Holy Lives, Horrid Deaths: Medieval Saints and their Cults - ENGL7240

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2021 to 2022.


The module provides students with the opportunity to develop their knowledge and understanding of the important medieval genre of hagiography, and to place it within changing contexts of scholarly reception. While the main focus will be upon written saints' lives, students will also be encouraged to consider visual and material evidence (wall paintings, stained glass, manuscript illustrations, the cult of relics). Materials from across Europe (where written, in translation) may be studied for comparative purposes. The module will be structured around a series of themes, which might include: local (Kentish) saints; gender; miracle-working; and patronage. These may vary from year to year.


Contact hours

10 x three-hour seminars (some seminars may take place off-campus, e.g. at Canterbury Cathedral)
Optional field trip to a major shrine or other relevant site

Method of assessment

This module can be taken by standard coursework route or by dissertation. NB: students can only take ONE MODULE by dissertation in stage 3.

Module by standard coursework:
Assessment will be in the form of:
1) an essay of 3000 words responding to a pack of source materials (45%)
2) an independent research essay of 3000 words on a topic of the student's choice (45%)
3) seminar performance mark in accordance with the criteria published in the School of English Undergraduate Handbook (10%)

Module by dissertation:
Assessment will be in the form of:
1) a 500-word dissertation proposal (formative assessment and non-marked)
2) a dissertation of 6000 words (90%)
3) seminar performance mark in accordance with the criteria published in the School of English Undergraduate Handbook (10%)

Indicative reading

Bokenham, Osbern, Legendys of Hooly Wummen, ed. Mary S. Serjeantson (London: Oxford University Press, 1938)
Jacobus de Voragine, The Golden Legend, trans. William Granger Ryan, 2 vols (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993)

Bernau, Anke, and Eva von Contzen, eds, Sanctity as Literature in Late Medieval Britain (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2015)
Minnis, Alastair, and Rosalynn Voaden, eds, Medieval Holy Women in the Christian Tradition, c. 1100 – c. 1500 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2010)
Morris, Colin, and Peter Roberts, eds, Pilgrimage: The English Experience from Becket to Bunyan (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002)
Riches, Samantha, and Sarah Salih, eds, Gender and Holiness: Men, Women, and Saints in Late Medieval Europe (London and New York: Routledge, 2002)
Salih, Sarah, ed., A Companion to Middle English Hagiography (Woodbridge: D.S. Brewer, 2006)
Winstead, Karen, Virgin Martyrs: Legends of Sainthood in Late Medieval England (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1997)

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 – demonstrate a systematic understanding of medieval hagiography, including an appreciation of its scholarly reception
2 – deploy key techniques such as close reading and iconographical analysis in order to critically assess primary source materials
3 – critically evaluate current scholarship in the field of medieval hagiography
4 – utilise primary materials in an interdisciplinary fashion in order to develop coherent independent scholarly arguments that can contribute to the development of the study of medieval hagiography
5 – undertake independent research and locate it in relation to wider trends in the field of hagiographic research

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

1 – make appropriate use of methods and techniques in order to critically assess written and visual materials
2 – understand the importance of historical and intellectual contexts when appraising written and visual materials
3 – critically evaluate arguments
4 – communicate their own arguments clearly and convincingly
5 – work independently, taking personal responsibility for setting research parameters, defining research objectives, and producing research outcomes

In addition, students taking the module by dissertation will be able to:
6 - marshal complex knowledge and present it clearly and logically in the substantive form of a dissertation


  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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