Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2012-2013 (archived)

Module MELA40630: Issues in Medieval and Renaissance Studies

Department: Modern Language and Cultures

MELA40630: Issues in Medieval and Renaissance Studies

Type Tied Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2012/13 Module Cap
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 from explicitly inter-disciplinary perspectives. This module is central to the distinctive identity of the Durham M.A. in Medieval and Renaissance Studies.
  • To provide greater awareness of what is at stake in the advanced interdisciplinary approaches available, as well as in specialist disciplinary ones.
  • To provide an opportunity to write an extended essay on a specialised and complex issue in Medieval and Renaissance studies in a way informed by advanced interdisciplinary perspectives.
  • To encourage intellectual dialogue between students about their research at an early stage of their postgraduate education.
  • 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 broad subjects approached from interdisciplinary perspectives. Appropriate themes for seminars are chosen and programmed at the start of each Michaelmas term by the convenor of the Issues module, in consultation with the Director of the M.A. in Medieval and Renaissance studies and members of the Institute for Medieval and Renaissance studies.
  • Likely themes are ‘What are the Middle Ages?’; ‘What is the Renaissance?’; Death; Bodies; Politics; Learning; Religion.As well as preparing students to write the assessed work for this module, the investigation of broad themes and interdisciplinary approaches is is also intended to assist them in preparation for their dissertation and possibly even their chosen optional modules.
  • Seminars will typically be based around material drawn from at least two disciplines, and led by two members of staff who have differing approaches and/or disciplinary affiliations.
  • Students will be directed to literature and other sources on the subjects of the designated seminars. They will be required to read specified items in advance of the seminar, and encouraged to engage in further reading afterwards.
  • In choosing the subject of their assessed work, students are not confined to those topics which are the focus of 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, and a greater awareness of what is at stake in particular disciplinary approaches.
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.
    • Seminars will include formative work in both groups and individually, where students formulate and present their own ideas and respond to those of their peers and instructors.
    • 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 supervisor in more than one department/discipline. Students will be directed by their supervisor(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 research seminars of the Institute for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, as well as relevant seminars within the constituent departments of the M.A. This will enable them to benefit from exposure to the presentation of research at an advanced level by visiting and Durham-based scholars.
    • Students are also strongly encouraged to attend the Medieval and Renaissance Postgraduate Discussion Group (MRPDG), which provides a friendly environment in which to practise responding to research ideas, and which may help in the development of their own ideas for research projects for their essays and dissertations.

    Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

    Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
    Tutorials 2 In Epiphany Term 1 hour 2
    Seminars 8 Fortnightly, in Michaelmas and Epiphany 2 hours 16
    Preparation and Reading 282
    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:

    Formative work in seminars, including group exercises as well as the formulation of ideas individually; discussion of work in progress in tutorials, on the basis of oral reports and the production of a short, tailored bibliography for the second tutorial.

    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