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2019/20 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

MEDV3411 Medieval Women Mystics: Visionaries, Saints and Heretics

20 creditsClass Size: 14

Module manager: Dr Marta Cobb
Email: m.k.d.cobb@leeds.ac.uk

Taught: Semester 1 View Timetable

Year running 2019/20

Module replaces

MEDV3410

This module is approved as a discovery module

Module summary

The later Middle Ages saw an increase in opportunities for women within the Christian church, the creation of many women saints, and the composition by women of many texts exploring spiritual experiences in their lives. In this module we will examine the content and context of these texts, as well as the way these women sought to establish their authority as visionaries at a time when the Church and society in general were largely dominated by men. Those who were successful might gain followers and eventually become saints, but those who failed might be executed as heretics. This module will also consider the issue of how these women bridged the perceived divide between the body and the soul, whether by denying, transcending, or transforming the female body. Questions about wider attitudes to women's writing in the Middle Ages, the position of mystics in the Christian church and the literary qualities of their writings will be addressed, as well as the ways in which women's mystical writing reflects contemporary expressions of popular piety, such as manuscript art, paintings and sculpture, with particular reference to images of the Crucifixion. The module will focus on the writings of the English mystics Julian of Norwich and Margery Kempe, and on a range of Continental European women's writing, read in translation.

Objectives

The objectives of this module are:
to gain an insight into the content and context of mystical writing by women in late Medieval Western Europe
to consider the opportunities for a religious life available to women at this time, the social, political and religious factors which affected the production of literature by women, and the ways in which women's mystical writing reflects contemporary expressions of popular piety, such as manuscript art, paintings, and sculpture, with particular reference to images of the Crucifixion as well as male-authored mystical writings
to compare the development of women's mystical writing across Europe in terms of its literary style, public reception, and religious status
To further develop generic and transferable skills

Learning outcomes
1. Identify and discuss as evidence a range of medieval primary sources, especially literature and artwork
2. Analyse and contextualise this primary source material along with secondary reading
3. Demonstrate that they can express their opinions and develop an argument using both oral and written expression.
4. Develop writing and research skills.

Skills outcomes
Study and interpretation of primary sources, including material culture
Development and substantiation of students’ own arguments
Considering primary source material within the historical context


Syllabus

This module is divided into two sections. After a seminar in week one which will introduce the subject matter (the subject of mysticism in general as well as the position of women - and women's writing - in the late medieval Church), the first section will consider examples of visionary writings by and about women in Continental Europe (week 2-5), especially in Italy and the Low Countries. The second section (weeks 6-10), will analyse more deeply the writings of two Middle English mystics - Julian of Norwich and Margery Kempe. Throughout the module, students will have an opportunity to compare the depiction of visionary women who successfully used their vision to gain and consolidate spiritual power and authority with female visionaries who were denounced as heretics. Selections of male-authored mystical writings will also be considered for the sake of comparison. The final week will offer a chance for a review of the module. Throughout the module, questions about wider attitudes to women's writing in the Middle Ages, the position of mystics in the Christian church and the literary qualities of their writings will be addressed, as well as the ways in which women's mystical writing reflects contemporary expressions of popular piety, such as manuscript art, paintings and sculpture, with particular reference to images of the Crucifixion.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Seminar112.0022.00
Private study hours178.00
Total Contact hours22.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

Preparatory reading for seminars.
Engaging with the work of other seminar participants.
Researching and writing essays.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Students will receive formative feedback for both of their two essays. The feedback from the first essay will be received well in advance of the deadline for the second essay. The second essay is weighted significantly more than the first essay in order to benefit students who incorporate feedback from their first essay into their preparation for the second..

Methods of assessment


Coursework
Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay2000 word essay due by 12 noon on Monday of week 840.00
Essay3000 word essay due by 12 noon on Monday of exam week 160.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 30/04/2019

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