Medieval and Early Modern Studies - MA

Our exciting MA programme in Medieval and Early Modern Studies provides the opportunity for in-depth study across a range of disciplines and allows you to share your year between Canterbury and Paris.

Overview

Through intensive historical, literary and art-historical study this interdisciplinary MA programme offers a thorough grounding in the essential skills required for advanced academic analysis of the Medieval and Early Modern periods, including Latin, palaeography (the study of old handwriting), codicology (the study of pre-modern books). In addition, there is a fascinating range of optional modules to choose from, shaped by our cutting-edge research in a range of disciplines rooted in periods from the early medieval to the seventeenth-century.

You spend your first term in the historic city of Canterbury, an important focus for literary, religious, archaeological and architectural, and documentary scholarship. The spring term is based at Kent’s Paris School of Art and Culture, in the heart of historic Montparnasse. There you participate in Paris-focused modules, taught in English, taking full advantage of the City’s extraordinary medieval and early modern cultural and material legacy.

The Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies (MEMS)

We are an interdisciplinary centre for the study of Medieval and Early Modern periods. Our teaching staff are drawn from English, History, Architecture, Classical & Archaeological Studies, History & Philosophy of Art, and the Canterbury Archaeological Trust.

MEMS offers a successful, interdisciplinary MA programme, which attracts students from across the world. A thriving community of enterprising, supportive graduate students study for research degrees and benefit from a rich and stimulating research culture. We have close relationships with Canterbury Cathedral and the Archaeological Trust, which allow our students access to a wide range of unique historical, literary and material evidence.

Entry requirements

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You are more than your grades

For 2022, in response to the challenges caused by Covid-19 we will consider applicants either holding or projected a 2:2. This response is part of our flexible approach to admissions whereby we consider each student and their personal circumstances. If you have any questions, please get in touch.

Entry requirements

A first or second class honours degree or equivalent in a relevant subject.

All applicants are considered on an individual basis and additional qualifications, professional qualifications and relevant experience may also be taken into account when considering applications. 

All applicants are considered on an individual basis and additional qualifications, professional qualifications and relevant experience may also be taken into account when considering applications. 

International students

Please see our International Student website for entry requirements by country and other relevant information. Due to visa restrictions, students who require a student visa to study cannot study part-time unless undertaking a distance or blended-learning programme with no on-campus provision.

English language entry requirements

The University requires all non-native speakers of English to reach a minimum standard of proficiency in written and spoken English before beginning a postgraduate degree. Certain subjects require a higher level.

For detailed information see our English language requirements web pages. 

Need help with English?

Please note that if you are required to meet an English language condition, we offer a number of pre-sessional courses in English for Academic Purposes through Kent International Pathways.

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Course structure

Duration: 1 year full-time

You spend your first term in the historic city of Canterbury, an important focus for literary, religious, archaeological and architectural, and documentary scholarship.

The spring term is based at Kent’s Paris School of Art and Culture, in the heart of historic Montparnasse. There you participate in Paris-focused modules, taught in English, taking full advantage of the City’s extraordinary medieval and early modern cultural and material legacy.

Then in the final term, you complete your MA by writing a 12-15,000-word dissertation on a research topic defined in collaboration with your academic supervisors.

As well as a compulsory module in disciplinary methods, you study an exciting and varied range of optional modules. In addition, you produce a final dissertation of 12-15,000 words, for which you receive one-to-one supervision.

Modules

The following modules are indicative of those offered on this programme. This list is based on the current curriculum and may change year to year in response to new curriculum developments and innovation.  Most programmes will require you to study a combination of compulsory and optional modules. You may also have the option to take modules from other programmes so that you may customise your programme and explore other subject areas that interest you.

Compulsory modules currently include

Our cultural heritage is defined by the legacy of manuscript artefacts. Those books and documents carry with them multiple pieces of information — more so than any printed book — that help decipher not just the meaning of their texts but also of their purpose and history. This module introduces you to the long history of that culture and, in particular, will give you the technical tools to make use of these sources. You will learn to read a variety of scripts and to appreciate the cultural contexts in which they were used (Latin palaeography, so called because the scripts — whatever the language — derive from the practices of ancient Rome); you will also study the book as object, understanding the elements of its make-up and what they can tell us about the society in which it was made and used (codicology).

Find out more about MEMS8880

Latin was the premier language of medieval and early modern Europe, and a firm grounding in it becomes essential to you now that you are graduate students. The module is specifically tailored for medievalists and early modernists. It has two interlocking aims: one is to ensure you are well versed enough in the language that you can feel confident in approaching primary sources in your dissertation research for the MA and, indeed, beyond if you continue to doctoral studies. The second is to consider the role of Latin as a living language in the post-classical world — and one whose influence is still felt in our society today. You will be considering its transformations and variety and will be encouraged to ask what these developments tell us about the societies in which it was used. Alongside that, we will consider the role of Latin: how did that change from its classical origins? Why did it survive so long? How far did it decline in power over the long period we study?

Find out more about MEMS8931

This module is designed to equip you with skills essential to textual study. On the one hand, it will consider diplomatic — that is, the construction of official documents — and help you decipher the strategies involved in the drafting, propagating and registering of those documents across the Middle Ages and into the early modern period. On the other, it will explain the strategies involved in editing literary texts, paying attention to how this has developed as a practice, and how it is continuing to change with computerised techniques. Together, these two traditions form the discipline of philology, and by studying them together, you will appreciate the fruitful interplay which has informed their development. You will have the opportunity to put into practice the skills which you learn.

Find out more about MEMS8941

Optional modules may include

'Paris: Portfolio' contributes to the MA in Creative Writing in Paris. The objective of ‘Paris: Portfolio’ is to produce work inspired by the cultural, historical and aesthetic location of the city, taking regular writing exercises, field trips and prompts as a starting point. This module aims to enable students to develop their practice of writing through both the study of a range of contemporary examples and practices, and constructive feedback on their own work. Each week, students read a selection of work, in a variety of forms (fiction, non-fiction, poetry, prose poetry, hybrid texts; as well as artworks, TV, film and other media). Students will work on a specific exercise and submit it for workshopping each week, which they will draw upon to produce a portfolio of creative work for the main assessment. They will be encouraged to read as independent writers, to apply appropriate writing techniques to their own practice and to experiment with voice, form and content. The approach to the exemplary texts will be technical as well as historical. At every point in the module, priority will be given to students’ own development as writers. It is an assumption of the module that students will already have a basic competence in the writing of poetry or prose, including a grasp of essential craft and techniques. The purpose of this module will be to stimulate students towards development and honing of their emerging voices and styles through engaging with various literary texts and techniques, and to consider how their work can develop with large chunks of time for independent study, reflection and exploration of a city like Paris.

Find out more about ENGL8990

'Modernism and Paris' provides students with an opportunity to study a selection of texts from the UK, USA and mainland Europe, all readily available in English and specifically relevant to both Paris and modernism. The texts are all either inspired by, set in, or refer significantly to Paris and most were written in the city. They seek new and experimental literary expressions for the experience of modern city life and demonstrate a range of literary forms, including the novel, poetry, manifestos, essays and biography. In exploring the cultural contexts as well as avant-garde politics and aesthetics of modernism, the module presents texts by major authors of different nationalities, chronologically ordered, allowing students to appreciate the beginnings and development of modernism from the late 19th century to the first decades of the 20th century. It recognises the importance of modernist cross-fertilisation between literature and the visual arts and encourages students to explore links between modernist literature and the development of, for example, cubism and surrealism. The primary materials are Paris-focused but are chosen to open an international perspective on literary culture and history.

Find out more about ENGL9040

In this module students will focus on generating material, understanding their own writing process through practice and identifying their strengths and interests (literary and otherwise), with an emphasis on workshopping each week. They will work towards a fully realised and developed piece of writing, which may be self-contained or a part of a longer project. They may be continuing to work on an existing project, or starting something new. In seminar/workshops, they will give and receive constructive criticism, and work on editorial exercises to revise and refine their writing. Seminars will focus on reading selected extracts, process- and craft-focused texts, and reflective essays as a basis for class discussion. Seminar leaders will identify recommended reading tailored to individual students' interests and development.

Find out more about ENGL9200

The module is conceived as open to all Humanities MA students in Paris. It examines the medium of film, considering its specific qualities as an art and industrial form and the particular ways in which it is influenced by and influences other artistic and cultural forms in turn of the 20th century Paris. The emphasis of the course varies from year to year, responding to current research and scholarship, but it maintains as its focus the aesthetic strategies of film in contrast with other arts, technological developments, and historical change, particularly as they are developed in the growth of Paris as a city. The course also addresses the strategies used by the cinema to communicate with its historical audience. The course explores both the historical place of the cinema within the development of twentieth-century urban culture in Paris as well as how this historical definition informs the development of the cinema.

Find out more about FILM8210

This module will introduce students to the history and theory of curating through a series of detailed case studies from the early modern period to the present day. These will focus on how collections have been formed and maintained, the nature of key institutions in the art world like museums and galleries, and in particular it will examine the phenomenon of the exhibition. Different approaches to curating exhibitions will be examined, and the responsibilities of the curator towards artists, collections, and towards the public will be analysed. Broad themes in the theory of curating and museology will be examined. Wherever possible the case studies chosen will draw on the resources and expertise of partner organisations, such as Canterbury Museums and the Institute for Contemporary Art.

Find out more about HART8260

The module will focus on Paris as a centre of artistic experimentation. The city served as the launch pad for key artistic movements from the mid-19th century through to the period after the Second World War (Impressionism, Cubism, Surrealism, etc.), and as a magnet for budding and established artists from all around the world. The module will take advantage of the great museum collections that encapsulate such developments (Musées d'Arte Moderne and d’Orsay, Rodin and Picasso Museums, Beaubourg, Quai Branly, etc.) and also of the major exhibitions on show in Paris in any given year.

Find out more about HART8410

This module explores the dynamic relationship between the cult of relics and Gothic art. It will begin by retracing the aesthetics of devotion across Western Christendom, culminating in the creation of towering Gothic cathedrals. Throughout history, the design of cult images could reveal sacred presence, testify to miracle-working powers, and explicate the significance of a holy place using visual narratives. Through pilgrimage, gift-giving, and even theft, people acquired relics and 'invented' new cults. The success of a relic cult would benefit from the design of a magnificent reliquary, the depiction of pictorial programmes (in glass, sculpture, and painting), and the placement of the relic within a spectacular architectural setting. Together we will explore the development of Gothic art in light of changing devotional needs. Using a number of diverse case studies, students will acquire a wealth of historical information and develop a variety of intellectual approaches to function and significance of visual culture. Beginning with Paris and its surrounding cathedrals, we will extend our analysis to Gothic Canterbury, London, Castile, Prague, Siena, and Florence. Above all, this course will encourage students to think critically about the influence of art in the religious imagination.

Find out more about MEMS8031

France is the setting and inspiration for many plays first written and performed for London's professional theatres, 1576-1642. Whether in the history cycles that depicted Anglo-French diplomacy and war, or in the comedies and tragedies that revealed the ebb and flow of life in England’s near-neighbour, France as a site and space held a vivid place in the English imagination. This module is oriented around trans-national exchange (of ideas, people, goods, services) in early modern plays by Marlowe, Shakespeare, and other dramatists. France, and Paris in particular, will be read as a site of political unrest and religious fervour and debate, with the plays analysed in parallel to historical studies of the French Wars of Religion and networks of Anglo-French exchange during this period. Analysing the literary and historical contexts to these plays, the module will encourage students to think deeply about the dramatists’ creative engagement with issues such as national and religious identity, trans-national intellectual exchange, and the politics of difference.

Find out more about MEMS8050

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.

Find out more about MEMS8760

This module is designed to introduce students to the range of evidence and approaches to that evidence available to investigate the pre-modern past. This objective will be achieved in the context of providing them with the opportunity to undertake in-depth investigation of the city in which they are studying: Paris. Paris was one of the great cities of the pre-modern world and long before the French Revolution, Paris was a crucible of cultural change throughout the Medieval and Early Modern period. Here, surrounding the banks of the Seine, the city witnessed the rise of the University, the creation of Parliament, the invention of Gothic art and architecture, and the formation of the Huguenots, leading to the spread of scholasticism, democracy, artistic development, and religious reformation across Europe and beyond.

A study of its history offers unparalleled opportunities for students to examine themes of European relevance, such as the beginning of urbanisation, the growth of Universities, or the outbreak of religious violence during the Protestant reformation, grounded in a particular historical, literary or artistic context. Likewise, the study of Paris in Paris will allow staff delivering the module to introduce students to a range of types of evidence and of scholarly approaches to that evidence, thus giving them the skills they need to proceed to the MA dissertation. This aspect of the course will include appropriate field trips, locations might include the royal palaces of Sainte-Chapelle and Versailles, leading museums such as the Musée national du Moyen Âge, or to world-class libraries, such as the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. The opportunity to study the history of Paris in situ using real artefacts will present a uniquely stimulating opportunity for students to develop their understanding of the period and of the use of evidence in research.

By providing research-driven teaching, access to source material through site-specific analysis, and facilitating pedagogical encounters with the history of the city in which they are studying, this core module presents an exceptional pathway for MEMS graduates. The curriculum design will enable MEMS students to enhance their historical, literary and artistic knowledge, cultivate their interdisciplinary skills, and acquire the necessary methodological tools to prepare for their dissertation. Above all, the study of pre-modern Paris in modern-day Paris will present MEMS students with an unparalleled opportunity to engage with the past in a dynamic learning environment.

Find out more about MEMS8840

Compulsory modules currently include

From the commencement of your MA you will be asked to start thinking about a proposed topic for a dissertation. You are advised to talk to members of staff about your topic before a suitable supervisor is assigned.

Find out more about MEMS9980

Teaching

Teaching and assessment

Assessment is by coursework and dissertation. The skills modules are assessed by a combination of coursework and examination.

Programme aims

This programme aims to:

  • provide you with a thorough grounding in the techniques and approaches necessary for advanced research in the medieval and early modern periods
  • introduce you to a wide range of literary and historical sources and to encourage you to identify and develop your own interests and expertise in the medieval and early modern periods
  • enable you to undertake interdisciplinary work
  • enable you to understand and use a variety of concepts, approaches and research methods to develop an understanding of the differing and contested aspects between and within the relevant disciplines
  • develop your capacities to think critically and to argue a point of view with clarity and cogency, both orally and in written form
  • develop your abilities to assimilate and organise a mass of diverse information
  • offer you the experience of a variety of teaching, research and study skills
  • develop your independent critical thinking and judgement
  • promote a curriculum supported by scholarship, staff development and a research culture that provides breadth and depth  of intellectual inquiry and debate
  • assist you to develop cognitive and transferable skills relevant to your vocational and personal development
  • offer you learning opportunities that are enjoyable, involve realistic workloads, are pedagogically based within a research-led framework and offer appropriate support for students from a diverse range of backgrounds.

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding

You will gain knowledge and understanding of:

  • the importance of considering continuities as well as decisive breaks in the transition from the medieval to early modern periods
  • the value of original materials to study local and regional history and literature.

Intellectual skills

You develop intellectual skills in:

  • developing the skills needed for academic study and enquiry
  • the ability to gather, organise and deploy evidence, data and information from a variety of primary and secondary sources
  • the ability to identify, investigate and analyse primary and secondary material
  • the ability to develop reasoned, defensible arguments based on reflection, study, analysis and critical judgement
  • the ability to reflect on, and manage your own learning and to seek to make use of constructive feedback from your peers and staff to enhance your own performance and personal research skills
  • the ability to organise and present research findings
  • the ability to study and reach conclusions independently.

Subject-specific skills

You gain subject-specific skills in:

  • the close critical analysis of both primary and secondary material/sources
  • the ability to articulate your knowledge and understanding of material
  • well-developed language use and awareness, which includes a grasp of the standard critical terminology
  • appropriate scholarly practice in the presentation of formal written work.

Transferable skills

You will gain the following transferable skills:

  • developed powers of communication and the capacity to argue a point of view, orally and in written form, with clarity, organisation and cogency
  • developed critical acumen
  • the ability to assimilate and organise substantial quantities of complex information of diverse kinds
  • enhanced skills in the planning and execution of project-based work
  • an enhanced capacity for independent research, intellectual focus, reasoned judgement and self-criticism
  • an ability to undertake original research, utilising all the facilities available including libraries, archives and online data and to extend this research through the use of email communication, processing information using databases and spreadsheets (where necessary)
  • experience of living and studying in two European cities.

Fees

The 2022/23 annual tuition fees for this course are:

  • Home full-time £9300
  • EU full-time £13000
  • International full-time £17400

For details of when and how to pay fees and charges, please see our Student Finance Guide.

For students continuing on this programme fees will increase year on year by no more than RPI + 3% in each academic year of study except where regulated.* If you are uncertain about your fee status please contact information@kent.ac.uk.

Your fee status

The University will assess your fee status as part of the application process. If you are uncertain about your fee status you may wish to seek advice from UKCISA before applying.

Additional costs

General additional costs

Find out more about general additional costs that you may pay when studying at Kent. 

Funding

Search our scholarships finder for possible funding opportunities. You may find it helpful to look at both:

We have a range of subject-specific awards and scholarships for academic, sporting and musical achievement.

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Independent rankings

School of English

In the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021, 100% of our English Language and Literature research was classified as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’ for impact and environment.

An impressive 100% of our research-active staff submitted to the REF and 93% of our research was judged to be ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. Following the REF 2021, English at Kent was ranked in the top 20 in the UK in the Times Higher Education.

School of History

In the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021, 100% of our History research was classified as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’ for research and environment. An impressive 100% of our research-active staff submitted to the REF and 72% of our research was classified as ‘world-leading’.

Following the REF 2021, History at Kent was ranked 1st in the UK in the Times Higher Education.

Research

Research areas

The research interests of our staff cover areas as broad as: religion, ideas, material culture, theatre and performance culture, gender, economy, food and drink, legal history, war, visual culture, politics, architecture, history of books and manuscripts, environment and travel, art history, and literature.

Careers

The transferable skills gained from this postgraduate programme are enhanced by the University of Kent’s employability initiative and careers advice service. Many of our recent graduates have gone on to careers in heritage, museum or archivist work. Some go on to pursue research in the area, many continuing with PhDs at Kent or other higher education institutions.

Study support

Postgraduate resources

During the Autumn term in Canterbury, many sessions are taught within the Cathedral's Archives and Library, which have unparalleled holdings of manuscripts and early printed books. Kent’s Templeman Library holds a good stock of facsimiles, scholarly editions, monographs and journals, and we are within easy reach of the British Library, The National Archives, and other London research libraries.

In students' second term (Spring) which is based in Paris, students have access to the American University of Paris Library, as well as the unparalleled research collections at the Bibliotheque Nationale de France and the Archives Nationales. Students accompany their lecturers on special visits to libraries, archives, museums and various heritage sites - from cathedrals to catacombs - to examine objects, documents, records and treasures with experts in their field. The University of Kent provides support with key practical issues to help you relocate to Paris, and students can choose to take French language courses at a variety of levels.

At Canterbury, MEMS runs a weekly research seminar, and special termly, public lectures to which we welcome distinguished speakers. These events are at the heart of the Centre’s activities. We also run a full programme of conferences, master-classes and colloquia. 

Dynamic publishing culture

Staff publish regularly and widely in journals, conference proceedings and books. Among others, they have recently contributed to: Historical Research; English Historical Review; Renaissance Studies; Medium Aevum; Transactions of the Royal Historical Society; and Studies in the Age of Chaucer.

Global Skills Award

All students registered for a taught Master's programme are eligible to apply for a place on our Global Skills Award Programme. The programme is designed to broaden your understanding of global issues and current affairs as well as to develop personal skills which will enhance your employability.  

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MA at Canterbury and Paris

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