Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2010-2011 (archived)


Department: Theology and Religion


Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2010/11 Module Cap None.


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • to explore the spirituality of the English-speaking churches of the Reformation era
  • in particular, to examine the Book of Common Prayer in its social, cultural and political contexts
  • to trace the competing strands of piety in the British cultural sphere in this period
  • to consider why issues of worship and reform were so contentious and divisive in early modern Britain


  • The Book of Common Prayer remains one of the most enduring texts in the English language and central to the development of English Christianity. This module places it in the religious and cultural context of the English and British Reformations. As well as examining the wider history of the Reformations in the British Isles, the module focuses on considering a number of texts relating to worship in the sixteenth and seventeenth century. These include the 'primers' of Henry VIII's reign, the first English-language liturgical texts, and other texts which eventually formed part of the Prayer Book. The module centres on the processes by which the various texts of the Prayer Book (1549, 1552, 1559, 1604, 1637, 1662 and others) came to be produced; this takes us beyond England to look at the reformed Churches in Ireland, Scotland and New England, as well as taking in the alternative, Calvinistic liturgies produced in Scotland and in the Civil War era in England. The wider worship context is also considered, in particular the use of the Psalms and of music in church and beyond it, and changing practices of private prayer and devotion in the Prayer Book milieu. The focus of Protestant devotion around themes of martyrdom and martyrology is an important theme. The module concludes with an examination of two starkly alternative means of interpreting and using this tradition: Puritanism and Laudianism.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • a sound mastery of the spiritual life of early modern English Christianity in its cultural and political context
  • an advanced and detailed knowledge of one or more of the specific texts selected for analysis, including placing that text in the wider context of the subject
  • an understanding of the issues raised for the study of Christian spiriruality raised by the texts and contexts under analysis
Subject-specific Skills:
  • the ability to handle, analyse and interpret complex texts relating to Christian spirituality in the early modern period
  • the ability to place and interpret texts within a full knowledge of their relevant historical and cultural context
  • the ability to draw on the methods and insights of different disciplines, including but not limited to Theology, History and English Literature, in analysis of this kind
Key Skills:
  • advanced research skills, including the ability to locate, evaluate, and summarise key sources, both in print and online, and to cite them to a professional standard
  • advanced communication skills, including the ability to construct a sophisticated argument, supported by the sources, in a clear, concise and convincing manner

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Seminars supply a framework of information and interpretation, which gives students an overview of a subject and a point of departure for their work. They also allow students, under staff supervision, to pool and evaluate the results of their independent work, and to explore the treatment of key texts. Performing and evaluating these tasks in dialogue with one another and with staff introduces subject-specific knowledge and promotes the development of subject-specific and key skills.
  • In addition there are two one-hour tutorials, which give students an opportunity to present plans for their work, and to receive feedback on their formative work, on a one-to-one basis, promoting the development of subject-specific and key skills.
  • The essays require students to investigate particular topics, to present the results of their investigations in a clear and concise manner, and to cite their sources fully, accurately, and consistently, assessing subject-specific knowledge, subject-specific skills, and key skills.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminar 11 fortnightly 2 hours 22
Tutorial 2 1 per term 1 hour 2
Reading and Preparation 276
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 5000 word 100%

Formative Assessment:

One 5000-word essay. At least one formal oral presentation during the course of the module, to be accompanied by a written handout.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University