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Unit information: The Apocalypse in Culture and Society (1000-1500) in 2015/16

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Unit name The Apocalypse in Culture and Society (1000-1500)
Unit code HISTM0032
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Holdenried
Open unit status Not open




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

Description including Unit Aims

This option investigates how the description of the End of the World in the Book of Revelation (or Apocalypse) has been used in different political, social and religious contexts via the study of a specific medium, that of illustrated Apocalypse manuscripts which combine the biblical text of Revelation with both written commentary and images. The surviving manuscript material is substantial and comprises a particularly rich body of English and French manuscripts produced in the period c. 1250-1400. This Unit considers how and why these illustrated Apocalypses circulated during the medieval period. In so doing, it approaches history as an essentially interdisciplinary enterprise, drawing on insights from history, theology, literature and art. This unit is conceived to contribute to the aim of the MA to allow students to select their optional units from a wide-ranging choice of specialist courses which reflect the research strengths and broad research interests of the department. This unit explores illustrated Apocalypse manuscripts to provide a case study of a well defined and coherent subject area (medieval apocalypticism) but also permits students to engage with issues and questions that have broad applications in the study of medieval history, in particular the relationship between clerical and lay religious practices, gender and literacy. Students will be encouraged to explore a range of primary materials, such Apocalypse manuscripts, theological writings and the interior decoration of churches.

Intended Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students should have gained a secure understanding of medieval beliefs in the End of the World, including their political influence, devotional context and artistic representation. They should also be aware of key issues concerning the nature of literacy, lay religion and gender in the medieval period. Further, students should have become proficient in the technical aspects of using medieval manuscripts for the purposes of writing intellectual and cultural history, that is, they should be able to use and understand bibliographical aids, catalogue descriptions, facsimilies, as well as the extant manuscripts themselves. In addition, students should have developed and practised a range of important research-related skills building on those introduced through the mandatory core units: the ability to locate problems and frame questions; the identification and testing of hypotheses; the presentation of arguments that are clear, structured and substantiated; the ability to build up bibliographies; the mobilisation of various types of primary evidence, and an understanding of the distinctive qualities of different sources; the ability to locate one’s arguments within current scholarly debates; awareness of different disciplinary approaches to problems; and the accurate use of scholarly apparatus and conventions in the presentation of written work. This unit will also serve as a possible foundation for further postgraduate work leading to a research degree.

Teaching Information

10 x 90 minute seminars + 2 x half hour tutorials for essay preparation and essay feedback

Assessment Information

1 x 5,000 word essay

Reading and References

M. Camille, ‘Seeing and Reading: some visual implications of medieval literacy and illiteracy’, Art History 8 (1985), 26-49 S. Lewis, Reading Images: Narrative Discourse and Reception in the Thirteenth-Century Illuminated Apocalypse (1995) Rosemary M. Wright, Art and Antichrist in Medieval Europe (1995) D.McKitterick, The Trinity Apocalypse (2005) R. Freyhan, ’Joachism and the English Apocalypse’, Journal of The Warburg and Courtauld Institute 18 (1955), 211-244