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MA Medieval and Early Modern Studies / Course details

Year of entry: 2021

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Course unit details:
Perspectives on Medieval and Renaissance Studies

Unit code SALC70031
Credit rating 30
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by School of Arts, Languages and Cultures
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This module aims to explore the methodological, historiographical and analytical choices that shape our study of the medieval and early modern periods. Highlighting the variety of disciplinary approaches that are in use in current scholarship, this module shall investigate a series of relevant themes within the field that are traditionally regarded as in opposition, thus permitting comparative longitudinal study. Co-taught by a number of specialists from across the School, examples of themes offered in a given year may include 'Orthodoxy/Heterodoxy', 'Text/Image', Community/Nobility', 'East/West', 'Latin/Vernacular'. Students will be encouraged to question issues of historical periodisation, the benefits of interdisciplinarity, and how an intellectual framework for the study of the medieval and early modern periods may be conceptualised.



The unit aims to:

  • Permit students to acquire a broad knowledge of the variety of approaches current in the fields of medieval and Renaissance studies;
  • Query the methodologies traditionally associated with specific disciplines of study;
  • Deepen students' knowledge of the key thematic issues of the medieval and early modern periods;
  • Problematise questions of periodisation, continuity, and transformation in the pre-modern world.

Knowledge and understanding

  • Demonstrate a critical understanding of past and current scholarly debates relevant to the period;
  • Engage critically with the themes discussed, and the sources and scholarship relevant to case studies used;
  • Understand interpretative problems specific to particular issues, genres of evidence, and sources;
  • Articulate comparative assessments of methodologies

Intellectual skills

  • Conceptualise an intellectual framework for the study of specific aspects of the medieval and early-modern period;
  • Understand why certain methodologies are best suited to particular sources or subjects;
  • Analyse and debate complex issues relevant to the development of medieval and early-modern studies;
  • Evaluate existing scholarship critically, and build upon it.

Practical skills

  • Develop writing techniques, appropriate to the assessment;
  • Synthesise large volumes of factual and theoretical perspectives in a critical manner;
  • Retrieve and use relevant primary and secondary sources in a critical fashion;
  • Identify appropriate source material, and compile specialist bibliographies.


Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Develop oral presentation skills through participation in class discussions;
  • Manage time through preparation of assignments;
  • Use ICT resources for programme support;
  • Write fluent prose 

Employability skills

Students will develop skills in oral communication through class participation, in written communication, through the submission of the course assignments, and in time-management skills through effective completion of the formative, and summative coursework required. As the course encourages students to interrogate disciplinary divides and conceptualise methodologies, it will serve to hone critical thinking skills. All these skills can be applied in the context of future employment.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Other 25%
Written assignment (inc essay) 65%
Set exercise 10%
Book Review 25%
Essay Plan 10%
Essay 65%


Feedback methods

Students will receive formative feedback on an essay outline submitted in advance of the principal assignment. Written feedback on submitted assessed work shall be delivered within the time-frame recommended by SALC.


Recommended reading

Arnold, J., What is Medieval History? (Cambridge, 2000)

Bull, M., Thinking Medieval: An Introduction to the Study of the Middle Ages (Basingstoke, 2005)

Geary, P., The Myth of Nations: The Medieval Origins of Europe (Princeton, 2002)

Greenblatt, S., Renaissance Self-Fashioning: from More to Shakespeare (Chicago: 1980).

Kerrigan, W., Braden, G., The Idea of the Renaissance (Baltimore, 1989)


Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Seminars 33
Independent study hours
Independent study 267

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Georg Christ Unit coordinator

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