Sourcebooks of Ritual Magic in Late Medieval England
Course infoSchedule
Course moduleLET-LETK-ETC403
Credits (ECTS)5
Language of instructionEnglish
Offered byRadboud University; Faculty of Arts; English Language and Culture;
dr. L.S. Chardonnens
Other course modules lecturer
Contactperson for the course
dr. L.S. Chardonnens
Other course modules lecturer
Academic year2018
PER 1-PER 2  (01/09/2018 to 01/02/2019)
Starting block
Course mode
RemarksAccessible to exchange students.
Registration using OSIRISYes
Course open to students from other facultiesYes
Waiting listNo
Placement procedure-
- Participants have expanded their knowledge of medieval and early modern literature by having examined writings belonging to the sphere of magic.
- They are able to analyse modern critical and historical primary sources relating to magic in late medieval and early modern Europe.
- They understand and can apply the principles of manuscript studies and textual editing to late medieval and early modern  texts in their original contexts by producing accurate editions intended for an audience of peers and experts in the field.
- They know how magic functions as a consistent, logical system in pre-Modernity.
- They are able to independently analyse a medieval or early modern magic text, to formulate a well-informed thesis about the text, and to communicate their ideas effectively to their peers and the academic community.
- They consolidate or expand their knowledge of philological methods by studying a medieval or early modern text in its original, unedited form.
Knowledge and manipulation of reality by supernatural means, magic is now largely relegated to the realm of quackery, popular culture or mental illness through a series of momentous historical events from early modernity onwards. Religious and cultural developments, such as the Protestant Reformation, humanism and scientism, have been instrumental in undermining the rationale of systematic (albeit occult) attempts to come to grips with daily reality by our ancestors, who were faced with worries about life and death, health and illness, profit and loss, happiness and sadness, security and danger, fortune and misfortune. But if we, as modern human beings who seem to have given up magical practices, ask ourselves to what extent we are in control of the many aspects of our own lives, we have to admit that there is still no prospect beyond the absolute divide that separates this momentary present from the future. We put an almost religious faith in science, education, technology and medicine, even though the questions that occupy our thoughts are the same that worried our ancestors, so why not investigate their coherent and sophisticated systems of supernatural thought to see how they coped with life, the universe and everything? This course introduces the participants to practices of ritual magic from medieval and early modern times with the help of sources that were transmitted, often illicitly, in communities that had not yet relegated magic to the realm of fiction. These communities contributed to the medieval and early modern book business in ways that other producers of books at the time did not, because sourcebooks of magic are not just objects containing information, but also objects of supernatural potential through consecration rituals.

The sources we will work with are hitherto unpublished, medieval texts of ritual magic from manuscripts of the early modern period. These texts will be transformed into a modern edition that makes them available to a present-day audience, and introduces them in such a way that modern readers understand what they are about. Relevant aspects of manuscript studies, source studies and editing techniques will be discussed and applied in order to come to an understanding of how medieval and early modern texts functioned within their material contexts. We will also study recent work on ritual magic to come to better understanding of the historical, ideological and cutural dimensions of these texts. The course, then, combines the theoretical study of ritual magic with the practice of textual editing from older sources. Close affinity with or expertise in at least one of the following fields of study is recommended: ritual magic, manuscript studies, book history, religious studies, magic studies, medieval or early modern English, (medieval) Latin.
Assumed previous knowledge
Bachelor in Taal- en Cultuuropleiding, see entry requirements of Master in Literature; Note for exchange students: Students cannot take this course if their English proficiency level is not at least C1 on the CEFR grid.

Required materials
Title:Reading materials will be distributed during the course.

Instructional modes

Continuous Assessment
Test weight30
Test typePortfolio
OpportunitiesBlock PER 2, Block PER 3

Minimum grade

Schriftelijk werkstuk
Test weight70
Test typeProject
OpportunitiesBlock PER 2, Block PER 3

Minimum grade