EN3MO-Medieval Otherworlds

Module Provider: English Literature
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Spring term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Module version for: 2017/8

Module Convenor: Dr Aisling Byrne

Email: a.byrne@reading.ac.uk

Summary module description:
Magic and the supernatural play an important role in medieval English literature. In this module we will explore literary accounts of a range of fantastical locations where the ‘other’ is encountered in a particularly dramatic fashion. We will discuss romances where questing knights arrive in uncanny fairy kingdoms or where King Arthur travels to Avalon. We will analyse travel accounts which populate the fringes of the world with marvels and strange beings. In some narratives, heroes test themselves in hellish landscapes or search for paradise on earth. In other texts, sleepers confront the surreal world of their own dreams. Although depictions of these places can be sensational or escapist, authors also use them to explore very serious themes such as desire, death, gender and political authority.

This module aims to encourage a critical understanding of the role of the fantastical in medieval writing. It does so through close examination of selected Middle English texts which are contextualised by the study of influential texts from the wider European tradition and other contemporary artifacts like medieval maps and manuscript illustration. Students will also examine medieval approaches to key concepts like the natural and the supernatural, magic, and geography. The module will explore how far and why medieval accounts of these places differ from treatments of supernatural realms in more modern literature. No previous knowledge of Middle English language, medieval literature or history is required.

Assessable learning outcomes:
By the end of the module students will be expected to:
•discuss the selected texts in relation to the tradition of medieval otherworld depictions
•develop a critical vocabulary for discussing the role played by marvels and the supernatural in medieval literature
•read set texts in the original Middle English
•approach literary treatments of the supernatural in their historical context
•demonstrate an informed critical engagement with ideas discussed in seminars and with appropriate secondary materials
•research, organize and articulate a scholarly critical argument in written work.

Additional outcomes:
Additional outcomes
Oral and written communication skills will be developed, together with critical, interpretative and analytical abilities. Students will also enhance their IT competence through the use of relevant web resources in a critically informed manner.

Outline content:
The module involves the study of a selection of Middle English texts, primarily written in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. The texts are drawn from a wide range of genres, including romance, dream-vision poetry and travel writing. The module will take in some of the most important texts from medieval England, like the dream narrative Pearl and romances concerning King Arthur. It will also explore less frequently studied works like Sir Orfeo, a moving reworking of the Orpheus legend, and Sir Owein, the story of a knight who travels through purgatory while he is still alive. Other texts may include Chaucer’s Parliament of Fowls, the romance of Sir Laufal, The Travels of Sir John Mandeville and the satirical Land of Cockayne.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:
Three seminar hours weekly, which may take the form of a single 3-hour block or two blocks of 1 and 2 hours respectively, for which students are required to do preparatory reading. Students are also entitled to a half-hour tutorial on their formative written work. With the consent of the module convenor, students may also undertake a placement, through which they will learn how to apply the knowledge and skills gained in studying for this module in a professional context outside the University.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Seminars 33 1
Tutorials 0.5
Guided independent study 126.5 39
Total hours by term 160.00 40.00
Total hours for module 200.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written exam 50
Written assignment including essay 50

Other information on summative assessment:

Formative assessment methods:
work which provides opportunities to improve performance (e.g. through feedback provided) but which does not necessarily always contribute towards the overall module mark:

Students write one formative essay, of between 1500 and 2000 words. Feedback will also be provided on the assessed essay of 2250-2500 words, or the equivalent placement report.

Penalties for late submission:
The Module Convenor will apply the following penalties for work submitted late, in accordance with the University policy.

  • where the piece of work is submitted up to one calendar week after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for the piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day (or part thereof) following the deadline up to a total of five working days;
  • where the piece of work is submitted more than five working days after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded.

  • The University policy statement on penalties for late submission can be found at: http://www.reading.ac.uk/web/FILES/qualitysupport/penaltiesforlatesubmission.pdf
    You are strongly advised to ensure that coursework is submitted by the relevant deadline. You should note that it is advisable to submit work in an unfinished state rather than to fail to submit any work.

    Length of examination:

    Requirements for a pass:
    A mark of at least 40% overall

    Reassessment arrangements:

    Re-examination in September. Coursework will be carried forward if it bears a confirmed mark of 40% or more. Otherwise it must be resubmitted by 25 August 2017

    Additional Costs (specified where applicable):
    1) Required text books:
    2) Specialist equipment or materials:
    3) Specialist clothing, footwear or headgear:
    4) Printing and binding:
    5) Computers and devices with a particular specification:
    6) Travel, accommodation and subsistence:

    Key Readings List:
    You can view a Key Readings list for this module here: http://readinglists.reading.ac.uk/lists/1F6D468B-544F-EE90-27E7-99B1CE748F75 N.B. Reading lists may change before the module starts.

    Last updated: 11 April 2017

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