This course is discontinued

MAS4551 – Current issues in medieval studies with focus on history of art 2

Schedule, syllabus and examination date

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Course content

This course has its roots in the Faculty’s ongoing research on Viking and Nordic medieval art history. It is a main objective of our educational policy that research in progress shall manifest itself in the teaching. The subject matter of this course will therefore vary from time to time, depending on the present research it is interacting with. The course will be an integral part of the master’s programme in Nordic Viking and Medieval Culture and the master’s programme in the History of Art.

Recent scholarship has taken an interest in the obscene in medieval art. These are motifs ranging from men and women exposing their genitals on capitals or in murals, to the depictions of the eating of excrements in the margins of manuscripts. The examples are numerous, and appear until the very end of the Middle Ages. While these motifs were certainly more popular in some regions than others, their presence was continuous for centuries. So what do they mean? Why are they all there? This course focuses on several aspects concerning the obscene, but it also raises a number of questions in other respects central to the study of medieval art: Does one motif always mean the same thing? To what extent do time and place change the meaning of a motif? Do media matter; are manuscripts for the elite while imagery on the church wall is for all to see, and should media affect our understanding of a motif? Is there a relation between text and image? Is there an opposition between centre and margin? Furthermore, the terminology applied will be examined more closely. Is it fair to apply contemporary concepts such as "obscenity" and "marginality" to the art of the past?

The course syllabus will also vary; the reading list will consist of literature amounting to approximately 1,000 pages. The reading list will be set up by the teacher, or the student may make his/her own list in agreement with the teacher.

The theme for spring 2010 is: "Obscenity in Medieval Art"

Learning outcome

Students shall develop a capacity for analysis and independent thinking when it comes to primary sources – artefacts – and secondary literature. The integral study of primary sources and secondary literature shall enable the student to arrive at decisions on the questions or problems that relate to the given issue of the course. Students will be given insight into what it means to do research in the field of humanities and thus be provided with a basis on which to build their own work in the field. The course will enable students to summarize the research debate in an independent, well-considered way, both orally and in writing.


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If you are not already enrolled as a student at UiO, please see our information about admission requirements and procedures.


Formal prerequisite knowledge

Students must be admitted to the master’s programme Nordic Viking and Medieval Culture, the master’s programme in the History of Art, or an international student exchange programme.

Recommended previous knowledge

The course builds on previous knowledge equivalent to a bachelor’s degree with a major within a discipline that covers the Viking period or the European Middle Ages.


The teaching will to a great extent take the form of seminars and/or individual tutorials. Teaching may be carried out on a regular basis throughout the whole semester or in more intensive blocks, with periods of self study in between. Excursions may also be an obligatory part of the course. In addition, students shall follow activities taking place under the auspices of research projects: seminars, conferences and guest lectures. Students are also supposed to contribute with their own presentations, and to respond to each other’s work.


The student’s work will be assessed on the basis of a semester assignment. The subject of the assignment will be agreed between the student and the teacher. The assignment shall comprise 10 pages of approximately 2,300 keystrokes excluding spaces.

Language of examination

The Semester assignment can be written in English or any of the Scandinavian languages

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






Spring 2010


Spring 2010

Teaching language