MA Medieval & Renaissance Studies

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MDVLGH11: Magic in the Middle Ages


Magic existed in diverse forms in the middle ages: from simple charms to complex and subversive demonic magic. Its negative characteristics were defined by theologians who sought to isolate undesirable rituals and beliefs, but there were also many who believed that the condemned texts and practices were valuable and compatible with orthodox piety. This course will explore the place of magic in the medieval world and the contradictory responses it evoked, with a particular emphasis on manuscript sources. We will use translations of medieval magical works and scans of manuscript images and texts. The aim of the course is not only to deepen students’ historical understanding and further their analytical skills but also to give students interested in planning their own research projects experience in the techniques of reading medieval manuscripts.

Prerequisites: Students on this course must be studying, or have already taken a course in, Latin or a medieval vernacular language. Please contact the course tutor with any queries.

Credits: 30

Assessment: 2 X 4,000 word essays

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