HIS33030 Women and Ethical Action in the First Millennium CE

Academic Year 2023/2024

“Women and Ethical Action in the First Millennium CE" will investigate the ideological construction and performance of ethical action by classical and early medieval women. The increased visibility of civic action and calls for equality by women on the global stage represents a remarkable response to tumultuous times. This interdisciplinary module is designed to introduce students first to the complex discourses surrounding virtue ethics, and to explore the manifold experiences of diverse women who asserted their own civic, communal, and religious virtue throughout Roman Empire, in Late Antiquity, and the Early Middle Ages. Throughout the module, students will closely analyze a wide array of primary textual sources, including philosophical dialogues, civic poetry, the lives of saints, and legal codes. A further unit of the course will explore the materiality of virtue in classical and medieval communities, i.e the ways in which spaces and objects inspired people to perform good deeds.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

At the end of this module students will have

- a knowledge and understanding of discourses around virtue ethics in the first millennium
- a knowledge and understanding of the experiences of a range of women in the first millennium in asserting civic, communal and religious virtue
- an appreciation of how to work with Late Antique and Early Medieval source materials
- an appreciation of scholarship on the subject

Indicative Module Content:

This module will address such topics as:
• Virtue and the mind in ancient and early medieval education (ex. Musonius Rufus and Dhuoda)
• Rhetoric and the construction of virtue on the public stage (ex. Conquestio Sulpiciae and Passio Perpetuae et Felicitiae)
• Crafting the physicality of virtue in the mateiral world (ex. Queen Gerberga’s so-called Kriegsfahne)
• The performance of virtue (ex. Hrotsvit of Gandersheim’s Sapientia or Kassia’s hymns)

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours
Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning




Seminar (or Webinar)




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
This module combines a one-hour lecture with a 2-hour seminar. Weekly lectures provide overviews of the topic, with focus on background to readings, and its relation to modern scholarship. Weekly seminars focus on small-group active and task-based learning by means of class debates, discussion and presentations. Autonomous learning is advanced through student-led debate and discussion of set primary sources and student presentations. Student engagement is promoted by oral presentations on a primary source germane to the week’s topic that the student has located, researched, and closely analyzed. Advanced research, writing and citations skills are developed through their short analysis that accompanies their oral presentation and an end-of-semester essay.
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade In Module Component Repeat Offered
Continuous Assessment: Participation Throughout the Trimester n/a Graded No


Continuous Assessment: Oral presentation and short analysis: A short oral presentation and an accompanying written analysis on a primary source (text or object) brought to supplement the week’s topic Throughout the Trimester n/a Graded No


Essay: 3-4,000-word essay due in week 13 Coursework (End of 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?

Not yet recorded.

Name Role
Professor Michael Staunton Lecturer / Co-Lecturer