ReMa Course 'Introduction in the Study of Communication, Literacy and Knowledge and their Exploitation in the Middle Ages'


dr Sabrina Corbellini,
dr Suzan Folkerts,
Prof. Marco Mostert,
Prof. Catrien Santing,


Classes (7 sessions, 3hrs) will be held alternately in Utrecht, Zwolle and Groningen
Date: Fridays April 24 – June 5


Registration no later than 15 March 2015



The course is offered at MA-level, to full-time ReMa students.

 Credits: 5



The course presupposes some knowledge of the theoretical background of the humanities. Students will be required to spend on average some 10 hours per week on preparing for classes, preparing and writing short papers and presentations, and attending classes. Because discussion during classes forms one of the main ingredients of this course, it is essential that all students attend all classes, unless because of force majeure.



Course description:
An advanced course, covering the current state of affairs in the field of Medieval Communication, Literacy (Including orality, ‘visuality’ and ‘musicality’) and various forms and traditions of Knowledge.

Human civilization and human social order presuppose collaboration, for which communication is crucial. Its role is to exchange and exploit information, in the form of statements (knowledge, ideas, beliefs) and instructions (purposes, values and norms). Communication also plays a role in the development and satisfaction of interpersonal needs: recognition, status, affection, building the image that an individual has of himself and of his (social and physical) environment.
The coming into being of expertise and the exchange of information enabled medieval people to pass on their experience and influence each other’s hearts and minds. Just as much a complex social order is virtually unimaginable without the communication-linked phenomenon of ‘literacies’: the abilities to use and understand the various forms of non-verbal, oral and written communication available in a society. New literacies and numeracy were invented, developed and spread during the Middle Ages, and this fundamentally altered the ways in which knowledge was acquired and distributed. The modern information age, based on the omnipresence of written texts, was prefigured in the medieval period. It saw the development of the book as we still know it and the introduction of paper, which enabled the development of the printing press. New generations of literate and educated persons thus contributed to the production of knowledge and the development of technologies, which went into the making of modern civilisation. The control of the literacy of the written word, as well as that of other, non-verbal literacies which remained equally important, shaped the ways in which social groups were included or excluded in a culture. For these reasons literacies often functioned as the leverage of social, political and cultural change.
This course focuses on the problems scholars of these topics are currently challenging and the various solutions they have found. It is meant as a critical introduction to these multiple approaches, methods and topics. In a series of seminars, attention will be paid, among other things, to ‘new’ sources and their exegesis; new areas of study; major theories in the fields of history, literature, art and music as they apply to medieval studies. What is the relationship between these theories and the ways in which we select and use our sources? What are their strength and weaknesses and how did the modern disciplines and sub-disciplines come about? And what about the place of the medievalist in present-day society?


For further information and registraton (no later than 15 March 2015) please contact the Secretariat of the School:
Martin de Ruiter, ozsmed@rug