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Unit information: Literature 1 (1200-1500) for Joint Honours in 2015/16

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Unit name Literature 1 (1200-1500) for Joint Honours
Unit code ENGL20202
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Professor. Putter
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of English
Faculty Faculty of Arts


No previous knowledge of Middle English is required for this unit. Students are taught to read Middle English and are introduced to some of the major authors and works of the 14th and 15th Centuries, including Chaucer's Canterbury Tales and Troilus and Criseyde; Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and the elegy Pearl; Langland's The Vision of Piers Plowman; and Malory's Morte Darthur. Some lectures will also offer general information about medieval life, thought and society. Passages from one of the Canterbury Tales and from Sir Gawain and the Green Knight will be set for translation and commentary in a final exam. Students will be prepared for the exam both in tutorials and in lectures.


The aim of this unit is to give students a grounding in Middle English literature of the 14th and 15th centuries. This literature will be studied in the original language. At the end of this unit, students should have developed a basic command of Middle English language. We also aim to give students and understanding of the distinctive qualities of medieval literature, as well as an understanding of the ethos and aesthetics of some important writers of the period.

Intended learning outcomes

Learning objectives include the ability to develop and express, in lucid and correct prose, cogent arguments in essays; the ability to select and analyse pertinent passages from the literary text that would support such arguments; the ability to make intelligent use of secondary criticism and theoretical perspectives (where appropriate); mastery of the technical vocabulary and analytical tools of literary criticism and of the conventions of academic style and referencing.

Teaching details

3 lectures and 1 tutorial a week, plus 1 to 1 consultation hours where desired.

Assessment Details

  • Short essay, 1,000 words max (33%)
  • Long essay, 2,000 words max (66%)

Reading and References

The lectures in this unit will include advice on how to read Middle English, close readings of particular texts (with the final week dedicated to the set texts for the exam), general surveys of authors and genres (e.g. medieval drama, women writers), and contextual information about medieval thought and society (e.g. the church and religion, representations of women). In tutorials, syllabuses may vary: all tutors will devote the majority of the time available to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Malory, but other texts and authors may also be discussed – for instance Langland's Piers Plowman (social and religious commentary contemporary with Chaucer), Pearl (a dream vision attributed to the Gawain-poet), The Book of Margery Kempe (the first autobiography in English), or Henryson's Fables (late fifteenth-century Scottish beast fables influenced by Chaucer but very different in style and content). Detailed reading lists will be provided by individual tutors prior to the start of teaching.