources. As well as administrative records and charters, the Normans generated a number of chronicles and literary sources. Alongside these documents, you will also consider architecture, art and archaeology as a means of understanding Norman society.
Assessment: An oral presentation (equivalent to 1,000 words - 25%); an extended essay (3,000 words - 75%)
King Henry I the Lion of Justice
This module examines major themes and developments in the reign of William the Conqueror’s youngest son, King Henry I (1100-35). These will include a selection from the following: the methods used by Henry to acquire and consolidate his royal power; his relations and conflict with his older brother, Robert Curthose; his interaction with and management and control of the secular aristocracy; his relations with leading churchmen and the papacy; the nature of and reasons for the developments in royal administration and justice that appear to have occurred between 1100 and 1135; Henry’s characteristics and abilities as a ruler, and contemporary perceptions of them; his involvement in Wales, Scotland, Normandy, and relations with Louis VI of France and other French rulers; and his
role as a patron of religion. Deeper examination of the chosen themes will be promoted by case studies of particular debates, methodologies, and individuals.
Assessment 3,000 word research essay (75%); 1,000 word seminar paper written response (25%)
Kingship, Rebellion and Conquest: England under Henry III and Edward I
Students on this module will look in detail at the ways in which Magna Carta (the Great Charter) became embedded in English politics and society under King Henry III (r. 1216-1272) and King Edward I (r. 1272-1307). The reign of Henry III was of tremendous significance in English history. It was a time of mounting grievances against the king that saw both the emergence of parliament and England’s first political revolution. In the years 1258-65 Henry III was reduced to a cipher and a baronial council, led by Henry III’s brother-in-law, Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester, pushed through legal and administrative reforms far more radical and wide ranging than those envisaged in Magna Carta. The years 1265-72 were characterised by the re-establishment of royal authority in England after de Montfort’s death at the battle of Evesham and the final suppression of the baronial rebels. Edward I’s reign
(1272-1307) was no less momentous, as this king attempted to assert his mastery not only over English affairs, but also over the other peoples of Britain. Edward I’s Welsh wars culminated in the defeat of the last native princes and in the colonisation of Wales. Edward’s intervention in the Scottish succession crisis, known as ‘the Great Cause’, led to further conflict for the control of the throne in Scotland. In England, Edward’s reign was remembered for his formal expulsion of the Jews (a persecuted minority) from the realm in 1290, and for the pressure that his wars placed on his subjects, which culminated in a constitutional crisis in 1297-8. This module examines the politics and personalities that shaped life in thirteenth-century England by considering themes emerging from the study of
primary sources, such as: the crown and the emergence of parliament; foreign influences; the baronial movement of reform and rebellion; the crisis of 1297-8; warfare with France, Scotland and Wales; the aristocracy; the church; and court culture and chivalry.
Assessment: An oral presentation (equivalent to 1,000 words - 25%); an extended essay (3,000 words - 75%)
Late Medieval and Early Modern Canterbury
In order to understand the continuities and changes between the late medieval and the early modern city, the first half of the module will explore thematically late medieval Canterbury (c.1350–c.1540). The topics studied will include topography, parish churches and lay piety, houses and shops, pilgrimage, and urban defences. The second
half of the module will explore Tudor Canterbury (c.1540–c.1600) using comparable themes. These will include civic government, the parish church, family and household, manufacturing and shops, and education and recreation.
Where appropriate, the module will include a guided tour of the city and study in the Cathedral Archives. Assessment: 4000-word research essay
Imagining England: Landscape and Identity in Medieval and Early Modern Literature
This module examines the ways in which British medieval and early modern writers creatively re-imagined the past to fashion identity in response to the political and social pressures of the present. The first half of the module will focus on works that were either central to, or are reflective of, the formation and development of Englishness and the idea of England in the early and later medieval period. A range of texts will be considered, including histories and legendary histories recounting Britain’s prehistoric, Roman, and Christian inheritance, and poetry and prose works of the Arthurian tradition in relation to their Celtic and Continental precursors. In examining sixteenth and seventeenth century literature the second half of the module provides strong continuity with early seminars by revisiting key authors such as Chaucer, genres such as Romance and the Pastoral, and periods such as the Anglo- Saxon to explore how these important precedents create new vocabularies for legitimizing types of English-ness.
Using prose, poetry and drama these seminars consider the resurgence of particular discourses in response to challenges to religious practice during the Reformation in the sixteenth century or conflicting ideas of ‘English-ness’ during the Civil War years of the Seventeenth Century. Critical analyses will be grounded in the investigation of cultural, historical, stylistic, thematic, and critical issues.
Assessment: 4000-word research essay
Case Studies in Early Modern Literature
The module will be constructed around a single case study, such as a genre (e.g. historiography, closet tragedy, romance, life writing etc.), a theme (e.g. cross-cultural encounters, early modern republicanism, etc.), or the work of a particular author. A sample case study is the playwright Christopher Marlowe. By studying a selection of Marlowe’s poetry and drama, the module will draw attention to wider issues such as the development of the English Renaissance theatre, the uses of classical and contemporary European material in English Renaissance literature, the portrayal of the racial or cultural ‘Other’, notions of masculinity in early modern culture, discourses of liberty and identity, etc. Students will be invited to engage critically with Marlowe’s traditional reputation as a subversive and his role in the development of Elizabethan drama, and also with recent studies on e.g. collaborative playwriting and issues of authorship (including the mutual influences between Marlowe and Shakespeare), and Marlowe’s role in the development of 1590s literary republicanism.
Assessment: 4000-word research essay