The course is taught mostly in small seminars, where you will be expected to make contributions and engage with instructors’ exposition of their cutting-edge research.
All students study following two core course units, two elective units, one skills unit, and write a dissertation.
Core course units:
Research Development Course
You will learn how to find, organise, deploy and assess the primary and secondary sources of your research. You will be introduced to a wide variety of materials and approaches related to the Middle Ages and analyse, assess and formulate arguments related to specific medieval topics.
You will also choose one of the following two units:
Medieval London: Society and Literature
Most of the significant literary figures of medieval England were either born in London (Geoffrey Chaucer, Thomas Usk) or spent significant periods of time in the city (William Langland, John Gower, Thomas Hoccleve, John Lydgate, Thomas Malory). The aim of the unit is to study the lives and writings of these men within the context of the city: its government, administration, struggles with the Crown and its economy.
You will explore the traditions and forms of medieval story-telling. In addition to texts in Old and Middle English, you will study key French and Italian texts in translation. We will explore various narrative genres, such as epic, chronicle, romance, and fabliau, and some of the major tale collections of the period, such as the Decameron and the Canterbury Tales. The aim of this unit is to broaden your knowledge of the range of medieval narratives and to provide you with relevant theoretical approaches so that you can develop the types of analyses that you perform on them.
Elective course units:
The Court in England and Europe
The main aim of the unit is to examine comparatively the development of princely courts in late medieval Europe, with particular reference to the social and governmental functions of the court, the role and composition of the courtiers, the imagery and propaganda of the court, and the popular responses to it.
Byzantium and the First Crusade
You will trace the response of the rulers of the Byzantine Empire to the First Crusade and the establishment of the Latin East in the years 1095 to 1143. You will focus on the background of Byzantine relations with the West and on events before and after the battle of Mantzikert in 1071. You will also examine a range of Byzantine and Western source materials in translation.
Arthurian Literature and Tradition in England
This unit will centre on a study of Arthurian literature in England from Geoffrey of Monmouth to Malory’s Morte d’Arthur. It involves comparative study of texts across three centuries and at least two languages (foreign language texts may be read in translation) and examines the critical issues raised by intertextuality and the literary treatment of myth and legend.
The English Reformation and its Medieval Background
You will explore the Reformation, paying as much regard to what was going on before as what emerged in the long-term. You will attempt to put these turbulent decades into their own long-term context by outlining the social and political conditions of the fifteenth century.
Byzantium and the Fourth Crusade
You will trace the sequence of events that culminated in the sack of Constantinople by the army of the Fourth Crusade in April 1204, placing them in the context of relations between the Byzantines and previous crusades. Translations of accounts left by contemporaries and eyewitnesses (both Byzantine and Western) will be studied in detail as we try to discover why an expedition that set out with the intention of recovering Jerusalem from Islam ended up capturing and pillaging the greatest city in the Christian world.
The Visual and the Verbal
You will be provided with an opportunity to explore the mutually illuminating relationship between art and literature in the medieval period. You will study the iconographic, patterned, subject-centred evidence of manuscript art (with reference to other visual arts as appropriate).
You will study one of the following skills units:
Latin for Medievalists
You will learn enough Latin to be able to use it for research purposes which is especially useful if you are intending to go on to doctoral work.
Reading Middle English
This unit combines close reading with appropriate contextualisation, and aims to introduce you to a variety of Middle English texts. It will enable you to become aware of dialect variation and of the major differences in the nature of Middle English between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries.
Reading Old English
You will be provided with the expertise necessary to read Old English poetry and prose in the original language at a level sufficient to allow literary analysis.
You will be provided with a critical understanding of the history and nature of the museum sector in Britain. Taught at the Museum of London, the unit will use this institution as an example to explore the nature of museum collections, how these are acquired and cared for, and how museums go about using these collections to communicate to a range of different audiences.
This is a 12,000-15,000 word study, which you will write under the supervision of a member of staff with expertise in the area.
On completion of the course graduates will have:
a broad understanding of the Middle Ages based on relevant aspects of the disciplines (History, Literary Criticism, Languages, Museum Studies and Archaeology) which contribute to the course
awareness of the interrelationship of political, cultural, and social change within medieval society
a knowledge of the location and organisation of primary and secondary sources of evidence regarding the medieval period, and an understanding of how to deploy these effectively
an understanding of how the human past may be studied through an examination of material remains
an appreciation of the methodologies in the disciplines represented in the course and their application
a systematic knowledge of a variety of techniques of enquiry and analysis used in the disciplines represented in the course
mastery of the established principles and practice of research in medieval studies.