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Unit information: Monastic Cultures in 2015/16

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Unit name Monastic Cultures
Unit code MUSIM0145
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Professor. Hornby
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Music
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

This unit will provide an overview of the contribution of archaeology and music to the cultures of western monasticism, focussing on the Middle Ages. On the archaeological side, it will focus particularly on the survey and excavation of sites, buildings and landscapes, and their associated material culture, On the musical side, the characteristics of C5 liturgy and liturgical books will form a background to discussion of the musical language used for chant, and the genres within which it is organised. The two disciplines will come together in understanding spaces, as not just empty places but also as soundscapes within these complex institutions. The module will be organised through the archaeological and musical characteristics associated with the desert fathers, the Benedictines, the new orders of Augustinians, Cistercians and Carthusians, and the mendicant orders of Dominicans and Franciscans. Female cloistered piety will also form a part of our investigations.

This unit aims:

  • to give students an opportunity to expand the breadth of their historical knowledge of medieval music and archaeology, with particular reference to monasticism
  • to expand their knowledge of the associated musical repertoire and to be able to comment accurately and perceptively on matters of style and structure
  • to provide an understanding of the significance of excavations, landscape studies, building archaeology and material culture
  • to develop students' ability to assemble and assimilate information from a wide variety of sources
  • to engage in critical evaluation of texts and artefacts about both music and archaeology
  • to develop effective and detailed arguments, both aurally and in writing
  • to display competence in the practices, processes, techniques and methodologies that underpin EITHER musicological OR archaeological practice (and to demonstrate an appreciation for those practices, processes, techniques and methodologies in the 'foreign' discipline).

Intended Learning Outcomes

Successful completion of this unit will:

  • provide a comprehensive framework against which students can explore and gain deeper understanding of many different types of music or archaeology
  • enable students to describe with confidence the techniques and procedures employed by medieval monastic musicians
  • give students an understanding the archaeology of standing buildings - the phasing of fabric, the reading of style, and the reconstruction of ancient spaces.
  • give students a clear and detailed understanding of the historical contexts in which the monastic buildings and artefacts (including musical ones) came into being
  • enable students to assess how political, economic and social situations have influenced the material under discussion
  • give students an appreciation of how landscape archaeology and history, and the music associated with them, make a particular contribution to the functioning of the medieval western church within society.
  • encourage students to write critically and perceptively about a wide range of musical or archaeological topics, using appropriate language and terminology
  • defend and critique arguments orally and in writing

And additionally (specific to Levels H and M) 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)

And additionally (specific to Level M):

  • apply existing analytical strategies to new repertoires with flexibility and creativity demonstrate the capacity for independent research

Teaching Information

6 X 2-hour lectures; 2 x I-hour lectures; 2 x I-hour BA seminars (prepared by students, facilitated by postgraduate teachers, unassessed, maximum seminar size 15); 1 x 2-hour BA seminars (prepared by students, facilitated by postgraduate teachers, unassessed, maximum seminar size 15); 1 x I-hour tutorial for each pair ofMA in Music and MA in Medieval Studies students; 1 Fieldtrip (full day, to key examples of monastic sites near to Bristol).

Assessment Information


1) Essay (general topic). ca. 3000 words (50%)

2) Essay (specific topic, relating to a particular site, church, manuscript, musical genre, artefact, or group of artefacts) ca. 3000 words (50%). - Levels I and H will be assessed according to different criteria (see Outcomes section, above)


One essay, independently devised and researched, of ca. 4000 words (60%), assessed according to different criteria from Levels I and H (see outcomes section, above)


one individual IS-minute presentation on an independently-researched topic, distinct from that of the essay (40%).

Reading and References

  • M. Aston 1994 Monasteries (Batsford and Tempus BOOks)]
  • James Bond, 2004 Monastic Landscapes Tempus Books "
  • Roger, 1999. Early Medieval Architecture. OUP \1- r C6 Blair J. 2005 The Church in Anglo Saxon Society. eX tlA~V::
  • Sarah Foot 2006 Monastic Life in Anglo-Saxon England 600 - 900
  • David Hiley, Gregorian chant (Cambridge, 2009)
  • John Harper, The Forms and Orders of the Western Liturgy (OKford, 1991)
  • David Hiley, Western Plainchant: A handbook (Oxford, 1991)