MA Medieval and Early Modern Textual Cultures 1381 - 1688

"My year at UEA was one of the best of my life"

In their words

Ian McEwan, Creative Writing Graduate and Booker Prize winner


UEA has announced the launch of the British Archive for Contemporary Writing (BACW), which contains the extensive personal archive of the Nobel Laureate, Doris Lessing, and literary material from other prominent authors such as Naomi Alderman, Tash Aw, Malcolm Bradbury, Amit Chaudhuri, J.D. Salinger, Roger Deakin, Lorna Sage, WG Sebald and the playwright Snoo Wilson.

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This MA course offers you the opportunity to study medieval and early-modern literature in its historical, intellectual, cultural and material contexts. You will be given an advanced introduction to a range of major English texts from the period and to the continental European authors who informed and shaped them. We set Chaucer, Lydgate, Henryson, Spenser and Sidney beside Petrarch, Poliziano, Erasmus, Rabelais and Montaigne.

At the centre of the course is an emphasis on the varieties of medieval and early-modern 'humanism', a complex movement which enabled new understandings of the classical world, of our place within history and of our relationship to language. Our teaching is founded upon the close-reading of primary texts. Large historical and intellectual issues are allowed to grow out of specific passages, without losing sight of literary texts' formal and aesthetic qualities.

The MA has a strongly interdisciplinary character, which means you will be introduced to the broad range of cutting-edge methods by which scholars are currently researching the cultures of these periods. You will be encouraged, for instance, to move freely between texts, material artifacts, and visual art and to think about the ways in which unpublished manuscript evidence can help us to understand the priorities of medieval and early-modern readers.  The course not only encourages you to read widely across the boundary between 'medieval' and 'Renaissance' cultures, but also to interrogate that boundary itself, to understand its historical and conceptual origins and to reflect on the many ways it continues to shape modern scholarly understandings of both periods. And by enabling you to work closely with local archival sources, the MA will leave you with a strong understanding of the way in which global narratives, like the rise of 'humanism' or the 'early-modern', shaped the rich literary and intellectual culture of Norwich itself.

Aims of the Course

  • Equip you with necessary skills in archival research, such as bibliography and palaeography.
  • Enable you to develop your own innovative critical thinking by introducing you to the modern interdisciplinary study of the medieval and early-modern periods.
  • Give you the opportunity to read widely in English medieval and early-modern literature and to read continental works in translation.
  • To rethink the conceptual issues at stake in the division between the medieval and early-modern periods.
  • To give you a thorough understanding of the crucial cultural and literary phenomenon of 'humanism', including a grounding in the classical sources which lie behind medieval and early-modern literary texts.
  • To let you explore the vibrancy of Norwich's medieval and early-modern literary culture, and to give you the skills you need to approach the array of surviving heritage of that period.
  • To equip you with the skills you need to prepare you for doctoral research.
  • To equip you with the transferable skills in research, project management and critical thinking that you would need to pursue a career outside academia.

Norwich's Archival Resources

East Anglia was home to an extraordinarily rich literary culture in the medieval and early-modern periods. That culture has left behind it an interlocking network of archives, which provide ideal resources for graduate students undertaking research into the medieval and early-modern periods. Thousands of early-modern printed books, and some medieval manuscripts, are preserved in the Norfolk Heritage Centre. The heart of that collection is the Norwich City Library: founded in 1608, it is one of England's most important and best-preserved regional libraries. The Cathedral library is home to another important collection of printed books. And the Norfolk Record Office houses an extraordinary collection of medieval and early-modern manuscripts, which include not only documentary records of the history of East Anglia, but also poetry miscellanies, letters, maps, heraldic papers, histories, and many other kinds of document. Together these archives bear witness to Norwich's role as a vibrant, cosmopolitan, and religiously diverse, international centre of North Sea trade and culture. The MA course will give you the opportunity to explore this archival landscape and, if you wish, to develop your own original research projects based on these collections.

Medieval and Early-Modern Research at UEA

At UEA, you will have the opportunity to participate in a field-leading medieval and early-modern research community, which will encourage you to develop your own innovative research questions, approaches and projects. Important areas of faculty research include: the history of medieval and early-modern reading practices, the study and practice of literary imitation and translation, the history and development of historiography, early-modern drama and Shakespeare, literary and intellectual biography, the development of distinct East Anglian identities, conceptions of the landscape, and the cultural importance of medieval saints' lives. Several research seminars are held throughout the term, which showcase the work of UEA's own scholars and of visiting external speakers. UEA is also at the forefront of adapting medieval and early-modern texts for the stage, and in doing so unleashing their dramatic potential as well as bringing them to a wider audience. And the Sainsbury Centre, on UEA's campus itself, will illuminate the visual art of the medieval and early-modern periods for you.

Course Outline

The MA will lead you through a tightly-focussed series of modules which, taken together, give you the understanding of literary culture, critical methods and archival skills which you need to tackle your own dissertation research project. Many of the modules will be taught by more than one faculty member: this approach helps to give you the fullest possible understanding of the way our periods are being discussed and interpreted.

In the Autumn Semester you will undertake two modules, each assessed by a 5000 word project: Conceptualizing the Medieval and the Renaissance and Medieval and Renaissance Humanism I: Adaptation, Translation and Imitation.

In the Spring Semester you will undertake two further modules, each assessed by a 5000 word project: Medieval and Renaissance Humanism II: Historical Imaginings and East Anglian Literature.

Alongside all these modules there is also an important skills component, which is designed to equip you with the knowledge you need to carry out your own research on original medieval and early-modern documents. Palaeographical skills are particularly important here.

At the end of the second semester, you will then be able to work full-time on your 15,000 word dissertation. Here, you will have the chance to bring all the skills, knowledge and critical understanding you have built up over the course to bear on a focussed research project of your own choice, which will be supervised by a member of the UEA Faculty.

This course is also available on a part time basis.

Course Modules

Students must study the following modules for 180 credits:

Name Code Credits


This module introduces you to the ways in which material texts (both in manuscript and print) were transformed during the vital era from the emergence of print at the end of the middle ages to the close of the seventeenth century. How did the ways in which books were published change? How can we use the evidence of annotated books to reconstruct readers' habits and interests? How far did print transform the nature of the book? What happened to books as they started to become absorbed and classified within modern libraries? And how did manuscript documents -- especially letters -- enable the enormous boom in communication characteristic of the seventeenth century? How did the transformation of material texts create new possibilities for writing and thinking? The module equips you with the skills in early-modern archival studies that are necessary to tackle these questions. In particular, we spend a portion of each seminar learning how to read the handwriting of sixteenth and seventeenth century documents. The module culminates in visits to two archives in Norwich -- the Norfolk Record Office and the Norfolk Heritage Centre -- and your summative assessed work will take the form of a study of document(s) from these archives. The module is a requirement for those taking the 'Medieval and Early-Modern Textual Cultures' MA, but will be of interest to anyone who wants to learn more about the most vitally important era of the transformation of the book.




Throughout the medieval and Early-Modern periods Norwich was one of England's most important cities - probably second only to London - and East Anglia one of the country's culturally liveliest and richest areas. This module explores the literature of these periods in its material contexts (the region's prosperity and power may still be seen in its architecture and in the rich holdings of its libraries and museums) and asks whether there was a specifically East Anglian cultural tradition. The module explores East Anglia's rich dramatic traditions, its devotional literature and practices (in orthodox forms and in those that brush against the heterodox), and, insistently, the manner in which its literature participates in its broader social and cultural worlds. The module is compulsory for students on the Medieval and Early Modern Textual Cultures MA but may also appeal to those with an interest in the cultural traditions of Norwich and East Anglia or, more generally, in the literature of place.




Students are required to write a dissertation of a length as specified in their MA Course Guide on a topic approved by the Course Director or other authorised person.




The new approaches to the studia humanitatis (the study of the humanities - art, literature, history, philosophy) pioneered by the self-styled humanists (umanisti) between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries are one of the most important and celebrated achievements of the Renaissance. They defined the terms by which humanists themselves most often distinguished their own work from the intellectual traditions of the medieval past and from the work of their (allegedly) more old-fashioned contemporaries. Humanism brought with it a new attitude to classical culture, to history, to the power and potential of literature, to the world and to our place within it, and yet it is characterised as much by rich continuities with older medieval traditions as it is by new departures. This module attends to these continuities as well as to the more well-known departures. It looks at the writings of the most influential Italian humanists (Petrarch, Boccaccio, Pico della Mirandola, Poliziano), at the medieval humanism of Chaucer and Henryson, and at the early-modern humanism of Thomas Wyatt and the Earl of Surrey, Gavin Douglas, and John Bellenden. Through close study of these authors' writings, the module probes the new intellectual and literary praxes of the medieval and early-modern periods: new and recurrent ways of approaching the past and of writing history, the differing imaginative and intellectual possibilities of anachronism and antiquarianism, shifts in practices of adaptation, translation and imitation and in the reception and transmission of ideas in manuscript and early print culture, and the tensions of 'Christian' and 'Civic' Humanism. The module is compulsory for students on the Medieval and Early Modern Textual Cultures MA but may also appeal to those with an interest in the classical reception or in practices of translation and adaptation.







This module sets out to understand why and how humanism -- the advocacy of the study of the humanities, the Greek and Roman classics -- gave birth to the astonishing outpouring of literature that we call the Renaissance. We will situate English Renaissance literature within the wider context of the humanist literature of France, the Netherlands, and Italy. Questions we consider include: how did the rediscovery of classical texts generate new possibilities for literary writers? How did humanists understand the nature of poetic creation? How did their advocacy of rhetoric create new ways for writers to engage with public life? And what happened when humanists turned philological methods upon the most sacred text of their culture: the bible? Authors studied include: Thomas More, Desiderius Erasmus, Edmund Spenser, Joachim Du Bellay, Philip Sidney, Ludovico Ariosto, Torquato Tasso, Jean Bodin, Michel de Montaigne, and Ben Jonson. Foreign language texts are all read in translation. The module is compulsory for students on the Medieval and Early Modern Textual Cultures MA, but might be of interest to anyone who wishes to gain an in-depth understanding of one of the most dazzling periods of European literary history.




Whilst the University will make every effort to offer the modules listed, changes may sometimes be made arising from the annual monitoring, review and update of modules and regular (five-yearly) review of course programmes. Where this activity leads to significant (but not minor) changes to programmes and their constituent modules, there will normally be prior consultation of students and others. It is also possible that the University may not be able to offer a module for reasons outside of its control, such as the illness of a member of staff or sabbatical leave. Where this is the case, the University will endeavour to inform students.

Entry Requirements

  • Degree Subject UK BA (Hons) 2.1 or equivalent
  • Special Entry Requirements Sample of work - see below

Students for whom English is a Foreign language

We welcome applications from students whose first language is not English. To ensure such students benefit from postgraduate study, we require evidence of proficiency in English. Our usual entry requirements are as follows:

  • IELTS: 7.0 (minimum 6.0 in each section and 7.0 in writing)
  • PTE (Pearson): 68 (minimum 55 in each section and 68 in writing)

Test dates should be within two years of the course start date.

Other tests, including Cambridge English exams and the Trinity Integrated Skills in English are also accepted by the university. The full list of accepted tests can be found here: Accepted English Language Tests

INTO UEA also run pre-sessional courses which can be taken prior to the start of your course. For further information and to see if you qualify please contact

Special Entry Requirements

A sample of your academic writing (for example an essay from your undergraduate degree).


The School's annual intake is in September of each year.

Alternative Qualifications

If you have alternative qualifications that have not been mentioned above then please contact the Admissions Office directly for further information.

Fees and Funding

Tuition fees

Tuition fees for the academic year 2017/18 are:

  • UK/EU Students: £7,300
  • International Students: £14,800

If you choose to study part-time, the fee per annum will be half the annual fee for that year, or a pro-rata fee for the module credit you are taking (only available for UK/EU students).

We estimate living expenses at £820 per month.

Scholarships and Awards:

There are a variety of scholarships and studentships available to postgraduate applicants in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities. For further information relevant to the School of Literature and Creative Writing, please click here.

How to Apply

Applications for Postgraduate Taught programmes at the University of East Anglia should be made directly to the University.

You can apply online.

Further Information

To request further information & to be kept up to date with news & events please use our online enquiry form.

If you would like to discuss your individual circumstances prior to applying please do contact us:

Postgraduate Admissions Office
Tel: +44 (0)1603 591515

International candidates are also encouraged to access the International Students section of our website.

    Next Steps

    We can’t wait to hear from you. Just pop any questions about this course into the form below and our enquiries team will answer as soon as they can.

    Admissions enquiries: or
    telephone +44 (0)1603 591515