HIS4425 - Early medieval culture

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Course content

The early Middle Ages were the period of profound transformation of Europe. In these centuries, Europe underwent global economic, social, and political changes. Last but not the least, this period witnessed a radical cultural change whereby the classical civilization was replaced by a new world of Christian Europe, many cultural traits of which have survived into modern times and are invoked in modern debates on European identity. It’s not surprising then that various topics of early medieval culture have attracted growing interest among medievalists in the past decades, and have made this subject a blossoming academic field.


Learning outcome

This MA course will familiarize graduate students with specific topics of early medieval cultural history that have been focusing points of academic discussion in the past two decades – such as cultural memory and the transmission of knowledge, Iconoclasm, political and courtly culture, cult of saints, early medieval liturgy, visual art, ritual and public display as strategies of power. The course will also introduce graduate students to on-going theoretical debates in that field – such as the nature and role of early medieval rituals and the interplay between literary texts and other media, between word and image, and between literacy and orality.


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Formal prerequisite knowledge

This course is intended for the MA students who have already taken undergraduate survey courses in medieval history and are familiar with the factual and chronological framework of European history between c. 400 to c. 1000.

Recommended previous knowledge

A good ability to read and understand English is required for this course.


The course will be taught in the form of public lectures followed by short discussions and discussion seminars on assigned readings. The lectures (9 in total) will be delivered by established medieval scholars from the UK, the US, and Germany, and last 45-60 minutes followed by questions from the audience and discussions. It’s essential that students read the assigned readings for the lectures, which familiarize them with specific topics that are going to be discussed in more detail in the lectures. In short, the assigned readings and the lectures will complement each other. Discussion seminars (3 in total) will be dedicated to active analysis and discussion of the assigned readings. Please note that readings from preceding lectures will also be utilized during such discussions. Obligatory attendance of lectures and seminars and active participation in discussion sessions will be required to be allowed to the final exam.

A pass grade for the course paper (en kvalifiseringsoppgave) is also required to be allowed to the final exam. The topic of the paper should be selected during the first class and the paper should be submitted by November 26th. The length of the paper should be 6-8 pages (where one page is estimated to hold 2300 characters without spacing).


A take-home exam (3 days); written essay in English or Norwegian (8-10 standard pages, 2300 characters without spacing per page).

Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a scale from A to F, where A is the best grade and F is a fail. Read more about the grading system.

Explanations and appeals

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Special examination arrangements

Application form, deadline and requirements for special examination arrangements.

Facts about this course






Autumn 2013


Autumn 2013

Teaching language