Interpreting the Middle Ages (HISM183)

StaffProfessor Yolanda Plumley - Lecturer
Dr Levi Roach - Lecturer
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level7
Duration of Module Term 1: 9 weeks;

Module aims

  • To acquire broad knowledge of the sources available in the field of Medieval Studies.
  • To develop a deep understanding of the problems of interpretation posed by a variety of genres of evidence.
  • To acquire advanced critical skills and analytical methods.
  • To develop the skills in order to improve critical writing.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Demonstrate a detailed knowledge and understanding of a range of different kinds of sources from the Middle Ages
  • 2. Demonstrate a critical awareness of past and current scholarly debates relating to the Middle Ages

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 3. Engage critically with a broad range of cultural phenomena, including texts, material artefacts (including manuscripts), institutions, and public discourses
  • 4. Demonstrate understanding of the assumptions on which approaches to cultural analysis are based
  • 5. Argue at length and in detail about aspects of the cultures studied, supporting the argument with textual evidence and engaging with opinions from secondary literature
  • 6. Access, and use critically, printed and, where appropriate, electronic learning resources identified as useful by the course tutors; and find independently and evaluate critically other relevant resources

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 7. Manage own learning time and learning activities, where appropriate with guidance from course tutors
  • 8. Undertake independent research on the basis of a taught course
  • 9. Negotiate individual assessment tasks and/or topics with course tutor(s), identifying own areas of strength and interest
  • 10. Present information and arguments on a designated or negotiated topic to a group of listeners and respond to questions and responses from the group
  • 11. Adopt a critical approach to the selection and organisation of a large body of material in order to produce, to a deadline, a written or oral argument of some complexity
  • 12. Combine a variety of IT skills in researching and reporting on a topic

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

Workshops will address a selection of source material within the following three broad strands:  

Interpreting Social Contexts:

Exploring texts that lend insight into secular and religious society in the medieval period; exact topics will vary according to tutor expertise and availability but may include chronicles, charters, legal texts, liturgy, concilia and epistola.

Interpreting the Arts:

Exploring primary sources that lend insight into cultural and artistic life; these may include artistic, literary and musical works.

Interpreting Material Culture:

Exploring material objects that lend insight into habits and tastes of medieval society; these may include archaeological objects (e.g. buildings), books, and costume.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching22Seminars (11 x 2 hours)
Guided independent study278Independent study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Seminar discussionOngoing through course1-12Oral feedback from peers and tutor

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Commentary on a medieval source or set of sources332000 words1-12Oral and written
Essay674000 words1-12Oral and written

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Commentary on a medieval source or set of sourcesCommentary on a medieval source or set of sources1-12Referral/Deferral period
Essay (4000 words)Essay (4000 words)1-12Referral/Deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 50%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of referral will be capped at 50%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • John Arnold, What is Medieval History? (London: Arnold, 2007).
  • M.T. Clanchy, From Memory to Written Record, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Blackwell, 1993). 
  • Richard Hoppin, Medieval Music (New York: Norton, 1978). 
  • Hans Robert Jauss, Towards an Aesthetic of Reception (Brighton: Harvester, 1982).  
  • Alastair J. Minnis, and A.B. Scott, Medieval Literary Theory and Criticism c. 1100-c. 1375: The Commentary Tradition (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991).  
  • Walter J. Ong, Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word (London/N.Y.: Methuen, 1982).  
  • Brian Stock, Listening for the Text: On the Uses of the Past (Baltimore/London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990).

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Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

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Key words search

Medieval Studies, Middle Ages, Cultural Studies