Torture and Sacrifice: the literature of early Christianity - CLAS6860

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2022 to 2023.


The module will introduce students to the literature of early Christianity. A variety of texts will be read – the gospels, apocryphal gospels, early martyrdom texts, edifying tales and hagiography – to show the variety of genres that existed and the intertextual fluidity of these genres. The texts will be contextualised against the historical developments of the Roman Empire. Social and cultural issues will also be raised, such as the new roles of women and men in an emerging Christian world and the concepts of pain, sacrifice, authority, virginity and asceticism will be examined.


Contact hours

Total Contact Hours: 40
Total Private Study Hours: 260
Total Study Hours: 300

Method of assessment

Main assessment methods:

• Creative Assignment (2,000 words) – 40%
• Essay (3,000 words) – 60%

Reassessment method:

• 100% Coursework (3,000 words)

Indicative reading

Indicative Reading List:

Cameron, A. (2010). The Last Pagans of Rome (Oxford: Oxford University Press)
Cloke, G. (1995). This Female Man of God: Women and Spiritual Power in the Patristic Age, AD 350-450 (New York: Routledge).
Elm, S. (1994). Virgins of God: The Making of Asceticism in Late Antiquity (Oxford: Clarendon Press)
Harmless, W. (2004). Desert Christians: An Introduction to the Literature of Early Monasticism (Oxford: Oxford University Press)

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1 Show systematic critical understanding, through clear expression, of selected authors and topics in early Christianity;
2 Demonstrate developed skills in exegesis, critical analysis, and assessment of a selection of texts from Late Antiquity and Byzantium;
3 Show systematic understanding of the interpretations of, and the relationships between, topics covered in classes;
4 Utilise and critically evaluate primary sources and current research relating to early Christianity.

The intended generic learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1 Evaluate critically primary and secondary sources;
2 Apply their knowledge of methods of inquiry to new areas of knowledge;
3 Communicate clearly and logically in writing.


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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