History of Art MA

Monsters, Women And Jews: Medieval Art And Identity HISTART4032

  • Academic Session: 2021-22
  • School: School of Culture and Creative Arts
  • Credits: 40
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Runs Throughout Semesters 1 and 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: No
  • Available to Erasmus Students: No

Short Description

This course will explore medieval Christian images of the foreign, strange, unknown, underclass, inferior, pagan, and undesirable. During the Middle Ages, negative traits were assigned to certain real and imaginary groups, such as women, Jews, Wild Folk and the enigmatic Monstrous Races. We will examine how these groups were stereotyped in works of art-produced c.1000-c.1500, mainly in Northern Europe (England, France, and Germany).


1 x 1hr lecture; 1 x 1hr seminar per week over 10 weeks per Semester, as scheduled in MyCampus. This is one of the Honours options in History of Art and may not run every year. The options that are running this session are available on MyCampus.

Excluded Courses





Examination (180 minutes duration) - 60%

2 x Essays (3,000 words) - 30%

Seminar presentation of 10 minutes accompanied by 800 word paper or PowerPoint slides - 10%

Main Assessment In: April/May

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? Not applicable

Reassessments are normally available for all courses, except those which contribute to the Honours classification. For non Honours courses, students are offered reassessment in all or any of the components of assessment if the satisfactory (threshold) grade for the overall course is not achieved at the first attempt. This is normally grade D3 for undergraduate students and grade C3 for postgraduate students. Exceptionally it may not be possible to offer reassessment of some coursework items, in which case the mark achieved at the first attempt will be counted towards the final course grade. Any such exceptions for this course are described below. 

Course Aims

This course will provide the opportunity to:

■ identify and to trace over time the pictorial and semiotic elements of negative portrayals of a variety of underclass/enemy constituencies

■ explain the active role of pictorial imagery in the shaping of contemporary social attitudes

■ examine and evaluate the explanatory value of modern theories concerned with concepts of 'otherness', monstrosity, marginalisation, and identity when considered in relation to pejorative medieval imagery

■ situate pictorial imagery within its broader contemporary visual and literary cultures

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:

■ identify and articulate the common iconographical characteristics observable in medieval
images of monsters, demons, Jews, and other negatively portrayed groups

■ chronicle the development of pejorative medieval imagery in terms of specific classical traditions and their medieval modifications

■ identify and evaluate different modern theoretical notions of how the medieval Christian majority perceived non-Christians and women

■ recognize the interrelationships between visual culture and social history

■ research and present work, both orally and in written form, at a senior honours level

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.