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Myths, Lineage and Power in Britain, 1300-1600

Module code: ESH7055

Credits: 30.0
Semester: SEM2

  • Semester 2: Friday 10 am - 12 pm

Contact: Dr Jaclyn Rajsic
Overlap: None
Prerequisite: None

This module will explore how accounts of the past were re-imagined in Britain at key moments of political conflict and change from the late thirteenth to the late sixteenth century. We will study historical and documentary sources alongside of literary texts, and will consider the development of royal genealogies to include mythical ancestors such as King Arthur, as well as Trojan and biblical predecessors. The period from around 1300 to 1600 saw the English conquest of Wales by King Edward I, the Scottish Wars of Independence against the English, the Hundred Years War with France followed by civil war in England (the Wars of the Roses), and significant religious and political reform under the Tudors. Writers responded to these changes in literary, historical and genealogical texts. Accounts of the past were rewritten to bolster political claims and aims in the present. At the same time, royal and noble bloodlines were extended, re-drawn and exploited as dynasties changed and as England warred against her neighbours. This period also saw the emergence of a new genre of history writing in royal genealogical rolls: diagrammatic histories in which written accounts of the past complement illustrated tree diagrams showing the descent of contemporary rulers from real and mythical ancestors. We will trace the development of mythical history and royal lineage in these different texts, genres, and material forms, written in three different languages (Anglo-French, Latin and English), and across (shifting) national and regional borders. Although we will focus on the power struggles that fueled rewritings of the past, we will also consider the ways in which myths were imagined to have been shared by different peoples. Finally, our study of fifteenth- and sixteenth-century sources will enable us to consider some of the continuities between the medieval and Renaissance periods, alongside the differences. This will lead us to interrogate terms such as 'medieval' and 'Renaissance', and will allow us to rethink traditional boundaries of period as well as subject, through the interdisciplinarity of our approach.

All Middle English texts will be read in their original language. French and Latin sources will be read in translation, but students will have the opportunity to engage with the original French sources.

Connected course(s): UDF DATA
Assessment: 100.0% Coursework
Level: 7

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