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Unit Overview


This unit explores the emotions, beliefs and thought structures of people in pre-modern Europe 1100–1800. Drawing on methods from cultural history and the history of mentalities, we examine a range of questions such as: Were medieval women mystics who only ate the Eucharist 'anorexic'? Were Englishmen more prone to melancholy than their continental counterparts in Elizabethan times? Why were some early modern delusions, e.g. the belief that one was made of glass or clay, attributed to 'hypochondria', and others to demonic possession? In short, how were altered states of consciousness—from depression to divine illumination—understood, represented and treated, from medieval to early modern times?

6 points
(see Timetable)
Semester 1UWA (Perth)Face to face
Details for undergraduate courses
  • Level 3 option in the History major sequence
  • Level 3 elective

Students are able to (1) describe and assess the basic methodological issues characteristic of the discipline of History; (2) describe, assess and evaluate methodological issues used in the study of mentalities in pre-modern Europe; (3) construct a logical argument (in written and in oral form); (4) demonstrate detailed understanding of developments in the history of mentalities, with particular reference to the history of altered states of consciousness, and an appreciation of the historiographical interpretations that have been advanced to explain them; (5) relate their independent source interpretations to the complex historiographical debates about histories of mentalities and histories of emotions; and (6) present advanced arguments in both written and oral assessments using the conventions of the historical discipline.


Indicative assessments in this unit are as follows: (1) tutorial participation and (2) written assignments. Further information is available in the unit outline.

Student may be offered supplementary assessment in this unit if they meet the eligibility criteria.

Unit Coordinator(s)
Associate Professor Jacqueline Van Gent
Unit rules
Any Level 2 History
or Level 2 Medieval and Early Modern Studies unit
or EURO2201 Civilisation and Barbarism in European Cultural History.
MEMS2215 Mysticism, Melancholy and Madness
Contact hours
1 hour lecture, 1 hour workshop and 1 hour tutorial
  • The availability of units in Semester 1, 2, etc. was correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change.
  • All students are responsible for identifying when they need assistance to improve their academic learning, research, English language and numeracy skills; seeking out the services and resources available to help them; and applying what they learn. Students are encouraged to register for free online support through GETSmart; to help themselves to the extensive range of resources on UWA's STUDYSmarter website; and to participate in WRITESmart and (ma+hs)Smart drop-ins and workshops.
  • Unit readings, including any essential textbooks, are listed in the unit outline for each unit, one week prior the commencement of study. The unit outline will be available via the LMS and the UWA Handbook one week prior the commencement of study. Reading lists and essential textbooks are subject to change each semester. Information on essential textbooks will also be made available on the Essential Textbooks. This website is updated regularly in the lead up to semester so content may change. It is recommended that students purchase essential textbooks for convenience due to the frequency with which they will be required during the unit. A limited number of textbooks will be made available from the Library in print and will also be made available online wherever possible. Essential textbooks can be purchased from the commercial vendors to secure the best deal. The Student Guild can provide assistance on where to purchase books if required. Books can be purchased second hand at the Guild Secondhand bookshop (second floor, Guild Village), which is located on campus.
  • Contact hours provide an indication of the type and extent of in-class activities this unit may contain. The total amount of student work (including contact hours, assessment time, and self-study) will approximate 150 hours per 6 credit points.