Module options covering every medieval discipline and period

Option modules

Students on the MA in Medieval Studies programme must take three option modules (one in the Autumn term and two in the Spring term). Of these, at least one must be an interdisciplinary option module. You cannot choose more than one single-discipline option module in the same discipline. Other than that, you are free to choose from the range of options offered.

Below is a complete list of modules run by the Centre for Medieval Studies, organised by discipline.


CMS - Interdisciplinary option modules

Interdisciplinary modules are team-taught by a number of staff from our four parent departments (Archaeology, English, History, History of Art). Below is the range of interdisciplinary modules offered by the CMS.

Cities and Hinterlands

Examine the flourishing bourgeois culture of the cities of England and Europe, the physical realities of the city, and new forms of production in the arts.

Early Medieval York

Learn about selected topics in the history of York from the era of Roman rule to the time of Archbishop Wulfstan.

Gender and Sexuality, 1300-1550

Explore gender and sexual identities, examine their complexity and challenge assumptions. A lively and contentious area of debate in medieval studies.

The Making and Meaning of the Early Medieval Church

This module aims to introduce Masters level students to The Church as both an institution and a material object in the early and high middle ages.

It is interdisciplinary, seeking to introduce students to both single-discipline approaches to researching, analysing and interpreting the surviving documentary sources, buildings and objects of the early medieval church, but also the institutional organisation, parochial systems and liturgies of the Church. 


Renovatio: Renaissance and Renewal in the Twelfth Century

Study the European High Middle Ages through a focus on the twelfth-century Renaissance, exploring the relationship between the ‘ancients’ and the ‘moderns’.

Tales of Kings and Prophets

Investigate the Capetian Kingdom of France in the thirteenth century through Old Testament imagery, and consider different contemporary approaches to the Bible.

Single discipline option modules

The single discipline modules available in Archaeology, Literature, History and History of Art are listed below. Not all options are offered every year. Remember that you need to take at least one interdisciplinary option, and that you can only take one single discipline option from each subject.


Archaeology - Single discipline modules

The Age of the Vikings | Steve Ashby

Survey the impact of the early medieval Scandinavian settlement of the British Isles (c. AD 800-1050), explore sources of evidence and theoretical approaches to the period. 

Medieval Settlement & Communities | Aleks McClain

Develop an understanding of the inhabitation of medieval England. Explore the places in which medieval communities lived, worked, played and worshipped. 

Literature - Single discipline option modules

England in Europe: From Beowulf to the Roman d’Eneas | Elizabeth Tyler

Examine a range of Old English and Latin texts from Anglo-Saxon England to study the key role England played in the flourishing of literary culture in medieval Europe. 

Fictions of Audacity: Middle English Popular Romance | Nicola McDonald

Challenge modern scholarship’s critique of popular romance and assumptions about its cultural ideologies, aesthetic codes and historical consciousness.

From Boethius to Dante: Literatures in Medieval Italian Society (c. 500-1500) | Michele Campopiano

Analyse the interaction between literary traditions and Italian society in the Middle Ages, and how it resulted in the unique culture of Late Medieval and Renaissance Italy.

Literature, Language and Power in the Age of Angevins (c.1154-c.1216) | Henry Bainton

Examine the diverse literary genres associated with Henry II’s court, including chansons de geste, troubadour poetry, Arthurian romance, historical and rhetorical works.

Reading Dante's Comedy: Text and Context | Kenneth Clarke

The aim of the module is to introduce students to Dante’s Comedy, setting the poem in its cultural and literary context; students will be introduced to the poem’s structure and moral architecture, and the module will proceed with close readings of some of its most famous canti.  Module aims include: • To give students the opportunity to develop a sound understanding of Dante’s Comedy • To give students a knowledge of major trends in modern Dante scholarship • To enable students to develop their skills in close-reading

Textual Criticism and Codicology | Linne Mooney

Uncover the unique difficulties of finding, editing and interpreting literary texts from a pre-print culture. Learn the skills required by editors and critics of medieval texts.

Viking Poetry | Matthew Townend

Examine a range of poetry composed in Old Norse between 900 and 1050, exploring the later, written preservation of this oral poetry in manuscripts, sagas and treatises. 

Writing History in High Medieval England: Language, Politics and the Past | Henry Bainton

Explore how historical writing responded to cultural changes in the wake of conquest, and how the past was used to define what England was and who the English were.

History - Single discipline option modules

Debating Chivalry in the Middle Ages | Craig Taylor

Examine the key chronicles, chivalric manuals and literature from France and England during the late Middle Ages. 

England's Empire in France: 1417-53 | Craig Taylor

This module will explore the history of English control of northern France from 1417 to 1453, within the wider questions raised by the historiography of empires and colonies. Students will develop a detailed understanding of the military and political history of the English occupation, as well as the social impact of war and public disorder in the towns and countryside of northern France. This interdisciplinary module will also examine the writing of history and the memory of the past in both England and northern France, as well as the cultural interactions across the Channel during this period. 

Frontiers of Reason | Lucy Sackville

Examine major debates about shifts in the cultural and religious climate of the late Middle Ages, looking at attitudes to the role of rational intellect and human knowledge.

Literacy and Writing in the Dark Ages | Mary Garrison

Study the contribution of the Roman heritage to the use of writing in the ‘dark’ centuries of European history, and gain an insight into early medieval culture.

Medicine and Culture in Western Europe in the Middle Ages | Peter Biller

Study medicine from the early medieval period to the High Middle Ages. Follow the construction of a learned medical tradition and explore different medical practices. 

Medieval English Civic Archives | Sarah Rees Jones

Study a selection of civic records and histories, paying particular attention to the function of civic writing and record-keeping in London and York.

Medieval European Family | Jeremy Goldberg

Discover the historical sources, debates and methodologies on the medieval family in the later Middle Ages, with particular attention to English and Tuscan sources.

Medieval Jerusalems? The Holy City between Christians, Jews and Muslims | Harry Munt

Jerusalem is perhaps the definitive medieval holy city: an urban space teeming with shrines in a region (Palestine or ‘The Holy Land’) crowded with even more, and considered to be holy by Christians, Jews and Muslims alike. This module will explore the multiple understandings of the city’s sanctity from the Islamic conquest of the seventh century to the aftermath of the Crusades as they were constructed by members of all three religious groups. Constructions of places as sacred or holy are not static and this module will emphasise a diachronic approach to the various attitudes held by pilgrims, religious scholars and rulers to Jerusalem’s sanctity. After the Islamic conquest, did Muslims attach significance to the same sites as their Christian and Jewish predecessors, or did they create new holy places and new meanings for old ones? How did Christians and Jews, in both Europe and the Middle East, react to the Islamic conquest of Jerusalem? Did the second great changeover of political rule in Jerusalem, from Muslims to Christians, during the Crusades have much of an impact on the ways in which scholars and rulers thought about and utilised Jerusalem’s sanctity. We will also address the matter of when and why Jerusalem was envisaged as a site of conflict between members of the different faiths, and when and why it was imagined as a city shared peacefully between them.

Renegotiating Rome: Western Europe in the Fifth Century | Guy Halsall

This course takes a multi-disciplinary approach to one of the most important and dramatic, not to say traumatic, eras of western European history: the 'long fifth century', c.375-c.525.  In this period the Roman Empire disintegrated in a bewildering series of wars and faction fights usually(misleadingly) referred to as 'The Barbarian Migrations'. In the fourth century, every politically important family in western Europe regarded itself as Roman; by the second quarter of the sixth, the ruling strata in the former imperial provinces defined themselves by reference to one of a congeries of non-Roman peoples, and the local aristocracies were rapidly coming to adopt these new identities.  Through research with the full range of documentary historical, literary, archaeological and artistic material, students will examine how the people of Western Europe navigated their way through the collapse of the most extensive cohesive state the West has ever seen.

Saints and Sanctity in the Early Middle Ages | Katy Cubitt

Explore how sanctity was created and manipulated in Europe, using both textual and archaeological evidence and focusing on issues such as attitudes to death and disease.

Saving the Sinners: The Medieval Church and the Laity | Sethina Watson

Examine the debates, innovations and machinery of 1150-1250 that reinvented pastoral care for the later Middle Ages, exploring the ideals behind pastoral reform. 

The Transformation of English Government, 1250-1450 | Mark Ormrod

Assess the structures and sources of later medieval English government, from its supposed high point under Edward I to the outset of the Wars of the Roses.

History of Art - Single discipline option modules

Art and Imagery of York Minster | Christopher Norton

Examine the Minster’s surviving iconographic schemes, including stained glass, medieval sculpture and monumental paintings, to gain a comprehensive view of its imagery.

Art as Urban Culture in fifteenth-century Bruges and Florence | Amanda Lillie & Jeanne Nuechterlein

Question preconceptions of Bruges and Florence as centres of high-quality artistic production in the 15th century. Investigate the art and material culture of the two cities. 

Churches and High Crosses: the Art of Stone in Anglo-Saxon England | Jane Hawkes

Study the stone churches and carved monuments of Anglo-Saxon England as a means of exploring the art of stone builders and carvers of this early medieval period. 

The Domestic Interior in Italy c.1400-c.1550 | Amanda Lillie

Look at the interiors of houses and their contents, seeking to understand the inhabitants and their value systems by studying the material culture of their homes.

Dürer, Grünewald, and Holbein: the concept of the 'northern Renaissance' artist in early 16th-century Germany | Jeanne Nuechterlein

Interpret the role of the artist in northern Europe in the early 16th century, focusing on three of the most important figures to emerge from Germany.

Interpreting Northern Renaissance Art | Jeanne Nuechterlein

This module investigates the methodologies used to interpret northern European Renaissance art, focusing on the art of Germany and the Low Countries in the 15th and 16th centuries. It will address how art-historical approaches have changed from the foundations of the discipline in the 19th century to the forms of interpretation most widely used today, including such topics as attribution, formal analysis, iconography, patronage, technical analysis, gender studies and cultural history. We will examine some of the most recent work interpreting northern Renaissance art in new ways, and we will also investigate some other approaches that have not been applied to this particular field of art history. How might the northern Renaissance field benefit from ideas developed in other areas of art history, or other disciplines? Are there new kinds of questions and answers waiting to be developed?

Mapping the World | Hanna Vorholt

This module focuses on the way in which the medieval world is represented in visual form through maps and diagrams: images which have to this day remained crucial to the organisation, communication and transmission of knowledge. Through the analysis of key examples we will assess how the cosmos was imagined in its overall structure and its individual components (including phenomena such as the movement of the planets, and the relationship between the four elements), and how the known world was visualised in its geographical and historical dimensions. The twelfth and thirteenth centuries witnessed important developments in the way in which this type of knowledge was laid out and visualised, and we will thus begin in the early twelfth century with images in Lambert of Saint-Omer's important encyclopaedia Liber Floridus, and end around 1300 with the famous Hereford and Ebstorf world maps.

Monastic Patronage of the Arts: 1080-1220 | Christopher Norton

The aim of the module is to introduce students to the Romanesque and early Gothic periods by focussing on monastic art and architecture. The module will approach the period from the perspective of the patrons, examining selected works of are in detail in an attempt to understand them as part of an intellectual and cultural whole. By the end of the module those taking it should have acquired:

•Acquaintance with some of the major monuments, buildings and works of art of the period
•Acquaintance with the intellectual and cultural contexts of such works
•An understanding of the debates about and approaches to the subject

‘Painting on Light’: Stained Glass in the Medieval Tradition | Sarah Brown

Explore the medieval tradition of stained glass manufacture as a medium for communication and imagination, taking advantage of the exceptional resources around York.

Scrolls and Serpents: the Arts of the Early Insular World | Jane Hawkes

Explore the applied and public arts of the early Insular world (present-day Ireland and Britain), including manuscripts, metalwork, wood, ivory and stone sculpture. 

Skills modules

Skills teaching is integral to the course and is one of its key strengths. No other medieval study programme in the world offers the level and quality of skills training provided by the MA in Medieval Studies at York.

Modules are offered in Old English, Old French, Old Norse, Latin and Palaeography, equipping you with the skills required to read and interpret original documents from the period.

No previous experience of medieval languages is required, since the teaching is streamed according to your experience and knowledge. For example, Latin is taught in four levels, catering for students from beginners to advanced learners.

All students take two skills modules, but you may take up to four. Skills modules run for two terms (Autumn and Spring) and are examined in Week 2 of the Summer term.




“I chose York to study an MA in Medieval Studies because I liked the rigorously interdisciplinary nature of the course. It was great to be supervised and taught by academics from several different disciplines. I also enjoyed the tutorial-style teaching model, and the very structured help that was provided with writing the dissertation.”

Abigail Wheatley (MA in Medieval Studies 1996-1997)

Abigail Wheatley