Why MEMS Matters: A Roundtable Discussion on a MA in Medieval and Early Modern Studies Program
Emily HarlessLecture Theatre
Chair: Emily M. Harless (University of Manchester; English and American Studies PhD Student)
In recent years, students and staff alike have observed the growing success and fruits of the MA in Medieval and Early Modern Studies (MA MEMS) program at the University of Manchester. Recruitment continues to grow, with figures nearly equivalent to that of the institution’s English MA program, and we have seen several students from the recent graduating cohorts go on to further, doctoral study. The interdisciplinarity of the program gives staff and students the opportunity to explore their varied research interests in an environment that gathers the resources, innovative spirit, and enthusiasm needed to support such research. Certain skills taught on the course (such as palaeography and codicology) offer students the opportunity to engage with material culture in a way that may be overlooked by more mainstream programs, while methodological approaches highlighted by the course encourage (or even require) students to engage in research previously seen as being appropriately delegated to a certain department – perhaps a department quite foreign to them. By gathering together scholars of various backgrounds, the MA MEMS program creates a dialogue between departments that has spawned fascinating new research projects. However, there are – as with all programs – some unique challenges for both staff and students.
This roundtable gathers together former MA MEMS students who have now moved forward in their academic careers – both current postgraduate researchers and early career academics – as well as staff who have previously and/or are currently teaching on the MA MEMS course to discuss aspects of both teaching and studying on a course of this type, answering and discussing questions such as the following:
- How does a course of this sort appeal to students of various backgrounds?
- Why study on a MEMS course (versus one in English, history, etc.)?
- What unique challenges does teaching or studying on a course of this type pose?
- What might the future of a MEMS program like the one at Manchester look like?
The aim of this roundtable is to gain a greater understanding of the strengths, weaknesses, and the future of programs of this type. We hope to use this information to create strategies for the future development of programs of the sort currently operating at Manchester and other institutions.