Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Academic Year
Intended for use in future years

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Seminars / Tutorials 10 x 2 hour seminars


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment 1 X 3000 WORD ESSAY  50%
Semester Assessment 1 X 2000 WORD PROJECT  50%
Supplementary Assessment Resubmit or resit failed elements and/or make good any missing elements 

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

demonstrate detailed knowledge of a range of literary texts surviving for the period
c. 1350-1650, with particular reference to five categories as outlined above

discuss and explain the circumstances in which these texts were read and how they might have been used and therefore understood by contemporaries

discuss and explain theories of reading from the period c. 1350-1650 and how they relate to modern theories of reading

demonstrate a development of the skills required to analyze the literatures covered by this course in the form of facsimile rather than printed edition

communicate the knowledge and analytical skills gained during this course in written assessment


This module complements and deepens the study of texts and issues from the period c. 1350-1650 on the Medieval & Renaissance Core Module. It introduces students to issues relevant to the developing scholarly field known as the History of Reading and in so doing provides a springboard onto independent undergraduate and postgraduate study in this field. Its focus raises important questions regarding the nature of the literatures available to the mass of the population in the period c. 1350-1650; the contents of these literatures; the occasions they were read; and the cognitive processes involved with reading them.

Brief description

How did people read? What did they read? What could they read? Can we talk about a "psychology" of reading during this period? What changes and transitions were there across this period which had an impact on reading? How significant is the invention of printing? How and when did people learn to read? What does a text look like and what does popular literature look like in general? How does the appearance of a particular text or groups of texts relate to its contents? How are illustrations used? This module is an introduction to the types of literature that medieval and early modern people actually read. We will look at primary sources, thinks about what (if any), theories of reading are useful, and we will develop some skills in analysing the handwriting and printed fonts used in the medieval and early modern periods, using worked examples in the module handbook. The module takes examples from four categories of literature: "Moral & Political", "Practical", "Spiritual", and "Romance". The literatures survive as manuscripts, pamphlets, scraps and fragments, "small merry books", single sheet illustrated flyers. They are politically committed, intense, humorous, scandalous, moving. The module is structured so that each theme is addressed in relation to literatures from the whole chronological period covered (C. 1350-1650). This structure encourages students to make comparisons between different versions and forms of text and to understand these in relation to the historical/cultural contexts of production and circulation, and reception. The module is assessed by two assignments. The first is a 3000 word essay. The second is a "Transcription and Research Project" which will involve students in transcribing and analyzing one from a choice of 5 set passages of text in facsimile. The analysis will be guided by a set of 5 "Project Questions" prompting the coverage of a set of specific issues concerning use, meaning, context and format.


A module booklet containing selected module texts will be delivered to the students for a price which covers the cost. 50 pages backed.

Seminar 1 Introduction
Overview of the module. Questions about the nature and psychology of reading.

Seminars 2 and 3 "Moral & Political"
Short moral stories from "Gesta Romanorum", school books such as ABCs; Civil war political pamphlets including "Ranter" writings such as Abiezer Coppe, "Fiery Flying Roll"

Seminars 4 and 5 "Spiritual"
Affective lyrics (Wheatley Manuscript), highly illustrated verses for lay contemplation (BL Add Ms 37049), "Lay Folks' Mass Book"

Seminar 6 Testing and Comparing Theories of Reading
(eg Abraham Holland, "A Discourse for Paper-Persecutors" ; de Certeau, 1984, Rorty, 1992)

Seminars 7 and 8 "Romance" (Seminar 7: Ipomedon; Seminar: 8 Robin Hood)
(extracts from "Ipomedon", Robin Hood and associated stories, pamphlets and drama

Seminars 9 and 10 "Practical"
(Extracts from Practical manuscripts of medicinal and culinary advice taking examples from NLW such as Porkington 10; "Caxton's Book of Curtesye". Examples of administrative texts: The last wills and testaments of William Tilghman (1492) and John Aunsell (1516)).
Seminar 10: Exploring National Library Of Wales Resources

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number No although some quantitative analysis of eg literacy rates may be important for some written work
Communication Group discussions
Improving own Learning and Performance Independent reading and research, time management
Information Technology Use of EEBO (Early English Books Online)
Personal Development and Career planning Reflexive analysis and transferable research skills
Problem solving Developing Analytical and Critical skills and by formulating and conducting detailed arguments
Research skills Developing independent learning skills, specific skills in reading primary material, evaluation of secondary literature, assessment and understanding of historical and cultural context and its significance
Subject Specific Skills Critical analysis of a specific body of literary texts and abilities to evaluate these within the historiography of the specialist field "History of Reading" as well as within broader literary and cultural fields
Team work Group discussion in seminars

Reading List

Supplementary Text
(2003.) A history of reading in the West /edited by Guglielmo Cavallo and Roger Chartier ; translated by Lydia G. Cochrane. Polity Primo search Bloch, M (1999) How We Think They Think: Anthropological Approaches to Cognition, Memory and Literacy Westview Primo search Coleman, Joyce. (1996.) Public reading and the reading public in late medieval England and France /Joyce Coleman. Cambridge University Press Primo search Fish, Stanley Eugene (1980.) Is there a text in this class? :the authority of interpretive communities. Harvard University Press Primo search Jauss H R (1982) Towards An Aesthetic of Reception Harvester Primo search Lerer, Seth (c1993.) Chaucer and his readers :imagining the author in late-medieval England /Seth Lerer. Princeton University Press Primo search Salter, Elisabeth (2006.) Cultural creativity in the early English Renaissance :popular culture in town and country /Elisabeth Salter. Palgrave Macmillan Primo search Spufford, Margaret. (1981.) Small books and pleasant histories :popular fiction and its readership in seventeenth century England /Margaret Spufford. Methuen Primo search Watt, Tessa. (1991.) Cheap print and popular piety, 1550-1640 /Tessa Watt. Cambridge University Press Primo search


This module is at CQFW Level 6