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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of History, Classics and Archaeology : History

Undergraduate Course: Discovering the individual: Medieval auto/biography, c.1050-1200 (HIST10347)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of History, Classics and Archaeology CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course examines the proposal that the period c.1050-1200 witnessed a growing awareness of the place of the individual in medieval society. Drawing on autobiographical texts surviving from Northern Europe in the period and on examples of biographical and hagiographical works, the course allows students to examine and evaluate these life-writing genres as sources for the study of medieval society. These texts also provide the basis for an examination of the relationship between the individual and the social identities provided by the groups and communities characteristic of medieval society. How far was individuality expressed through models provided by these groups? How did medieval people articulate concepts of the 'self'? The course begins with a study of Augustine of Hippo's 'Confessions', a text which served as a model for the autobiographies of later writers such as Abbot Guibert of Nogent (d.1124). Examples of hagiography (saints' lives) are provided by the Life of Christina of Markyate and Eadmer's dual-biography of St Anselm of Canterbury. Peter Abelard's 'History of My Calamities' offers an insight into the career of one of medieval Europe's most charismatic figures, as well as introducing letter collections as sources for explorations of the past. Throughout the course, content draws on the tutor's research on the nature of medieval life-writing, in order that the students may critically evaluate auto/biography as historical source material.
Course description Week 1: Introduction: outline of the module and introduction to Medieval auto/biography
Week 2: Context: The Renaissance of the twelfth century
Week 3: The Classical Inheritance: Augustine's 'Confessions'
Week 4: Mothers and Sons: Guibert of Nogent's 'Monodiae'
Week 5: A Philosopher in love: Abelard's 'History of My Calamities'
Week 6 Biographer and Subject: Eadmer and St Anselm of Canterbury
Week 7: Marriage and sanctity: The Life of Christina of Markyate
Week 8: Kingship and Power: William of Poitiers' Gesta Guillelmi [Deeds of William the
Week 9: Letters and Lives: St Bernard of Clairvaux
Week 10: Friendship and the Self: Aelred of Rievaulx
Week 11: Life-writing and the Middle Ages: evaluating the material
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements A pass or passes in 40 credits of first level historical courses or equivalent and a pass or passes in 40 credits of second level historical courses or equivalent.
Before enrolling students on this course, Personal Tutors are asked to contact the History Honours Admission Secretary to ensure that a place is available (Tel: 503783
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesVisiting Students should usually have at least 3 History courses at grade B or above (or be predicted to obtain this) for entry to this course. We will only consider University/College level courses.
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On successful completion of the course, students will:
- have a knowledge and understanding of the key patterns, events, concepts and themes that shaped Medieval European culture and society
- have an appreciation of key similarities and differences between the various genres of medieval life-writing
- have an ability to distinguish critically between the particular and the general
- have an ability to develop the tools for broader comparative analysis
- have an ability to research for appropriate materials and weigh up the merits of pieces of historical evidence
- have an ability to develop and sustain coherent intellectual argument
- demonstrate the skills listed above in coursework and the degree examination.
Reading List
Core texts:
Saint Augustine, Confessions, Penguin Classics, 1961
J.F. Benton, trans., Self and Society in Medieval France [Guibert of Nogent], 1970
C.H. Talbot, trans., The Life of Christina of Markyate, 1959
The Letters of Abelard and Heloise, Penguin Classics, 1974
R.W. Southern, trans., The Life of Saint Anselm by Eadmer, 1962
R.H.C. Davis, and Marjorie Chibnall, trans., The Gesta Guillelmi of William of Poitiers, 1998
C. Holdsworth et al., The Letters of St Bernard of Clairvaux, 1998
F.M. Powicke, trans., Water Daniel's Life of Aelred of Rievaulx, 1950

Indicative list of secondary texts:
Colin Morris, The Discovery of the Individual, 1050-1200 (1972)
Aaron Gurevich, The Origins of European Individualism (1995)
Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson, Reading Autobiography, 2nd edition, 2010
Barbara Caine, Biography and History, 2010
Mark Freeman, Rewriting the Self: History, Memory, Narrative, 1993
Walter Ullmann, The Individual and Society in the Middle Ages, 1966
Thomas J. Heffernan, Sacred Biography: Saints and their biographers in the Middle Ages, 1988
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills - enhanced abilities in research, critical thinking, weighing up of arguments and evidence
- production of innovative research pieces that adhere to bibliographical convention
- skills in presenting information and arguments to fellow students / lecturer in class
KeywordsDiscovering Individual
Course organiserDr William Aird
Tel: (0131 6)50 9968
Course secretaryMiss Clare Guymer
Tel: (0131 6)50 4030
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