Credit points


Campus offering

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Unit rationale, description and aim

Medieval thought arises at a kind of intellectual crossroads: the intersection of Ancient and Modern Western Worlds. This intersection is characterized by vast cultural transformations. Feudal economies, religious schisms, continual and irregular war, and emerging states highlight the scale of such changes. Above all, Medievality seems typified by encounters, particularly across the boundaries of difference. The European Middle Ages see the old becoming new, the divine becoming secular, and the poor becoming powerful in ways that would have been unimaginable in the Ancient World. Such encounters reveal an immense pluriverse of thought.

This unit will help students grapple with the key puzzles and texts of medieval thought. The seminar explores the many ways in which encounters come to characterize Medievality and the ways that these encounters reverberate in the present. The themes of these encounters may include the meeting of ancient and modern; revelation and reason; the secular and the divine; the East and the West; and the universal and the vernacular, amongst others.

The aim of this unit is to allow students to begin to consider the complexity of their contemporary world and what they are already in the middle of today.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Acquire an advanced, integrated, research-based knowledge of Medieval thought together with the conceptual, theoretical, and political impacts of texts drawn from, and related to Medieval philosophy, theology, theory, and literature (GA4, GA5, GA7, GA8, GA9)

LO2 - Explain the literary, social, historical, philosophical, political, aesthetic, religious, and/or ethical implications of texts drawn from, and related to, Medievality (GA1, GA4, GA5, GA7, GA8, GA9)

LO3 - Critically evaluate and synthesise knowledge, concepts, and theories connected to Medievality from diverse sources and communicate complex ideas and findings with sophistication and confidence to a range of audiences in diverse contexts (GA3, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA7, GA8, GA9, GA10)

LO4 - Research, develop, and apply interdisciplinary theories and practices to a range of bodies of knowledge drawn from key texts in Medieval Western Thought (GA3, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA7, GA8, GA9, GA10)

Graduate attributes

GA1 - demonstrate respect for the dignity of each individual and for human diversity

GA3 - apply ethical perspectives in informed decision making

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA6 - solve problems in a variety of settings taking local and international perspectives into account

GA7 - work both autonomously and collaboratively 

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 

GA10 - utilise information and communication and other relevant technologies effectively.


Topics may include:

  • Arguments on faith, reason, and revelation, including the immortality of the soul and rational knowledge of God 
  • Debates on universality and the universal
  • Studies of the transformation, preservation, and loss of Ancient thought
  • Comparisons of Jewish, Christian, and Islamic inheritances of Ancient Western ideas
  • Historical linkages between Ancient culture and Medieval thinking, as well as the ways in which Medieval thought forms the basis of the emergence of modernity, and temporal consciousness of such distinctions
  • Debates on free will, autonomy and human nature
  • Philosophical and religious mysticism
  • The beginning of secular thought, including transformations in the Church and the emergence of the nation state
  • The changing idea of sovereignty
  • Medieval debates on knowledge formation and the imagination
  • Key themes of Medieval narrative fiction, including journey, escape, travel, bridging, and encounter
  • New ideas of nature, society, and the individual

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit is designed and delivered in a small-group attendance mode which facilitates the use of the Socratic method. The Socratic method promotes active and receptive dialogue in which students are encouraged to think for themselves rather than passively receive information, doctrines, or positions.  Rather than ratify ideologies, received ideas, and disciplinary norms in an unquestioning manner, the Socratic method potentially opens every ideological, disciplinary, and critical assumption to question.   

In addition to the close reading of a range of texts, narratives, essays, and art objects, students will participate in writing activities, the interpretation and evaluation of texts, and critical and argumentative debates. 

This is a 10-credit point unit and has been designed to ensure that the time needed to complete the required volume of learning to the requisite standard is approximately 150 hours in total across the semester. To achieve a passing standard in this unit, students will find it helpful to engage in the full range of learning activities and assessments utilised in this unit. The learning and teaching and assessment strategies include a range of approaches to support learning such as reading, reflection, discussion. 

Assessment strategy and rationale

This 600-level unit is designed to include assessment tasks that build content knowledge and higher-order research and analytic skills. 

The close reading task requires students to demonstrate a capacity to apply considered critical responses to cultural texts in the Western canon.

The class presentation requires students to present an independent point of view related to the unit content. Such a presentation is intended to train students in effective oral communication, responding to questions and concerns, and communicating to expert as well as non-expert audiences. 

The research essay develops skills in locating and evaluating sources on a cultural text, developing a sustained evidence-based argument, and active engagement with key theory debates.

The assessment tasks for this unit have been designed to contribute to high-quality student learning by both helping students learn (assessment for learning), and by measuring explicit evidence of their learning (assessment of learning). Assessments have been developed to meet the unit learning outcomes and develop graduate attributes consistent with University assessment requirements. These have been designed so that they use a variety of tasks to measure the different learning outcomes at a level suitable for graduate studies in the subject area. The assessment tasks are also designed to build, in a progressive manner, the skills necessary for the two-assessment structure that will be found in the later units.

Minimum Achievement Standards

The assessment tasks and their weighting for this unit are designed to demonstrate achievement of each learning outcome. In order to pass this unit, students are required to submit all assessment tasks, meet the learning outcomes of the unit and achieve a minimum overall passing grade of 50%.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Assessment Task 1: Close reading task

This task requires students to produce analyses that cross disciplinary boundaries. 


LO1, LO2

GA1, GA4, GA5, GA7, GA8, GA9

Assessment Task 2: Class presentation

This task requires students to present an independent point of view related to the unit content.


LO1, LO2, LO3

GA1, GA3, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA7, GA8, GA9, GA10

Assessment Task 3: Research Essay

This research essay requires students to produce a theoretically acute, graduate-level, interdisciplinary analysis of a key text or author in Medieval Thought, on a topic proposed in consultation with the instructor.


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4

GA1, GA3, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA7, GA8, GA9, GA10

Representative texts and references

Al-Farabi, Abu Nasr, The Political Writings, trans. by Charles Butterworth (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2015)

Alighieri, Dante, The Divine Comedy, trans. by John Sinclair (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010)

Averroes, Averroes on Plato’s Republic, trans. by Ralph Lerner (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1974)

Burger, Glenn D. and Holly A. Crocker, Medieval Affect, Feeling, and Emotion: Cambridge Studies in Medieval Literature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019)

Canning, Joseph P., Ideas of Power in the Late Middle Ages, 1296 –1417 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011)

Hildegard of Bingen, Selected Writings, trans. by Mark Atherton (New York: Penguin Random House, 2001)

Mack, Peter, Reading Old Books, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2019)

Tether, Keith, Johnny McFayden, Ad. Busby, Leah Putter, Handbook of Arthurian Romance (Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2017)

Turner, Marion, Chaucer: A European Life (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2019).

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