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Semester 1

Saints and Sinners: Voicing Belief, Doubt, and Dissent in Medieval English Literature (ENLI10245)

Course Website

http://www.ed.ac.uk/literatures-languages-cultures/english-literature/undergraduate/current/honours

Subject

English Literature

College

CAHSS

Credits

20

Normal Year Taken

3

Delivery Session Year

2022/2023

Pre-requisites

Visiting students must have completed 4 English Literature courses at grade B or above. We will only consider University/College level courses, and we do not consider civilisation & other interdisciplinary courses, freshman seminars, writing/composition courses or film/cinema/media courses; visiting students who have taken multiple courses in literature in other languages, should have passed at least one course in English Literature as well. Applicants should note that, as with other popular courses, meeting the minimum does NOT guarantee admission, and priority will be given to students studying on exchange within English Literature. **This is a *Core* course. Please note that students can only enrol in one Core and/or one Option 3rd year English Literature course per semester, with no exception. Students enrolled in this course therefore cannot enrol in any further Core courses during this semester** Please note that 3rd year English Literature courses are high-demand, meaning that they have a very high number of students wishing to enrol in a very limited number of spaces. Visiting students are advised to bear in mind that enrolment in specific courses can never be guaranteed, and you may need to be flexible in finding alternatives in case your preferred courses have no available space. These enrolments are managed strictly by the Visiting Student Office, in line with the quotas allocated by the department, and all enquiries to enrol in these courses must be made through the CAHSS Visiting Student Office. It is not appropriate for students to contact the department directly to request additional spaces.

Course Summary

This course introduces students to a range of medieval literary texts that explore questions of religious faith and spirituality, and that challenge preconceived and simplistic notions of the relationship between Church, community, and culture in the period. While the medieval Church sought to impose a certain degree of dogmatic uniformity, the chosen texts suggest that it did not always function in a monolithic or rigidly coercive way. Instead, literature opened up a space in which doubts about doctrine were voiced, and assumptions about authority and hierarchy were open to question.

Course Description

This course introduces students to a range of medieval literary texts that explore questions of religious faith and spirituality, and that challenge preconceived and simplistic notions of the relationship between Church, community, and culture in the period. While the medieval Church sought to impose a certain degree of dogmatic uniformity, the chosen texts suggest that it did not always function in a monolithic or rigidly coercive way. Instead, literature opened up a space in which doubts about doctrine were voiced, and assumptions about authority and hierarchy were open to question. The course primarily focuses on fourteenth- and fifteenth-century Middle English literature, and encompasses a wide range of literary forms, each of which explores different aspects of contemporary faith and spirituality. For instance, amongst the issues raised by the texts is the centrality of the Virgin Mary in medieval Catholic belief, and the significance of her perpetual virginity. In their treatment of Mary's sexuality, medieval texts are alive to the human - even comic - implications of her virginal state while still revering its theological import and emotional power. Another area of belief opened up by the texts, and one that may also seem remote to a modern readership, is the centrality of saints in medieval religion, and the reciprocal, even companionable relationship between the living and the dead that a belief in saints necessarily implies. Belief in saints enabled medieval Catholicism to provide its adherents with a source of comfort and consolation for the anxieties raised by loss, bereavement, and death. But literature also offered a forum in which writers could criticise and dissent from received ideas and sources of authority. Ecclesiastical figures found themselves subject to satirical attack in texts which sought to expose the corruption and hypocrisy of the Church, and which in some instances even questioned its claims to power and authority.

Assessment Information

Written Exam 0%, Coursework 100%, Practical Exam 0%

view the timetable and further details for this course

Disclaimer

All course information obtained from this visiting student course finder should be regarded as provisional. We cannot guarantee that places will be available for any particular course. For more information, please see the visiting student disclaimer:

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