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Unit information: From Hell to Heaven: the Bible and spirituality in 2015/16

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Unit name From Hell to Heaven: the Bible and spirituality
Unit code THRS30080
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Professor. Muessig
Open unit status Open

THRS11009 or equivalent



School/department Department of Religion and Theology
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

This unit will examine the religious culture of Italy from c. 500 to 1500, with emphasis on the later medieval period. Lectures (along with assigned readings) will examine a variety of sources for what they reveal about: models of behaviour; private and public morality; religious practice; and conceptions of the afterlife. Sources will be textual (e.g., lives of saints such as Francis of Assisi) and visual (e.g. Sienese art). These lectures will serve as the first hour of the unit’s weekly meetings, introducing themes and debates which will be the focus of small-group discussion and seminars in the second hour; here, students will discuss issues among themselves before sharing their conclusions with the rest of the class at the end of the meeting.


  • To provide an understanding of the religious culture of medieval Italy
  • To provide an understanding of the role of religion within medieval culture
  • To develop written presentation and argumentation skills through essays, group work and seminar presentations

Intended Learning Outcomes

By the end of the unit students will be expected to have:

  • acquired knowledge and skill to discuss significant aspects of Italian medieval spirituality;
  • acquired knowledge and skill to discuss the role of religion within medieval culture;
  • acquired skills through group work, seminar presentations and through an assessed essay, and one 2-hour exam in presenting, analyzing and evaluating complex ideas and arguments in both written and oral forms.

And additionally (specific to Level H) to:

  • incorporate a consistently strong grasp of detail with respect to content
  • argue effectively and at length (including an ability to cope with complexities and to describe and deploy these effectively)
  • display to a high level, skills in selecting, applying, interpreting and organising information, including evidence of a high level of bibliographical control
  • describe, evaluate and/or challenge current scholarly thinking
  • discriminate between different kinds of information, processes, interpretations
  • take a critical stance towards scholarly processes involved in arriving at historical knowledge and/or relevant secondary literature
  • engage with relevant theoretical, philosophical or social constructs for understanding relevant works or traditions
  • demonstrate an understanding of concepts and an ability to conceptualise
  • situate material within relevant contexts (invoking interdisciplinary contexts where appropriate)
  • apply strategies laterally (perhaps leading to innovative results).

Teaching Information

The unit will be taught via lectures and small group work. For each meeting a one-hour lecture will be given by the unit tutor. In the second hour of the unit students will then be expected to discuss in smaller groups key issues relevant to the lecture. The lecturer will assign each group specific problems to analyze. Each group will then present its findings. At least once during the unit, the lecturer will assign each student an individual seminar presentation for which the student will be responsible for expounding on specific key themes.

Assessment Information

The unit will be assessed by one summative 3000-word essay (50%) and one unseen examination of two hours comprising 2 questions out of 8 (50%)

Reading and References

  • D. Webb, Saints and Cities in Medieval Italy (Manchester, 2006)
  • Francis and Clare of Assisi: The Complete Works (London, 1982)
  • J. Larner, Italy in the Age of Dante and Petrarch, 1216-1380 (London, 1980)
  • K Jansen et al. (ed.), Medieval Italy. Texts in Translation (Philadelphia, 2009)
  • F. Petrarch, The Portable Petrarch (ed. M. Musa) (London, 2007).
  • A. Thompson, Cities of God: The Religion of the Italian Communes, 1125-1325 (University Park, 2005)