Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024


Department: Modern Languages and Cultures (Spanish)


Type Open Level 3 Credits 20 Availability Not available in 2023/24 Module Cap 30 Location Durham


  • Spanish Language 2A (SPAN2011) OR Spanish Language 2B (SPAN2111) OR an equivalent qualification to the satisfaction of the Chairman/Chairwoman of the Board of Studies in MLAC or his/her representative.


  • Modern European Languages, Combined Honours and all Joint and 'with' programmes: Spanish Language 4 (SPAN3011). Other: see Chairman/Chairwoman of the Board of Studies in MLAC or his/her representative.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • The module aims to provide students with a better understanding of the culture and history of medieval Spain, through the in-depth study of two important, interrelated textual genres: historiography and epic poetry.
  • It also aims to provide students with the critical tools that will allow them to analyse narrative texts, both fictional and historical, as well as to reflect on the ideological nature of any representation of the past. It is intended that this knowledge will complement and be applicable to texts from other literary periods that are also covered in the curriculum.
  • A further aim of the module is to enhance students’ understanding of the history and evolution of the Spanish language by familiarising them with texts written in Old Castilian, as well as contributing to the development of their own command of the modern language by means of lectures delivered in Spanish and one of the pieces of summative assessment being written in Spanish.


  • The course is designed to explore two key areas of cultural production in medieval Iberia: historiography and epic poetry. Through the study of key texts in these two genres, students will witness the creation of a model of history which, to a great extent, is still relevant in current Spanish society. By both identifying the literary features of historical texts and looking at epic poetry as a form of historical representation, the module aims to help students develop a critical approach to narratives, and to make them aware of the ideological content implicit in any representation of the past, whether it be literary or historiographical.
  • The first part of the module will be dedicated to the study of the creation of perhaps the most popular historical myth of Medieval - and Modern - Spain: the literary and historical figure of Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar, ‘El Cid’. The two epic poems that narrate the hero's exploits will be studied: Cantar de Mio Cid, a masterpiece of Spanish literature, and Mocedades de Rodrigo, a curious example of late epic.
  • The second part of the module will focus on the figure of King Alfonso X (‘the Learned’) of Castile, whose activity as patron of knowledge and the arts in the last third of the 13th century was paramount for the creation of a vernacular prose tradition able to embrace historical, legal, philosophical and scientific contents. A selection of Alfonso's historical and - to a lesser extent - legal works will be studied in depth (Estoria de España, General Estoria and Siete Partidas). Additionally, attention will be paid to post-Alphonsine historiography as well as to the work of Don Juan Manuel, Alfonso’s grand-nephew and literary successor, with the study of the Libro de las tres razones.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Acquire knowledge on some of the main works and authors in the Spanish literary canon.
  • Enhance knowledge of the origins and evolution of the Spanish language.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Apply a critical approach to historical and literary narratives, including those that can be found in modern and contemporary history books and the media.
  • Improved comprehension and reading skills in Spanish
Key Skills:
  • Analyse narrative texts and understand the way narrative ideologically shapes the historian's accounts of the past.

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

  • The module will be taught intensively either in Term 1 or in Term 2 on a ‘short-fat’ basis. Lectures (twice weekly) will deliver key information about the module.
  • A weekly seminar with smaller groups will allow for individual presentations and active discussions.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 20 2 per week 1 Hour 20
Seminars 10 1 per week 1 Hour 10
Preparation and Reading 170
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay 1 Component Weighting: 40%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 1 2000 words 100% No
Component: Essay 2 Component Weighting: 60%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 2 3000 words 100% No

Formative Assessment:


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