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Unit information: Memory and the Middle Ages in 2015/16

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Unit name Memory and the Middle Ages
Unit code HIST20084
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Pohl
Open unit status Open




School/department Department of History (Historical Studies)
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

Memory is at the root of all history. It is a powerful force allowing us to develop a sense of the past and our place in it. Throughout recorded history, humans have developed different ways of remembering the past given their specific social, political and cultural conditions. The European Middle Ages are widely recognised as a period marked by both important changes and continuities. As a result, memory during the Middle Ages took on a variety of specific forms and formats, sometimes continuing traditions inherited from Antiquity, other times inventing entirely new ways of dealing with the past. In this unit, we will explore medieval memory from the following key perspectives: - memory as an intellectual (or cognitive) phenomenon (e.g., mnemonic practices and memory aids taught in the medieval classroom by intellectuals such as Hugh of St. Victor); - memory as a social and communicative phenomenon (e.g., in the context of oral history); - memory as a cultural phenomenon aimed at knowledge transfer and identity formation (we will pay particular attention to the ‘materiality’ of cultural memory in the Middle Ages, including buildings, monuments, art, architecture and manuscripts). Studying these different oral, textual and material formats in which memories were enshrined and handed down for posterity will enable us to see how Cultural Memory Studies can enrich our understanding of the European Middle Ages and history in general.

Aims: - to create an understanding of the significance and formats of memory during the Middle Ages (and of their value for the study of medieval history); - to familiarise students with the key methodologies and terminologies developed in the field of Cultural Memory Studies and teach them to use these with confidence in order to study memory from a variety of historical perspectives; - to enable students to transfer the knowledge gained in this unit when dealing with different types historical sources such as written texts and material objects; - to offer particular perspectives on medieval history to which students can react critically and build their own interpretations

Intended Learning Outcomes

By the end of the unit students should:

1. have learned how to approach an important cultural phenomenon (memory) from a particular historical perspective and by using specific tools and theories of analysis;

2. have formed an awareness of how to analyse continuity and change in long-term (transgenerational) historical contexts;

3. have developed an understanding that notions about the past (both individual and collective) are always influenced by the specific conditions and necessities of the present;

4. have learned to engage with arguments and theories developed both within and without historical studies (e.g., in cultural and literary studies or, more specifically, in Cultural Memory Studies) and recognise the potential of interdisciplinary dialogue for their own academic work

5. recognise the significance of reading and accessing different types of sources when developing historical arguments;

6. be able to identify relevant pieces of evidence in order to illustrate more general historical points;

7. be capable of identifying a particular academic interpretation in order to evaluate it critically and form their own point-of-view

Teaching Information

1 x 2-hour interactive lecture per week

Assessment Information

One summative coursework essay of 3000 words (50%) and one unseen examination of two hours (50%). Both elements will assess ILOs 1-7.

Reading and References

J. Coleman, Ancient and Medieval Memories: Studies in the Reconstruction of the Past (Cambridge, 1992)

M. J. Carruthers, The Book of Memory: A Study of Memory in Medieval Culture (Cambridge, 2001)

A. Erll, A. Nünning and S. B. Young eds., Cultural Memory Studies: An International and Interdisciplinary Handbook (Berlin, 2008)

J. K. Olick, V. Vinitzki-Seroussi, D. Levy eds., The Collective Memory Reader (Oxford, 2001)

M. T. Clanchy, From Memory to Written Record: England 1066–1307 (Oxford, 2012)

R. McKitterick, History and Memory in the Carolingian World (Cambridge, 2004)