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Unit information: Literature 1150-1550 in 2020/21

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Unit name Literature 1150-1550
Unit code ENGL10042
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Cathy Hume
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of English
Faculty Faculty of Arts


This unit introduces students to medieval literature, and will present both the diversity of literature written between 1150 and 1550 and its distinctive qualities. Students will study a selection of texts including some of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, medieval drama, romance, and court poetry; religious writing, lyrics and travel writing may also feature. They will learn to read and translate Middle English, but will also read some texts in the other languages of medieval Britain in translation, and will study texts by both male and female writers. They will learn to analyse medieval poetry and prose, and will gain an understanding of medieval modes of writing, genres and metres. They will be introduced to some key contexts and ideas to help them understand the literature, such as manuscript and oral cultures, Christianity and medieval social and gender hierarchies.

Intended learning outcomes

At the end of the unit a successful student will be able to:

  1. demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the literature of medieval England;
  2. read and translate Middle English;
  3. analyse the literary features of medieval poetry and prose;
  4. apply an understanding of historical, cultural and intellectual contexts to readings of medieval texts;
  5. demonstrate skills in textual analysis, argumentation, and critical interpretation using evidence from primary texts and secondary sources.

Teaching details

Teaching will involve asynchronous and synchronous elements, including long- and short-form lectures, group discussion, research and writing activities, and peer dialogue. Students are expected to engage with the reading and participate fully with the weekly tasks and topics. Learning will be further supported through the opportunity for individual consultation.

Assessment Details

  • 1 x 1000 word commentary (33%) [ILOs 1,4,5]
  • 1 x timed assessment (67%) [ILOs 1-5]

Reading and References

Ad Putter and Myra Stokes, eds, The Works of the Gawain Poet (Penguin 2014)

The Riverside Chaucer, gen. ed. Larry D. Benson (OUP, 1987)

Marie de France, Lais, tr. Glyn S. Burgess and Keith Busby (Penguin, 1986)

J. A. Burrow, Medieval Writers and their Work (OUP, 1982) [e-book]

Malory, Works, ed. Eugene Vinaver (OUP, 1977)

The Middle English Breton Lays, ed. Eve Salisbury and Anne Laskaya (Medieval Institute, 1995),