The Uses of Writing in the 'Dark Ages' from Late Antiquity to the Age of Charlemagne and Beyond

Tutor: Katherine Cross (tutor for 2018-19) / Mary Garrison

Module code: MA Option

Module type: HIS00066M

Credits: 20

The course will provide an integrated introduction to selected themes in the history of education, communication, Latin literacy, book-making and palaeography, mainly in the centuries between the end of the western Roman Empire and the Carolingian Renaissance, but with some consideration of later developments. The course will offer insight into the cultural setting of Latin learning in the post Roman world and will also introduce students to the physical form in which historical and literary evidence survives and the material and institutional settings which ensure its preservation.

Weekly seminars will focus on key primary texts and classic approaches to the problems raised by the texts. Topics covered may range from the roman postal system to runes and ogam, from land charters to medieval textbooks.

Probable seminars may include:

    • Roman Foundations
    • How the Monastery became a school
    • The Monastery as a school, part II
    • Ways of Reading
    • The Insular World
    • The Book as Treasure
    • New forms of the book
    • A long view


Preliminary reading   

    • Bowman, A. and Woolf, g. eds. Literacy and Power in the Ancient World. Cambridge: 1989
    • Brown, M.  Manuscripts from the Anglo-Saxon Age. London: 2007
    • McKitterick, R. ed. The Uses of Literacy in Early Medieval Europe. Cambridge: 1990
    • Dronke, P. Women Writers of the Middle Ages. Cambridge: 1984


For more information, please visit the module catalogue.