The Art of Death: Representations, Rituals, & Records in Medieval Europe - HIST7890

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2023 to 2024.


This module explores the place of death within medieval European culture, focusing especially on the visual and material evidence of relics, tombs, architecture, wall paintings, and illuminated manuscripts. It will begin by examining how ideas about death and the dead were expressed in works of art from Late Antiquity until the arrival of the Black Death in 1348. Our primary sources will be set within the context of literary, visual, documentary and liturgical evidence. Together, we will examine these sources from different disciplinary perspectives in attempt to determine how the study of medieval death and contemporary anxieties about the afterlife can inform us about how people lived in the Middle Ages.


Contact hours

Total contact hours: 30
Private study hours: 270
Total study hours: 300

Method of assessment

Main assessment methods:

Source Analysis 3,000 words 20%
Term Paper 3,000 words 20%
Examination 2 hours 60%

Reassessment methods:
Reassessment Instrument: 100% coursework

Indicative reading

Indicative Reading List:

Binski, Paul (2004). Becket's Crown (New Haven, 2004)
Binski, Paul (1996). Medieval Death: Ritual and Representation (London, 1996)
Brown, Peter (1982). The Cult of the Saints (Chicago, 1982)
Camille, Michael (1992). Image on the Edge (London, 1992)
Horrox, Rosemary (1994): The Black Death (Manchester, 1994)
Le Goff, Jacques (1986). The Birth of Purgatory (Chicago, 1986)
Saul, Nigel (2001). Death, Art, and Memory in Medieval England (Oxford, 2001)

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 skills that enable them to work with a variety of historical sources, including visual evidence (e.g., sculpture, paintings, stained glass) and documentary sources (e.g., wills and coroners' records), and to evaluate their relative strengths and limitations, and to interpret these sources.
2 Provide an overview of the development of the visual culture of death in medieval Europe and an understanding of artistic innovations within the context of wider artistic, economic, devotional, social and epidemiological developments.
3 Demonstrate an awareness of different disciplinary approaches to the theme of death in the Middle Ages (especially art-historical, social-historical, theological, and literary), and to approach a specific monument with an understanding of its potential as evidence addressing different disciplinary concerns.

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

1 Demonstrate the ability to construct robust historical arguments drawing intelligently on primary and secondary sources, and to present these arguments.
2 Demonstrate skills of conceptualisation, reflexivity, critical thought and epistemological awareness.
3 Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the past and particular aspects of the historiography and methodology, assisting them in other courses.


  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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