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Level 7

7AAH2005 Ritual in Early Modern Society

Credit value: 20
Module convenor/tutor: Professor Anne Goldgar
Teaching pattern: 10 x 2-hour weekly seminars
Availability: Please see module list for relevant year
Assessment: 1 x 4,000-word essay
 
Students are reassessed in the failed elements of assessment and by the same methods as the first attempt.
 

The modules offered in each academic year are subject to change in line with staff availability and student demand: there is no guarantee every module will run. Module descriptions and information may vary between years.

Historians have for some years been interested in the way that early modern cultural practices, both popular and elite, can be examined through anthropological approaches to ritual behaviour. Most historians interpret the term ‘ritual’ fairly widely, incorporating secular as well as religious events and concepts. Because much of the most interesting cultural history of the last 25 years has relied on this type of analysis and focused on this type of material, this module will not only be able to introduce students to important concepts in the study of early modern history, but also to many of the chief writings on cultural history in recent years. Discussion will focus on themes of central importance to members of early modern communities, either as individuals or as members both of a face-to-face society and as part of the developing state.

The module will begin by examining the theory of ritual. It then will turn to the most easily comprehensible form of ritual life, religious ritual, but will examine not only types and functions of such ritual but also how, in the Reformation, these were reformed (and how this in itself was a ritual process). Further discussions will look at ritual in the life of individuals and communities. These include rites of passage such as marriage and death, rituals marking the passage of time (which contribute to communal and individual consciousness), and rituals which give rise to feelings of solidarity as well as those which express and regulate violence in small communities, both in normal life and on festive occasions. The way that forms of interaction can be ritualized, and how this can contribute to cultures of power, is examined in the final part of the module. Here students will look at the rise of civility and court culture, and the way that forms of ritualized display, including such varied ceremonies as coronations and executions, can function to negotiate power between rulers and ruled.

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