HIS31960 Satan in the Middle Ages

Academic Year 2023/2024

This course aims to trace the evolution of the concept of the Devil from Late Antiquity until the end of the middle ages. As such, we will examine themes which touch on the fundamental problem of evil in the world and associated attempts to address these. Although it emphasises Western Christian thought, space will be given for the discussion of Eastern Orthodox and Islamic views in order to draw meaningful comparisons. This module will examine evidence from a variety of contemporary sources including patristic and mystical theology, art, literature, homiletics, hagiography and popular religion and folklore in order to answer how changing ideas regarding the Devil affected the social context in which they arose. We will end with a consideration of the radical shift which occurred at the end of the medieval period which led to the ‘witch craze’ of the sixteenth century.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:
1) Approach and discuss historical evidence through critical thinking, speaking and writing:
Students will learn to make use of both primary and secondary historical sources. They will be able to present and discuss in written and oral format analysis of key questions relating to the development of the concept of 'Satan'.
2) Identify key developments in medieval thought regarding evil and the devil:
Students will acquire a basic understanding of the most important figures, texts, and issues which identify Satan as the personification of evil. They will also be able to draw critical comparisons between differing ideologies: Christian, Eastern Orthodox and Islamic.
3) Understand the impact of these concepts on society:
Students will learn how the medieval populace expressed their understanding of evil in art, literature and folklore. Students will be able to outline the ways in which these ideas influenced society in their historical contexts.

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours
Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning




Seminar (or Webinar)




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
This is a small group module, taught via a combination of a one-hour weekly lecture and a two-hour weekly seminar. The lecture provides a broad introductory overview of the period and/or topic, while the seminar explores the subject in more detail, examining issues of interpretation and debate. Seminars are structured around student presentations and discussion, the latter incorporating both full class conversation and smaller group work. Discussions are source-led, with a weekly handout of primary material supplying the basis for close analysis. Advanced research and writing skills are developed through weekly learning journals and a final research essay. Autonomous learning is developed via student-led discussion in the seminars, in particular through group analysis of the weekly reading materials. 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Additional Information:
Students should have completed one of the pre-requisite modules listed

Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade In Module Component Repeat Offered
Assignment: 4,000 word research paper Coursework (End of Trimester) n/a Graded No


Continuous Assessment: Learning journal and portfolio Week 12 n/a Graded No


Continuous Assessment: Class participation Throughout the Trimester n/a Graded No



Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Autumn No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, on an activity or draft prior to summative assessment
• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Feedback individually to students, post-assessment: Feedback on the mid-term assessment will be provided in writing. Oral feedback will be provided on an ongoing basis on plans and reading lists for the end of semester research project. Students have opportunity to book a one-to-one discussion with the module coordinator to discuss their research for this project. Written feedback on the end of semester assessment will be provided via brightspace

Name Role
Nathan Millin Lecturer / Co-Lecturer