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Unit information: Introduction to Medieval Literature in 2015/16

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Unit name Introduction to Medieval Literature
Unit code FREN20042
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Professor. Marianne Ailes
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of French
Faculty Faculty of Arts


To introduce students to some of the masterpieces of French literature in the Middle Ages - a time when French was the dominant vernacular culture of western Europe. The chosen texts are from different genres and are all key texts in both French culture and beyond, particularly in the Anglo-Norman realm. Major themes and narrative elements of the period will be addressed, including the conflict between Christian and Saracen (the Crusades), the beginnings of Arthurian legend, gender constructs and the use and interpretation of biblical material and Christian doctrine.

The students will develop knowledge of key legendary figures such as Roland, Charlemagne and Arthur and some aspects of medieval thought. They will learn different ways of approaching literature of a culture which is at once and paradoxically alien to their own and foundational to it.


  • To introduce students to a significant body of knowledge of a complexity appropriate to second year level. The content matter will normally include one or more of the following: literature; social, cultural or political history; linguistics; cultural studies; film, television or other media.
  • To facilitate students' engagement with a body of literature, including secondary literature, texts, including in non-print media, primary sources and ideas as a basis for their own analysis and development. Normally many or most of these sources will be in a language other than English and will enhance the development of their linguistic skills.
  • To develop further skills of synthesis, analysis and independent research, building on the skills acquired in units at level C.
  • Some options may prepare students for the experience of the Year Abroad.

Intended learning outcomes

Successful students will:

  • be knowledgeable about a significant cultural, historical or linguistic subject related to the language they are studying;
  • be skilled in the selection and synthesis of relevant material;
  • be able to evaluate and analyse relevant material from a significant body of source materials, usually in a foreign language, at a high level;
  • be able to respond to questions or problems by presenting their independent judgements in an appropriate style and at an high level of complexity;
  • be able to transfer these skills to other working environments, including study at a foreign university and on work placements during the year abroad.

Teaching details

2 x 1hr slots weekly.

Assessment Details

A written assignment of 2000 words and a two hour exam (50% each)

Reading and References

  • La Chanson de Roland, ed. I.Short, Livre de poche/Lettres gothiques
  • Chrétien de Troyes, Yvain, Livre de poche/Lettres gothiques
  • Le Jeu d’Adam, ed. W.G. van Emden, 2nd ed, Société Rencesvals