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Medieval Studies

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Medieval Studies

MA
  • Option 1 year full time or 2 years part time
  • Year of entry 2021
  • Campus Egham

The course

A collaboration between the Departments of English and History and the Department of History at Royal Holloway, the MA in Medieval Studies has an excellent reputation, having been running for almost thirty years. That reputation comes from the variety of teaching on our course: we draw on medievalists teaching across Royal Holloway in disciplines as diverse as history, English, French, theatre studies, music and archaeology. We introduce you to many aspects of medieval society and culture, while giving you the opportunity to concentrate on the areas that interest you most.

As a historian and student of literature you will look at the medieval world from both literary and historical perspectives, working with source material including artefacts and manuscripts as well as archives and printed sources. The course emphasises the skills that are required for postgraduate research, irrespective of the area you choose to specialise in.

You may choose to study for a Postgraduate Diploma in Medieval Studies, taking on the taught part of the course without completing the dissertation. This is designed for those who want advanced instruction in Medieval Studies, but cannot commit to undertaking an independent research project.

The MA and Postgraduate Diploma are designed to be flexible, so you can study either of them full time or part time.

  • As part of the University of London, you will have the opportunity to participate fully in the variety of events taking place in the Institute of Historical Research and the Institute of English Studies. Staff from the English Department also run the London Old and Middle English Research Seminar (LOMERS).
  • You may pursue a wide range of disciplines in small groups, as well as come together weekly to form a close-knit cohort, providing the foundations for a supportive research environment.

Core Modules

  • All students pursuing the MA in Medieval Studies and the MA in Crusader Studies take this module, and so it creates and fosters an intellectual community of medievalists during your time on the degree. The module aims to make you aware of the issues and topics associated with the study of the Middle Ages on a wide and interdisciplinary basis, give you the skills that you need to undertake research in the field of Medieval Studies, and provide opportunities for you to engage in and practise academic dismodule, particularly in an oral context.

  • This interdisciplinary module explores the traditions and forms and varieties of medieval story-telling. You will read texts in Old and Middle English, French, Latin and Italian in translation. You will explore various narrative genres, such as epic, chronicle, romance, and fabliau, and two of the major tale collections of the period, the Decameron and the Canterbury Tales.

  • Using the skills learned during the taught parts of your MA in Medieval Studies, you will carry out your own independent research project. You will write a thesis of around 15,000 words on a topic of your choice which critically reflects upon established scholarship and provides original insight and independent judgements.

  • In this module you will be given specific training in the reading of medieval documents. You will look at simple texts in classical Latin and learn how to parse all five declensions and indicative verbs. You will examine a range of documents in basic medieval Latin such as wills, deeds and accounts and translate two medieval passages plus an unseen passage.

Optional Modules

There are a number of optional course modules available during your degree studies. The following is a selection of optional course modules that are likely to be available. Please note that although the College will keep changes to a minimum, new modules may be offered or existing modules may be withdrawn, for example, in response to a change in staff. Applicants will be informed if any significant changes need to be made.

  • This module examines the development of Arthurian literature and legend across four centuries and three languages. Beginning with Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain, it focuses on the different ways in which Arthur’s reign was represented and understood in the Middle Ages.

  • The aims of the module are to develop an understanding of the significance of pilgrimage in the medieval world through a combination of contextual study of the ideals and practices associated with this dimension of medieval piety, and specific study of contemporary pilgrimage accounts from the fourth to fifteenth centuries. Students should thereby be able to consider specific aspects of pilgrimage and the practices associated with it within a broad context of changing practices of piety. They should appreciate the value of interdisciplinary approaches to the understanding of medieval texts, and comparative approaches to medieval religious history. The content will be based on study of a number of pre-selected contemporary pilgrimage accounts from Latin and Byzantine sources, in translation. Typical topics will include: the practice of pilgrimage in religious traditions from Late Antiquity onwards, Saints' cults and sacred space, specific pilgrimage destinations, pilgrims' writings, gender, class, material culture, etc.

  • In this module you will develop an understanding of the Old English poetic tradition, particularly as exemplified by the Exeter Book Riddles. You will look at unusual perspectives on Anglo-Saxon culture and literature, and examine topics such as military, religious and everyday worlds, the wonders of creation, animals, sources and analogues, sexuality and runic riddles.

  • In this module you will develop an understanding of how the crusading movement arose at a time of significant change for women. You will look at the effects of the Gregorian Reform and contemporary societal change on women’s traditional roles. You will examine how medieval historians used gendered language and moral tales to express their disapproval of women who took the cross, and the role of women in supporting crusader battles, often becoming the casualties of warfare. You will consider the role of noble women in providing political stability through regency and marriage after the First Crusade in the Latin society established in the East, including the dramatic reign of Queen Melisende of Jerusalem, and the effects of crusading on women who remained in the West.

  • Byzantium and The First Crusade
  • Centred on the largest crusade of the thirteenth century, the attempt by King Louis IX of France to recover Jerusalem and the Holy Land through the conquest of Egypt, this module looks at the origins, preaching and preparations for his invasion. We follow its disastrous progress and defeat, largely through the charismatic writings of the eyewitness John of Joinville, but also using texts from Arabic (including some unpublished translations). The crusade helped trigger upheaval in the Muslim Near East with the overthrow of the Ayyubid regime and the arrival of the formidable Mamluks. Into this potent mix appeared the Mongols, carving out an empire from Hungary to Japan, and briefly seeming to look to Louis for an alliance. Through the extraordinary account of William of Rubruck we can see western Europeans try to grasp the society and the beliefs of the terrifying steppe-warriors.

  • This module invites you to read and discuss a wide range of late medieval texts in relation to the city of London. You will interrogate the way that London, its inhabitants and its institutions are represented in medieval literature, from the court at Westminster to the pulpit at St Paul’s, the ‘lewed ermytes’ of Cornhill and the inns of Southwark. You will read Middle English texts in glossed editions, and Latin texts in modern English translations.

Assessment is carried out by a variety of assessment methods, including coursework, essays, oral presentations, and formal examinations.

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