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Unit information: Heresy and Reform in the Medieval and Early Modern Eras in 2020/21

Unit name Heresy and Reform in the Medieval and Early Modern Eras
Unit code THRS20208
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Professor. Muessig
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Religion and Theology
Faculty Faculty of Arts


This unit aims to provide students with an overview of how the Catholic Church attempted to implement religious reform as well as how it defined heresy during the medieval and early modern eras. It will focus on Western Europe, with particular emphasis on England, France, Germany and Italy. The unit will offer students in-depth analysis of several important topics: including the Gregorian Reform; Catharism; Franciscanism; Concilarism; and the Counter-Reformation. These themes will be investigated by using various sources such as primary texts in translation, images and material culture, and the writings of historians and theologians.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:

  1. demonstrate an understanding of the trends in Catholic reform during the medieval and early modern eras;
  2. critically assess the heretical movements and how heresy was defined in the medieval and early modern eras;
  3. evaluate the primary sources and scholarly theories related to heresy and reform;
  4. demonstrate the ability to research, read and present complex material at a standard appropriate to level I/5;
  5. demonstrate an independent approach to designing, researching and completing a level-I project.

Teaching details

Classes will involve a combination of long- and short-form lectures, class discussion, investigative activities, and practical activities. Students will be expected to engage with readings and participate on a weekly basis. This will be further supported with drop-in sessions and self-directed exercises with tutor and peer feedback

Assessment Details

1 x 2,000 word portfolio (form) [ILOs 1-4]

2500 essay (sum 100%) [ILOs 1-5]

Reading and References

M. Lambert, Medieval Heresy, 3rd edition (Oxford: Blackwell, 2002).

B. Bolton. The Medieval Reformation (London: Edward Arnold, 1983).

W. Wakefield and A.P. Evans,. Heresies of the High Middle Ages, 2nd edition (New York: Columbia University Press, 1991).

John W. O'Malley, What Happened at the Council of Trent (Cambridge, Mass. ; Harvard University Press, 2013).

R. Po-chia Hsia, The world of Catholic renewal, 1540-1770. (Cambridge : Cambridge University Press ,2nd ed. ,2005).