Text and Image in Early European Culture (SML2243)

Staff - Convenor
Dr Thomas Hinton - Convenor
Credit Value15
ECTS Value7.5
NQF Level5
Pre-requisitesSML1001 in any language or equivalent
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Demonstrate a sound general understanding of the set texts in their cultural and historical context, and of how the text-image relationship operates across different historical periods
  • 2. Analyse a wide range of images

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 3. With some guidance from the module tutors, evaluate and apply a range of critical approaches to the material covered
  • 4. Construct a detailed argument in the appropriate register of English, marshalling a range of textual or other evidence in its support
  • 5. Understand and use, in written and oral contexts, a range of literary critical terms

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 6. Undertake defined learning activities with a measure of autonomy, asking for guidance where necessary
  • 7. Develop analytical reading skills
  • 8. Adopt a critical approach to the selection and organisation of material in order to produce, to a deadline, a written or oral argument

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:


  • Introduction to iconography and text-image relationships in early European culture
  • Chretien de Troyes’ twelfth-century French romance, the Conte du Graal (Story of the Grail), also known as Perceval, and its iconography. The legend of King Arthur and his court is well known to a popular modern audience largely through the various filmic interpretations of the Arthurian myths, from Monty Python and the Holy Grail to Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code. What is less clear to many is how and why these medieval stories came to figure so prominently in the collective modern imagination. One explanation is the prolific and diverse iconography which has grown up around Arthurian literature. From the programmes of illustration of the manuscripts transmitting Chretien's romance and its later medieval reworkings, to the Pre-Raphaelite painting and decorative arts of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Arthurian motifs and symbolism have constantly been appropriated by new generations, and adapted for new purposes and agendas. We discuss the symbolism of the Grail legend through our reading of Chretien's text and the accompanying manuscript illuminations, together with modern artistic, literary and filmic adaptations, and begin to piece together the reasons for its enduring popularity.
  • In the later medieval period, we look at Guillaume de Machaut’s celebrated Book of the True Tale (Livre Dou Voir Dit), which the author wrote late in his career. In this work, Machaut drew on his equal skills as poet and composer, and wove lyrics and songs into his poetic narrative to recount his ill-fated affair with a much younger woman. This work is preserved in several illuminated manuscripts copied during or shortly after the author’s life, and comparison of these will reveal how image, text and music interact to create a truly multi-media experience. We will also consider the question of the veracity of the tale, and the legacy of this hugely influential work.

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 Teaching15Weekly seminars
Scheduled Learning and Teaching1Tutorial
Guided Independent Study134Private study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Commentary750 words1-8Written feedback

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
Coursework Essay1002500 words1-8Written feedback on standardised feedback form

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Coursework EssayCoursework Essay1-8Referral/Deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic reading:

  • Chretien de Troyes, Arthurian Romances (Penguin Classics, 1991). Le Conte du Graal (The story of the Grail), also known as Perceval, is the set text.
  • Guillaume de Machaut, Le Livre Dou Voir Dit (Book of the True Tale), ed. D. Leech-Wilkinson, translated R. Barton Palmer (New York and London, Garland: 1998) (original French with facing English translation).

For those who are able to read the French set texts in the original language, the following editions are recommended:

  • Chretien de Troyes, Le Conte du Graal (Livre de Poche: Lettres gothiques, 1990). Edited Old French version with facing modernised French translation.
  • Guillaume de Machaut, Le Livre Dou Voir Dit (Book of the True Tale), ed. D. Leech-Wilkinson, translated R. Barton Palmer (New York and London, Garland: 1998) (original French with facing English translation).

Suggested secondary reading:

  • Keith Busby, Word and Image in Arthurian Literature (New York: Garland, 1988).
  • Marilynn Desmond and Pamela Sheingorn, Myth, Montage and Visuality in Late Medieval Manuscript Culture (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2003).
  • Sandra Hindman, Sealed in Parchment: Rereadings of Knighthood in the Illuminated Manuscripts of Chretien de Troyes (Chicago/London: The University of Chicago Press, 1994).
  • Introduction, in Guillaume de Machaut, Le Livre Dou Voir Dit (Book of the True Tale), ed. D. Leech-Wilkinson, translated R. Barton Palmer (New York and London, Garland: 1998) (original French with facing English translation).

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Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

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Key words search

Text, Image, France, Europe, Literature, Arts, Music, Medieval