ENMMET-Opening Up Medieval English Texts

Module Provider: English Literature
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Spring term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Current from: 2018/9

Module Convenor: Dr Aisling Byrne

Email: a.byrne@reading.ac.uk

Type of module:

Summary module description:

This module explores literature in English in and at the end of the Middle Ages. This period sees the revival and, indeed, reinvention of English as a literary vernacular, after several generations of domination by French.


This module will explore literature in English in and at the end of the Middle Ages. This period sees the revival and, indeed, reinvention of English as a literary vernacular, after several generations of domination by French. Students will explore the great innovations in the form and content of English literature in this period and will be introduced to the work of key authors, like Geoffrey Chaucer. This module will explore new literary forms that emerge in the Middle Ages, like romance, and treatments of new narrative material, such as the Arthurian legend. How do authors in this period interrogate ideas like chivalry, courtly love, religious authority and gender? Students will also explore the wide range of material and performance contexts in which these texts were received – in manuscript, early print, oral recitation, musical and dramatic performance. We will consider how these contexts influence medieval approaches to concepts like the author, genre and textual authority. No prior experience of medieval language or literature is required.

Assessable learning outcomes:

By the end of the module it is expected that the student will be able to:

  • trace the key developments in English literary history in this period

  • place literary works within their cultural and historical context

  • consider how the material conditions of medieval literature affect textual interpretation

  • read Middle English texts in the original

  • conduct and demonstrate independent thought and research in the selection and critical analysis of texts

  • undertake bibliographic research and analysis of primary textual material

Additional outcomes:

Students will develop oral communication skills through seminar discussions. They will develop knowledge of both bibliographic and electronic resources for the study of this period.

Outline content:

This module will look at texts in English written in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. We will look at a selection of the major works from this period, like Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, Thomas Malory’s Morte Darthur, the anonymous Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. We will also consider less canonical voices, like those of female authors, and consider texts by writers working in English in Scotland and Ireland. Other genres covered may include medieval drama, Middle English lyrics, travel writing, literature of mystical experience, and popular romance. Manuscript contexts will be introduced in an accessible manner and we will discuss the evidence they provide for medieval concepts of authorship, and the responses of early readers to specific texts. The course will also trace developments in the history of the book in this period, including the impact of the printing press.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

The module consists of ten weekly seminars, each two-hours long. Each seminar will involve discussion of texts or special material set and prepared in advance. The convenor will be available for consultation on a one-to-one basis to discuss students’ work and the progress of the module as a whole.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Seminars 20
Guided independent study 180
Total hours by term 200.00
Total hours for module 200.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written assignment including essay 100

Summative assessment- Examinations:

Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:

Aside from the set readings and questions for discussion, students must submit a 4000-word essay on a topic of their choice, in which they will respond to and develop upon an aspect of the material covered in the seminars. The specific title will be determined by the student in consultation with the module convenor.

Formative assessment methods:

Penalties for late submission:
Penalties for late submission on this module are in accordance with the University policy. Please refer to page 5 of the Postgraduate Guide to Assessment for further information: http://www.reading.ac.uk/internal/exams/student/exa-guidePG.aspx

Assessment requirements for a pass:


Reassessment arrangements:

By re-submission of coursework

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:

Last updated: 20 April 2018


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