Inventing Modern Man: Constructions of Mind, Body, and the Individual, 1400-1800 (HIH2137A)

StaffDr Hester Schadee - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level5
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks;

Module aims

This module investigates the various and competing notions of ‘man’ and ‘woman’ from the late middle ages to the enlightenment. The module has five primary aims:
1) Generate knowledge of a historical period. Through the prism of man, the module familiarises students with developments in the cultural, religious and intellectual history of early modern Europe.
2) Generate knowledge of historical disciplines and fields of enquiry, and their sources and methodologies. The module introduces students to the history of science and medicine, the study of emotions, the body and childhood, to fields such as theology, art history, and literary analysis, and to approaches such as gender and race.
3) Enhance skills in interpreting, discussing, and orally presenting primary sources. The module introduces a range of primary sources, and teaches students to read them productively, to discuss them in a group setting, and to present them to their peers.
4) Enhance skills in independently selecting and processing secondary sources. The module encourages students to find and read productively relevant secondary literature.
5) Enhance writing skills. The module provides the students with individual guidance during the production of one essay in which they present their own research on a topic of their choice pertaining to the topics and materials studied in this course.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Identify the major developments in early modern notions of ‘man’ and ‘woman’.
  • 2. Contextualise these with reference to contemporary cultural, religious and intellectual history.
  • 3. Appraise in detail the primary sources and questions focused on in oral and written presentations.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. Read independently and productively primary sources regarding early modern cultural, religious and intellectual history.
  • 5. Select and process secondary sources relevant to early modern cultural, religious and intellectual history.
  • 6. Recognise trends and approaches in early modern historiography, and be alert to the subjectivity of historians.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 7. Actively participate in seminar discussions and orally present own research to a group.
  • 8. Define a question, locate sources, conduct research, and present research in clear and cogently reasoned writing.
  • 9. Manage time and preparation so as to deliver required outcomes to a deadline and under examination conditions.

Syllabus plan

Inventing Modern Man: Constructions of Mind, Body, and the Individual, 1400-1800
The below indicates the range of topics we will address in chronological order. Exact Syllabus to be confirmed.

-Late Middle Ages: the soul and the body in fifteenth-century devotion and medicine

-Renaissance: humanism’s rediscovery of ancient man; the dignity of man; self-fashioning

-Reformation: free will and predestination in Luther and Calvin; witchcraft and demonic possession in popular culture

-Scientific Revolution: anatomical dissection; dualism of mind and body; and the body as machine

-Enlightenment: equality, race, and slavery; the discovery of childhood

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching activities22 hoursLectures (22 x 1 hour)
Scheduled learning and teaching activities22 hoursSeminars (11 x 2 hours)
Guided independent study22 hoursResearch for and writing of essay
Guided independent study234 hoursReading and preparation for seminars and presentations.

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay plan500 words3-6; 8-9Verbal and written

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay303000 words3-6; 8-9Written
Group Presentation2030 minutes3; 7; 9Verbal
Exam502 questions in 2 hours1-6; 8-9

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Essay3000 words3-6; 8-9Referral/deferral period
Group Presentation1,500 script as for individual presentation, equivalent to 10 minutes3; 8-9Referral/deferral period
Exam2 questions in 2 hours1-6; 8-9Referral/deferral period

Re-assessment notes

The re-assessment of the essay and exam are exactly the same, a 3,000 words essay (worth 30%) and a 2 hours exam (worth 50%). The group presentation will be replaced by a written script equivalent to 10 minutes of speech.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

[Late Middle Ages] 
 -Wallis, F., ed. (2010) Medieval Medicine: A Reader [C15] Toronto: U of Toronto Press 

Nutton, V. (1995) 'The medieval body', in The Western Medical Tradition, eds Conrad, L., M. Neve, V. Nutton, R. Porter, and A. Wear. Cambridge and New York, pp. 175-183-


-Pico della Mirandola (2012), Oration on the Dignity of Man [1486] : A New Translation and Commentary, eds F. Borghesi, M. Papio, M. Riva. New York: Cambridge U Press 

-Eden, K. (2012) The Renaissance Discovery of Intimacy. Chicago/London: U of Chicago Press


-Erasmus (2012), ‘The Freedom of the Will’ [1524], and Martin Luther ‘The Bondage of the Will’ [1525], in The Battle over Free Will , ed. C. Miller. Cambridge: Hackett Publishing 

-Clark, S. (1997) Thinking with Demons. The Idea of Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe. Oxford: Oxford U Press

[Scientific Revolution] 

-Andreas Vesalius (1952) On the Human Brain [1543], ed. C. Singer. London: Oxford U Press 
- Cottingham, John (2005) 'The Mind-Body Relation', in Blackwell Guide to Descartes' Meditations, ed. S. Gaukroger. Oxford: Blackwell, 2005, pp. 179-193 


-Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1979) Emile, or On Education [1762], tr. A. Bloom. New York: Basic Books 
Cunningham, H. (2006) The Invention of Childhood, ch. 3, 'The Eighteenth Century'. BBC Books, pp. 109-121

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Key words search

Early modern history, cultural history, intellectual history, history of medicine, religion, renaissance, reformation, scientific revolution, enlightenment, individual, body, mind, soul, gender.