Invitation to History (Theme: Death and Dying in Medieval and Early Modern Europe) (HIST*1050) | College of Arts

Invitation to History (Theme: Death and Dying in Medieval and Early Modern Europe) (HIST*1050)

Code and section: HIST*1050*02

Term: Winter 2023

Instructor: Cathryn Spence


Course Synopsis:

‘Dying well’ was a fundamental concern for all in Medieval and Early Modern Europe, but what did that mean in practice? This class will explore the history of death in medieval and early modern Europe from c. 1000 to c. 1750. If our modern society has what Geoffrey Gorer has called a ‘pornography of death’, whereby all practices surrounding death should be done out of public view, just like sexual pornography, it is important to understand how public death and dying were understood in medieval and early modern Europe. The class takes a comparative approach, comparing and contrasting ways of dying, burial, attitudes to good and bad death, especially suicide, expectations of the afterlife, and the experience of famine and plague, in medieval and early modern Europe.

Method of Delivery: 

Two interactive lectures/discussions per week (1.5 hours each)

Learning Outcomes:

Upon successful completion of this course, students will: 

  • have knowledge of medieval and early modern Europe’s understanding of and attitudes toward death; 
  • understand late medieval and early modern social and cultural life more widely via this analysis;
  • be able to relate death and attitudes toward death in the late medieval and early modern periods to their social and cultural constructs; 
  • have developed study skills and analytical capabilities through an engagement with both primary source material and secondary source discussion; 
  • have the ability to develop a more profound understanding of particular aspects of the topics covered; 
  • have critical thinking and ability to assess and evaluate arguments; 
  • have the ability to express arguments and opinions orally and in writing; and
  • have the ability to analyse and interpret primary sources. 

Method of Evaluation and Weights:

  • Class Participation – 15%    
  • Reading Reflections (5) – 25%
  • Essay Proposal and Outline – 10%
  • Essay – 30%
  • Take-home Exam – 20%

Texts Required:

All readings will be provided through the Library (ARES) or Courselink.

**Please note: This is a preliminary web course description only. The department reserves the right to change without notice any information in this description. The final, binding course outline will be distributed in the first class of the semester.**