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2011/12 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

ENGL3203 Gender, Body, Self and God: Late-Medieval Identities

20 credits


Module manager: Dr Catherine Batt

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2011/12

Pre-requisite qualifications

Grade B at 'A' Level in English Language or Literature or equivalent or an achieved mark of 56 or above in a Level 1 module in English.

Please note: This module is restricted to Level 2 and 3 students.

This module is mutually exclusive with

ENGL32470Gender Issues in Medi Engl Lit

Module replaces


This module is approved as an Elective

Module summary

'Eat on this side, it is very well cooked!' - What are we to make of St Lawrence’s cheerful banter with his torturers as they grill him over an open fire? - How do we respond to a world in which Sloth is a hellish chicken bent on your destruction and the cure for insanity is a disembowelled cockerel slapped on your head? - What do those medieval bodies vowed to chastity and dedicated to God have to say to modern bodies, in terms of gender and identity? - How do stories of saints use the body to describe the soul, and how do these stories relate to autobiography? To answer these questions we shall consider some male- and female-authored twelfth- and thirteenth-century writing for religious women, two very different accounts of spiritual identity – one written by a male aristocrat in 1354, which startlingly imagines his sinful self as a wounded, putrefying body, and one dictated by the fifteenth-century Margery Kempe, who vigorously asserts her own version of the spiritual life – and we will conclude with a look at Chaucer’s problematic Prioress's Tale.Throughout, the emphasis is on how medieval preoccupations offer challenges to, and continuities with, modern ideas and theories about the body, writing, and identity.


By the end of this module, students will have:
- surveyed a range of literature, spanning three centuries, about lay and institutional religious modes of devotional practice and expression;
- gained an appreciation of the complexity of medieval religious experience;
- considered how one might test modern ideas of selfhood and the body against the evidence medieval texts provide;
- gained a sense of the diversities and continuities medieval and modern perceptions of the individual provide;
- developed an awareness of the importance of gender to genre.

Learning outcomes
Students will have developed:
- the ability to use written and oral communication effectively;
- the capacity to analyse and critically examine diverse forms of discourse;
- the ability to manage quantities of complex information in a structured and systematic way;
- the capacity for independent thought and judgement;
- critical reasoning;
- research skills, including the retrieval of information, the organisation of material and the evaluation of its importance;
- IT skills;
- efficient time management and organisation skills;
- the ability to learn independently.

Skills outcomes
- Skills for effective communication, oral and written.
- Capacity to analyse and critically examine diverse forms of discourse.
- Ability to acquire quantities of complex information of diverse kinds in a structured and systematic way.
- Capacity for independent thought and judgement.
- Critical reasoning.
- Research skills, including information retrieval skills, the organisation of material, and the evaluation of its importance.
- IT skills.
- Time management and organisational skills.
- Independent learning.


Week 1: Modern and medieval ideas about gender identity
Week 2: Anglo-Norman Saints' Lives (Catherine and Lawrence)
Week 3: The Early-Middle-English St Margaret
Week 4: Sawles Warde, Hali Mei'had
Week 5: Ancrene Wisse, I
Week 6: Ancrene Wisse, II
Week 7: Henry, duke of Lancaster's Book of Holy Medicines
Week 8: Margery Kempe, I
Week 9: Margery Kempe, II
Week 10: The Prioress's Tale.

Extra lectures on: retrieving medieval 'theory'; medieval religious institutions; religious life and material culture; religious experience for lay people; genres and genders.

Teaching methods

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours185.00
Total Contact hours15.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

- Teaching will be through weekly seminars (10 x 1 hour) plus up to 5 additional hours (content to be determined by the module tutor).
- The 5 additional hours may include lectures, plenary sessions, film showings, or the return of unassessed/assessed essays.

Private Study: Reading, seminar preparation and essay writing.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

- Seminar contribution
- Unassessed essay (Week 7).

Methods of assessment

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay4,000 words100.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

One unassessed essay is required (submitted in week 7) which will be returned individually. This does not form part of the assessment for this module, but is a requirement and MUST be submitted. Students who fail to submit the unassessed essay will be awarded a maximum mark of 40 for the module (a bare pass).

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 07/03/2012


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