Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2012-2013 (archived)

Module MELA41130: The Subject in Question: Lyric Poetry of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance

Department: Modern Language and Cultures

MELA41130: The Subject in Question: Lyric Poetry of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance

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


  • None.


  • Research Methods and Resources module; Issues in Medieval and Renaissance Studies.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To consolidate students' knowledge of the range of lyric poetry produced in the Middle Ages and Renaissance in western Europe.
  • To build on the Issues in Medieval and Renaissance Studies module by encouraging an interdisciplinary approach that seeks to identify the common features of texts produced over several centuries and in diverse locations.
  • To foster critical reflection on the construction and presentation of subjective identity in lyric poetry during the periods studied.
  • To complement other optional modules in the MA in Medieval and Renaissance Studies offered in MLAC and in other deparetments.
  • To offer the possibility of further critical exploration of the topic area in the MA dissertation module.


  • This module will consist of a critical survey of the development of the traditon of lyric poetry from Antiquity to the end of the Renaissance in France, Germany, Italy and Spain (dependent on staff availability), with special reference to the development and expoitation of the first-person voice, modes of cultural transmission, form and rhetoric, the materiality of the medieval and Renaissance text, and the creation and reinforcement of gender roles. Particular attention will be given to cross-cultural considerations, and to the role of such poetry in the creation of the discourse of romantic love that persists to the present. Authors and topics to be studed will include (dependent on staff availability) the troubadours and trouveres; the poets of the dolce stil nuovo; the Minnesanger; the cancioneros; Ausias March; Charles d'Orleans; the poets of the Pleiade. Attention will also given to the medieval Latin Lyric. Rather than dealing with each national tradition in isolation, seminars will be organised chronologically in order to illustrate cross-cultural developments of the European lyric. Regular plenary seminars will bring together staff from different language departments in order to permit interdisciplinary discussion.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • An in-depth knowledge of the lyric tradition of western Europe during the period studied with particular reference to the contruction and development of the lyric voice.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • An ability to trace the development of common themes, techniques and images across national traditions and to account for their transmission.
  • An ability to write cogently and persuasively on a specialised comparative topic within the subject area of the module, drawing on the work of previous scholars as necessary.
Key Skills:
  • Enhanced presentation skills using a variety of media (written work, seminar papers, etc.).

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

  • In seminars students will have the oppertunity to discuss both the development of the lyric tradition from Antiquity to the end of the Renaissance in a variety of European countries, and to examine representative poems, with particular emphasis being given to the development of the lyric 'I'. Study of individual national traditions with subject specialists will be supplemented by plenary seminars at which different traditions will be compared and the links between them explored. A 5,000-word essay on a comparative topic will draw on and deepen this interdisciplinary perspective. Two 1-hour tutorials in the Epiphany Term will enable students to select and research a suitable topic in collaboration with their chosen supervisor(s). Seminar presentations by students will enable further enhancement of oral prsentation skills.
  • While a working knowledge of French, German, Italian or Spanish would be helpful for students, it is recognised that the interdisciplinary nature of the module makes study of texts in translation inevitable. It is hoped that students will be able to draw on a range of linguistic knowledge in collaborative working to permit greater access to the original language of the texts studied.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Tutorials 2 In weeks 4 and 6 of Epiphany Term 1 hour 2
Seminars 10 Fortnightly, in Michaelmas and Epiphany Terms 2 Hours 20
Preparation and Reading 278
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 5,000 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

At least one seminar presentation per term; a draft bibliography on the chosen essay topic for the second tutorial in the Epiphany Term.

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