Mediaevalism at the Movies module (EN32034)

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Module code


  • Level 3
  • Semester 2
  • English - School of Humanities
  • Coursework 100%
  • HYBRID English-Film Studies and PRE-1900 Century module.


This interdisciplinary module focuses on the comparative study of Mediaeval literature and films about the Middle Ages.

We examine a wide range of Mediaeval poetry, prose and drama across a variety of literary forms, including Arthurian Romances, Ballads, Studies of Saints' lives and Mystery, Miracle & Passion Plays. Alongside each of these we examine a relevant film. Some of these films are direct adaptations of Mediaeval texts, others are more indirectly influenced by Mediaeval literature and culture and they will range from silent masterpieces to big-budget epics.

The module is designed for both students of literature and film and aims to study both media in a complementary manner, allowing the oldest British and European literature to inform the most modern of art forms and vice-versa.


Indicative Module Content: Texts + Films

Students will engage with a number of mediaeval literary styles and topics and their filmic equivalents.  Texts and films studied will include:

  • Week 1: Umberto Eco, Art and Beauty in the Middle Ages + Everyman + The Seventh Seal & The Virgin Spring (Bergman, 1957 & 1960)
  • Week 2: Early Christian Lives + Francis, God's Jester (Rossellini, 1950)
  • Week 3: Christine de Pizan's Song of Joan of Arc + The Passion of Joan of Arc (Dreyer, 1928)
  • Week 4: "The Trials of Joan of Arc" + The Trial of Joan of Arc (Bresson, 1962)
  • Week 5: Various Mediaeval Mystery Plays + Jesus of Montreal (Arcand, 1989)
  • Week 6: Chrétien's Arthurian Romances (Lancelot) + Lancelot du Lac (Bresson, 1974)
  • Week 7: Chrétien's Arthurian Romances (Perceval) + Perceval le Gaollois (Rohmer, 1978)
  • Week 8: Malory's Le Morte D'Arthur + Excalibur (Boorman, 1981)
  • Week 9: Boccaccio's Decameron + The Decameron (Pasolini, 1971)
  • Week 10: The Ballads of Robin Hood + Robin and Marian (Lester, 1976)
  • Week 11: Monty Python and the Holy Grail (Jones & Gilliam, 1975)


  • Essay 1 40%
  • Essay 2 60%


Recommended Background Reading

  • A Knight at the Movies: Medieval History on Film - John Arberth
  • The Reel Middle Ages - Kevin J Harty

Module Aims

  • To explore the ideological and historical tensions which dominate the Mediaeval period and how these are represented in both mediaeval texts and films.
  • To undertake a comparative study of mediaeval texts and their filmic adaptations and equivalents.
  • To examine the phenomena of the mediaeval film as a sub-genre from the silent film era to the present.
  • To assess the merits of and problems posed by portrayals of the past on film.

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of this module students will have the ability to:

  • Transfer key concepts from previous literature and/or film modules to the study of mediaeval literature and film,
  • Think about literature and film in an interdisciplinary manner, furthering students' understanding of cinema's relationship to older art forms, especially literature and theatre,
  • Gain a broader perspective on cinema, whilst also acquiring a greater understanding of early-period literature,
  • Research and write critically on a variety of areas concerning mediaeval literature, art and culture and their representations on film.