Cultures of Piety: Middle English Religious Literature, 1280-1500 - MEMS8760

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2022 to 2023
Autumn Term 7 30 (15) Ryan Perry checkmark-circle


This module explores the supposed renaissance in English devotional writings after the pastoral initiatives of the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215. Students will consider the validity of historiographical models of religious change in this period, examining the emergence of pastoralia, 'affective piety' and of the so-called ‘vernacular theologies’ of the late fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Among the texts to be explored will be extracts from a number of early fourteenth-century pastoral texts (such as Handlyng Synne and The Northern Homily Cycle), from the late fourteenth century – the Showings of Julian of Norwich, and, moving into the fifteenth century, Nicholas Love’s Mirror, The Boke of Margery Kempe and a range of Wycliffite and other ‘suspect’ writings. The literature of religious belief will in turn be situated against a range of manuscript case studies, critical readings, and theoretical studies.


Contact hours

Total contact hours: 20
Private study hours: 280
Total study hours: 300

Method of assessment

Main assessment methods

Short Essay 1500 words 20%
Long Essay 3000 words 70%
Presentation & Diary 2,000 words 10%

Reassessment methods
Reassessment Instrument: 100% coursework

Indicative reading

The University is committed to ensuring that core reading materials are in accessible electronic format in line with the Kent Inclusive Practices. The most up to date reading list for each module can be found on the university's reading list pages:

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes.

Students completing this module will have gained a nuanced appreciation of some of the theological and cultural issues underpinning the production and consumption of a range of English religious writings. Students will investigate some of the historiographical biases in the representations of spiritual writing in England, particularly pertaining to the use of the English language to variously convey basic religious instruction, more complex theological debates and deep, mystical self-reflection. Those taking the module will have learned to synthesise a range of interdisciplinary perspectives on late medieval religion, and have developed an awareness of the political implications of the use of the vernacular for devotional purposes in late medieval England.

The intended generic learning outcomes.

Students will have improved their ability to produce presentations, individually and collaboratively; they will have put into practice and will enhance the research skills they have acquired as part of their bibliographic, palaeographic and codicological training in the MA's core modules, MEMS8660 and MEMS8670. Students taking this course will also have improved their close reading skills, and their mastery of Middle English through broad exposure to some of the various Englishes of the late Middle Ages.


  1. Credit level 7. Undergraduate or postgraduate masters level module.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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