Cultures of Piety: Middle English Religious Literature, 1280-1500 - MT876

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2019-20
(version 2)
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7 30 (15)







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.


This module appears in:

Contact hours

1 x 2 hour seminar each week

Method of assessment

The module will be assessed through an essay developed in consultation with the convenor (60%, 3,000 words); performance in research presentations (20%, to be supported by a research diary); and a short essay (20%,1,500 words).

Indicative reading

The Book of Margery Kempe ed. Barry Windeatt (Brewer, 2004).

Jocelyn Wogan-Browne ed., The Idea of the Vernacular: An Anthology of Middle English Literary Theory 1280-1520 (Exeter, 1999).

The Showings of Julian of Norwich ed. Denise Baker (Norton, 2005).

Selections From English Wycliffite Writings, ed. Ann Hudson (University of Toronto Press, 1997)

Nicholas Watson, 'Censorship and Cultural Change in Late Medieval England: Vernacular Theology, the Oxford Translation Debate, and Arundel's Constitutions of 1409’, Speculum, 70. 4 (1995), 822-864.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

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, MT866 and MT867. 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.

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