Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2012-2013 (archived)

Module ENGL41830: Issues in Medieval and Renaissance Studies

Department: English Studies

ENGL41830: Issues in Medieval and Renaissance Studies

Type Tied Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2012/13 Module Cap None.
Tied to R9K607


  • None.


  • Research Methods and Resources module, as approved for SMLAC, or, by concession an alternative Research Methods and Resources module in another Department, compatible with the MA in Medieval and Renaissance Studies.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To encourage students to engage in a complex way with broad issues central to the Medieval and Renaissance periods and an explicitly inter-disciplinary fashion. This module will provide one of the most distinctive aspect of the M.A. in Medieval and Renaissance Studies and is, along with the Research Methods module, the intellectual and pedagogical core of the MA.
  • To provide greater awareness of the specialist approaches of different disciplines to Medieval and Renaissance studies, and of the advanced inter-disciplinary approaches available.
  • To provide an opportunity to write an extended essay on a specialised and complex issue in Medieval and Renaissance studies in necessarily interdisciplinary fashion.
  • To encourage intellectual dialogue between students about their research at an early stage of their postgraduate education, through seminars and the presentation of discussion documents.
  • To provide a wider appreciation of complex issues in Medieval and Renaissance studies, in preparation for the dissertation.
  • To develop student skills, appropriate to Level 4, in analysis and writing about these issues.


  • The seminars will engage students as a group on a range of subjects in an interdisciplinary fashion. Appropriate themes for seminars would be chosen and programmed at the start of each Michaelmas term by the director of the M.A. in Medieval and Renaissance studies, in consultation with members of the centre for Medieval and Renaissance studies.
  • Three themes would form the intellectual core of the module: Editing and using manuscript and early printed sources; what can historians legitimately do with literary texts?; what can literary a scholars legitimately do with historical texts?
  • Other themes chosen will (depending on staff availability), in so far as is possible, be targeted at the intellectual interests (and likely intellectual directions) of each particular cohort of students. As well as preparing students to write the assessed work for this module, it is also therefore likely to assist them directly aswell as indirectly in preparation for their dissertation and possibly even their chosen optional modules.
  • Typical themes might include: orality and written culture; the meaning of the past in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance: what is it, and how best do we access it?; how far is history the ideology of the period that writes it?; literal and symbolic truth in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance; literacy in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance; feminist historiography/critical and Medieval and Renaissance studies; Latin and the vernaculars; Medieval and Renaissance text-types. This list is by no means exhaustive.
  • The seminars will be based around material drawn from at least two disciplines (preferably more), and student presentations are expected similarly to draw upon material drawn from more than one disciplinary tradition. Students will be directed at the start of the course to literature and other sources on the subjects of the designated seminars.
  • In choosing the subject of their assessed work, students would not be confined to those topics for which their had been seminars; but any proposals falling outside the themes of the seminars would have to be approved by the Director of the M.A. in Medieval and Renaissance Studies in Consultation with the appropriate tutorial supervisor (s).

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Familiarity with key, complex issues in Medieval and Renaissance studies, and the principal works of modern scholarship in several disciplines concerning these issues.
  • A specialized understanding of inter-disciplinary approaches relevant to the issues under consideration.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • An ability to write an extended essay on a specialized and complex issue in Medieval and Renaissance studies that demonstrates engagement with more than one discipline.
Key Skills:

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

    • In seminars students will benefit from focused discussion with a wide variety of Durham academics who specialize in different disciplines but whose expertise is in whole or in part in Medieval and Renaissance studies Some seminars will be taught by one academic, but where appropriate the seminars would be taught by more than one, each from a different discipline and thus able to bring differing disciplinary perspectives to bear upon the issue at hand at the highest level. Students will be expected to give one short presentation to a seminar, and to contribute to a discussion in those seminars to which they are not presenting.
    • Tutorials in Epiphany will provide the framework within which each student plans, conducts further research and writes, under supervison, the assessed work; and tutorial support may be provided by more than one superviser in more than one department/discipline. Students will be directed by their superviser (s) to further literature and sources specific to their chosen subject of assessed work in the tutorial during the 3rd week of Epiphany term.
    • Learning Outcomes will be tested through assessment of the 5,000-word essay.
    • Though this will be optional, students will also be expected to attend the History department's research seminars and the seminars associated with the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, where they would benefit from exposure to the presentation of research at an advanced level by visiting and Durham-based scholars.

    Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

    Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
    Tutorials 2 In weeks 3 and 5 of Epiphany 1 hour 2
    Seminars 10 Fortnightly, in Michaelmas and Epiphany 2 hours 20
    Preparation and Reading 278
    Total 300

    Summative Assessment

    Component: Essay Component Weighting: 100%
    Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
    Assessed essay/ work of textual criticism 5,000 words 100%

    Formative Assessment:

    Presentation to one taught seminar each term; discussion of work in progress in tutorials, on the basis of oral reports and the production of a short, tailored bibliography for the tutorial in the 5th week of Epiphany; presentation of the subject of the assessed work or dissertation topic.

    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