Literatures in Time: Epic and Romance in the Middle Ages

Level 4 (15 credits)

This module will introduce you to the foundations of English literature, from the earliest textual production in Anglo-Saxon England to the flourishing of English as a literary language in the later Middle Ages. It will give you a sense of the historical, political, social, and literary developments over eight centuries of writing in England. The medieval period saw the emergence of new literary forms in response to political and social upheaval. It witnessed the development of poetry in all genres, from epic verse to lyrics; the first recorded drama in English; the first writing by women in English; the invention of printing; and the use of literature to express and to shape religious experience. The Middle Ages also saw the transformation of the English language from Old to Middle English, and English literature of the period bears the influence of a range of texts written in other medieval languages (especially Latin and French), which were transmitted and read alongside English-language works. Over the semester, this module will give you a growing understanding of the purposes and effects, conscious and unconscious, of literary production and development; this understanding will be rooted in the historical moment. Much of the reading will be available to you in modern English translations, but you will also have the opportunity to read texts in their original Middle English, the language of Chaucer and other writers of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.

Preparing for this Module and Approximate Costs

There is no advance preparation for this module.

Return tube travel to Zone 1 on two occasions may be required for field trips.

Why take
Literatures in Time: Epic and Romance in the Middle Ages

  • Read a range of texts (from epic adventures to chivalric quests) written in a period that is full of imaginative and provocative literature;
  • Discover some of the ways in which England's earliest literature is connected with literature written in Europe and in the wider world;
  • Explore themes such as gender and power, relationships between humans and animals, monsters and monstrosity, magic and the supernatural, chivalry, violence, morality, religion, and comedy.
Learning Context Lecture + Seminar
Semester Two
  1. Written Assignment (1000 words), 35%
  2. Written Assignment (2000 words), 65%
Mode of reassessment Standard