MEDV2085 Medieval Narratives in the Modern World: Nationalism, Terrorism, Popular Culture

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  • Taught: Semester 2 View timetable
  • Credits: 20
  • Class Size: 28
  • Module Manager: Dr Marta Cobb
  • Email:
  • This Module is approved as a Discovery Module
  • This module replaces MEDV1085

Discovery module overview

Module Summary

Module Summary

The Middle Ages are often perceived as being in the distant past, and as such, irrelevant in the twenty-first century. Yet the medieval past still has currency in the modern world. This module will examine the use and adaptation of medieval images and narratives in political and popular culture, considering how agendas for the present and future can be fulfilled by making claims about the past. By examining the use of the medieval past in nationalist narratives, the rhetoric of the War on Terror, and popular culture alongside medieval primary source material, students will gain an understanding of how the present often co-opts the past, and how the past is always understood through the lens of the present. The module will look beyond the question of accuracy or inaccuracy in modern depictions of the Middle Ages to consider the aims and effects of these depictions.


The objectives of this module are:
To explore the use and adaptation of medieval narratives and medieval history in modern political and popular culture.
To critically analyse a range of sources and to examine the relationship between medieval primary source material and modern adaptations.
To formulate sophisticated and nuanced arguments in written and verbal form.
To further develop generic and transferable skills.


The module will be divided into three thematic sections. After an introduction in week one, the first section (weeks 2-4) will examine the way the medieval past is co-opted to justify nationalist narratives, considering, for example, use of the knight in German and English war propaganda in the 20th century or the relationship between the film Braveheart and the campaign for Scottish independence. The second section (weeks 5-6) will consider the rhetoric of 'crusade' in the War on Terror as well as the acts of 'medieval barbarity' attributed to terrorists. The final section (weeks 7-11) will analyse the way popular culture - movies, television, video games, and literature - makes use of medieval images and narratives. By considering popular franchises such as The Lord of the Rings, the hit series Game of Thrones, or other medieval-inspired media, students will investigate the portrayal of gender, race, power, and violence in both medieval texts and their modern adaptations. Students will make their presentations in the week 11 seminar.
The subjects covered in lectures and their accompanying seminars may vary from year to year depending upon which members of the teaching team are available and as certain subjects rise or fall in prominence.

Learning Outcomes

On completion of this module students will be able to:

  • 1. Identify ways of using and adapting the medieval past in political and popular culture.
  • 2. Analyse a wide range of primary sources (both medieval and modern) including literature, artwork, documents, and films, using relevant interdisciplinary methods and approaches.
  • 3. Demonstrate that they can express their opinions and develop an argument using written expression, thereby evaluating the available evidence effectively.
  • 4. Develop teamworking and research skills.
  • 5. Develop oral presentation skills
  • 6. Reflect upon what they have learned.

Skills Outcomes

Study and interpretation of primary sources, including material culture and films
Development and substantiation of students’ own arguments
Historical comparison between medieval narratives and their contemporary adaptations

Assessment and teaching

Assessment and teaching


Assesment type Notes % of formal assesment
Essay 2000 word essay due by 12 noon on Monday of week 8 40
Presentation Group poster presentation with each student writing a 2,000 word report, including a reflective section. The presentation will be due in week 11, the report will be submitted on Monday of Exam Week 1 (by 12 noon) 60
Total percentages (Assessment Coursework) 100

Private Study

Preparatory reading for lectures and seminars; Engaging with the work of other seminar participants; Researching and writing essays; Researching and presenting the poster; Writing a report about the poster presentation which will include a reflective section

Progress Monitoring

Students will receive formative feedback for their essay as well as for the poster presentation and the report. The feedback from the essay and poster presentation will be received well in advance of the deadline for the report to give students time to take their feedback into account.

Teaching methods

Delivery type Number Length hours Student hours
Lecture 11 1 11
Seminar 9 1 9
Private Study Hours 180
Total Contact Hours 20
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits) 200

Reading List

Reading List
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