Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Medieval and Renaissance Lives
Academic Year
Semester 2

Course Delivery



Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Oral Presentation  A 20-minute individual orally presented research paper, to be delivered in week 7. Accompanying documentation to include an annotated bibliography, any presentation materials used and an electronic copy of the PowerPoint presentation.  40%
Semester Assessment Essay  6000 words  60%
Supplementary Assessment Supplementary Assessment  Resubmit failed or make good any missing elements. In the event of failure in the oral presentation element, a 20-minute written script on a new topic to be submitted, written as if for delivery, to include an annotated bibliography, any presentation materials used and an electronic copy of the PowerPoint presentation  100%


Seminar 1: Introduction to Concepts and Theories
How have academics written about medieval and renaissance lives during the last century? eg HS Bennett. E. Power, S, Greenblatt, J. Bennett
What methods and theories are useful? What problems do researchers face?

Seminars 2, 3 and 4: Types of Source
1) History and Hagiography: early and later English lives eg Aethelthryth and Christina Markyate
2) Letters: the Paston letters
3) Wills: eg of John Ansell (d 1518) and Katherine Styles (d c.1530)

Seminars 5 and 6: Autobiography and Biography
Autobiography and the Book of Margery Kempe
Reconstructing biographies from fragments: eg William Buckley, ? Renaissance Man? (d.1552) and Henry Unton'r portrait

Seminars 7 and 8: Controversial Lives: Dissent and Martyrdom
Heresy trials and religious testimony eg Anne Askew
Reformation lives eg Duchess of Suffolk

Seminar 9: The After-lives of Manuscripts
eg Hengwrt Chaucer/ Brogyntyn 2.1

Seminar 10: Afterlives
Later recensions of lives and texts, such as the lives of Aethelthryth, Christina of Markyate, Book of Margery Kempe, the Paston letters, or the Examinations of Anne Askew

Brief description

This module explores lives and life writing in medieval and renaissance England (and Wales) by detailed consideration of literary and material evidence from the period, c. 1400-1650. It focuses on the lives of both women and men. Recent scholarship has recovered a great deal of previously neglected medieval women's and men'r writing. For women, spiritual texts (often of an autobiographical nature) make up perhaps three quarters of this material, but some early secular works also exist. For men, there is a range of life writing.


The module will encourage students to think about how to interpret the various surviving evidences for lives. Students will develop their theoretical position(s) on the concept of lives by introducing and enabling critical consideration of theoretical approaches to lives, self fashioning and life writing drawn from literary and cultural studies. The module will examine the often problematic circumstances of the production and dissemination of a text. We will ask questions such as: What is a life? How were medieval and renaissance lives represented through text and object? How do these representations impinge on medieval and renaissance perceptions of life and identity? What is biography? How are past lives represented now? This module will address these questions by examining, in detail a selection of the wide variety of evidence for renaissance lives, such as: diaries, letters, monuments, life stories, testaments, saints' lives, portraits, personal meditations, prayers, biographies and romances.


This module is at CQFW Level 7