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2023/24 Taught Postgraduate Module Catalogue

MEDV5340M Medieval Bodies

30 creditsClass Size: 10

Module manager: Catherine Batt

Taught: Semester 1 (Sep to Jan) View Timetable

Year running 2023/24

This module is not approved as an Elective

Module summary

This module will enable you to develop the analytical skills demanded by cultural history and cultural studies. It will help you to understand and deploy critical theory in historical contexts, and to analyse culture through the interdisciplinary use of different kinds of evidence: textual, visual, and material. The focus for our explorations will be the profound interest of medieval cultures in the human body: a topic which provided continual inspiration to critical theorists such as Bakhtin, Foucault, and Heidegger. To understand medieval bodies, we have to get to grips with concepts of the self different from our modern ones (before the invention of psychology); concepts of the body based on a very different medicine from ours; different, more permeable boundaries between the human and the non-human; different perceptions of ethnicity before the modern concept of race; and different ideas of gender. Join us on a journey of discovery!


To help students understand cultural approaches to the Middle Ages, providing methodological underpinnings for their research. It will introduce them to working with evidence in different media: (1) textual, (2) visual and (3) material evidence. It will introduce them to working with different historical themes: hagiography; the monstrous; interactions between Christians, Jews and Muslims; medicine; and medievalism. It will introduce them to key readings in cultural theory: gender, ethnicity, postcolonialism, etc.

Learning outcomes
A thorough understanding of ancient, medieval and modern theories of the body
The ability to work with advanced theoretical models in a chosen historical context
Learning outcomes will include:
* An awareness of a wide range of medieval cultures, of different social strata both within and beyond Western Europe.
* An understanding of the range of media and genres through which medieval people constructed the past, and how their choice of medium/genre shaped that construction.
* A sophisticated understanding of how critical theory helps us to address often patchy source material from radically different cultures, and of how those cultures may help us to question and refine critical theory


Themes covered will include:
- Saints' bodies
- Subjectivities
- The fabliau body
- Monsters and monstrous bodies
- Sick bodies and the medical 'gaze'
- Devotional bodies
- Magical bodies
- Regarding and constructing 'others'
- Gendered bodies.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours278.00
Total Contact hours22.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)300.00

Private study

'Private study', which may take the form of group study, will be in preparation for classes.
Independent learning will go mostly towards preparation of assessed work.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Students' weekly presentations as well as participation in class debate.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay1 x 2,000 word essay due by 12 noon Monday, Week 740.00
Essay1 x 4,000 word essay due by 12 noon Monday, Examination 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: 25/10/2023


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