Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)

Module THEO3811: Tractarians and Modernists: Catholic Retrievals

Department: Theology and Religion

THEO3811: Tractarians and Modernists: Catholic Retrievals

Type Open Level 3 Credits 20 Availability Not available in 2023/24 Module Cap None. Location Durham


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Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • to introduce students to two formative movements in the Churches of England and Rome in the long nineteenth century (1789-1914), and to develop critical thinking about the issues that prompted and were developed by these movements. The Oxford and Catholic Modernist movements are often viewed as antithetical: the first rejecting the present, the second embracing it. But such a contrast is too simple, and one might almost proffer the reverse in regard to the Oxford Movement on the one hand, and of Roman Catholic Modernism on the other. In truth, both addressed present concerns and both were forms of retrieval. Through reading key thinkers in both movements, this module aims to interrogate the relationship between Catholicism and modernity.


  • reading primary texts by key Tractarians and Modernists – John Keble, Edward Pusey, John Henry Newman; Friedrich von Hügel, Alfred Loisy, George Tyrrell – and of other significant but less prominent authors – Christina Rossetti, Josephine Hope, Maude Petre. Through reading such works and relevant secondary literature the module will address the relationships between such topics as stability and change, scripture and tradition, community and individual, authority and conscience, faith and reason, prayer and mysticism, theology and other disciplines.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • the history of both movements, their beginnings, development and ending, and debates about these; the concerns, concepts and arguments that these movements developed.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • understanding the development of theological ideas in historical context—the social, personal and intellectual factors that affect and effect thought—and an ability to critically discuss, assess and present such ideas in their 2 original nineteenth-century context and in relation to present arguments and discussions.
Key Skills:
  • ability to research and read primary texts, distinguishing between their initial meaning and reception and their contemporary import; ability to address theological ideas and arguments through historical narrative, to present such complex interrogations through careful and compelling prose.

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

  • twenty lecture/seminars of ninety minutes each will enable appropriate teaching and learning, with the ratio of lecturing to discussion varying from week to week depending on the need to impart knowledge, focus attention, steer research, engage students in the detailed reading and analysis of specific texts. Summative essays will enable students to develop and demonstrate, at sufficient length, their knowledge of the Tractarian and Modernist movements and their proficiency in subject and key skills.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminars 20 Weekly 1.5 Hours 30
Preparation 170
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Summative Word Essay 1 Component Weighting: 40%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 1 2500 100%
Component: Summative Word Essay 2 Component Weighting: 60%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 2 2500 100%

Formative Assessment:

Seminar discussion; feedback on the first summative essay.

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