Medieval Literature and Culture - CP328

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2020 to 2021
Autumn 4 15 (7.5) PROF A Staehler checkmark-circle


The period between the decline of the Western Roman Empire and the Renaissance, roughly embracing the fifth to the fifteenth centuries, is generally referred to as the Middle Ages. The intermediary character suggested by this term reflects the frequently pejorative evaluation this period has received. However, the medieval period produced many lasting material monuments, such as the great European cathedrals (including Canterbury Cathedral) and castles, and literary monuments, such as Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, Boccaccio's Decameron,, the saints' lives, the Physiologus tradition, and the many Arthurian legends.

This module is designed to introduce students to a range of important literary works from the period, alongside highly influential religious and philosophical works. These works are placed in their historical context, and are explored through a focus on topics such as book and manuscript production, the allegorical tradition, perceptions of the (black) other, art and architecture, and religious experience. Particular attention will also be given from a historical perspective to successive medievalisms from the early modern period to the present day (e.g., films, video games) and to the respective attempts of appropriation and reinterpretation of which they are indicators. The module typically also includes an excursion to Canterbury Cathedral and the Cathedral Archive in order to enable students to experience the material culture of the Middle Ages first hand.


This module appears in the following module collections.

Contact hours

Total Contact Hours: 20

Method of assessment

Poster (equivalent to 1,000 words) – 35%
Essay (2,000 words) – 65%

Indicative reading

Indicative Reading List

Giovanni Boccaccio, The Decameron, transl. George Henry McWilliam. London: Penguin. (2003).
Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales and The House of Fame, transl. Nevill Coghill. London: Penguin (2003).
Wolfram von Eschenbach, Parzival, transl. Richard Barber. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (2009).
Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun, The Romance of the Rose, transl. Frances Horgan. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (2008).
Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love, transl. A. C. Spearing. London: Penguin. (1998).
Chrétien de Troyes, Arthurian Romances, transl. Carleton Carroll. London: Penguin. (1991).
Jacobus de Voragine, The Golden Legend, transl. Richard Hamer. London: Penguin. (1998).

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

Demonstrate a basic understanding of medieval literature and culture, including an appreciation of major literary works in different genres, as well as the art and architecture, and the major philosophical and religious movements of the period;
Demonstrate a fundamental familiarity with the allegorical tradition and key genres such as the fabliau and Arthurian romance;
Demonstrate an incipient sense of the broader historical context within which medieval literature emerged;
Demonstrate a rudimental understanding of book and manuscript production and dissemination during the Middle Ages;
Demonstrate an appreciation of the problems of periodisation that are encapsulated in the label 'medieval'.


  1. Credit level 4. Certificate level module usually taken in the first stage of an undergraduate degree.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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