Module Identifier EN31220  
Academic Year 2003/2004  
Co-ordinator Professor Diane Watt  
Semester Semester 1  
Course delivery Seminars / Tutorials   20 Hours Seminar. (10 x 2 hr seminar workshops)  
Assessment TypeAssessment Length/DetailsProportion
Semester Assessment Continuous Assessment: 2 essays (2,500 words each)100%
Supplementary Assessment Resubmit any failed elements and/or make good any missing elements. 

Learning outcomes

On completion of this module students should typically be able to:
- demonstrate an understanding of a range of late medieval texts in English

- describe and analyse a range of late medieval literary forms and genres

- demonstrate an understanding of late medieval English culture and history

- analyse a range of late medieval texts in English in relation to current critical and theoretical debates

- demonstrate an understanding of late medieval literary English

Brief description

Focusing on works by Chaucer, Langland and the Gawain-poet, this module will challenge the myth that medieval literature was much more straightforward than modern literature by looking at the way in which society, orthodoxy, gender and sexuality are constructed within the set texts and by considering the extent to which certain of these texts are socially subversive, sexually transgressive or potentially heretical. This module complements the core module on Medieval and Renaissance Writing but also be accessible to anyone interested in reading medieval texts and in locating the literature of the time in its social and historical context. It will also introduce a range of approaches to Medieval English poetry from more traditional criticism to Marxist, deconstructionist, feminist and postmodern readings. Such readings illustrate that medieval literature remains of relevance in the 21st century.


Seminar Programme:
1. Society in Transition: The General Prologue to The Canterbury Tales
2-3 Society in Decline: The Prologue and Passus i-vii, xviii and xx of Langland's Piers Plowman

Marginality and Persecution
4-5 Anti-semitism and Conflicts of Faith: The Prioress's Tale and Patience
6-7 Sodomy and Crises of Faith: The Pardoner's Tale and Purity

Social Subversion and the Limits of Gender
8. The Incestuous Family Romance: The Man of Law's Tale
9. Paying One's Debts: The Reeve's Tale and Chaucer's Fabliaux
10. The Limits of Genre: The Merchant's Tale

Reading Lists

Set Texts
Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales, ed A C Cawley (London, 1992).
J J Anderson (ed.) Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl, Cleanness, Patience, (London, 1996).
William Langland, The Vision of Piers Plowman, ed A V C Schmidt (London, 1995).
William Langland, Piers Plowman, trans. A.V.C. Schmidt (Oxford, 1992)

Preliminary Reading
David Aers, ed, Medieval Literature: Criticism, Ideology and History (Brighton, 1986).
David Aers, ed, Community, Gender and Individual Identity:English Writing 1360-1430 (London, 1988).
Carolyn Dinshaw, Chaucer's Sexual Poetics (London, 1989).
Louis Fradenburg and Carla Freccero, Postmodern Sexualities (London, 1996)
Clare Lees, ed, Medieval Masculinities: Regarding Men in the Middle Ages (London, 1994)
Stephen Medcalf, 'On Reading Books From a Half-Alien Culture' in The Later Middle Ages, ed Stephen Medcalf (London, 1981), 1-55.
Lee Patterson, Chaucer and the Subject of History (London, 1991).
Stephanie Trigg, ed, Medieval English Poetry (London, 1993).
David Wallace, Chaucerian Polity (Stanford, 1998).


This module is at CQFW Level 6