A Woman's Tale: Writing Female Identity and Experience in Medieval Europe - EN725

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2020 to 2021
Spring 6 30 (15) DR C Wright checkmark-circle


This module provides students with an opportunity to explore literature written by, for and about medieval women. It will consider women as writers, readers and the subjects of literature; as the consumers, compilers and scribes of books; and as the protagonists and antagonists in a variety of literary and artistic forms produced in England and Europe during late-medieval period. In the course of the module, we will explore how literature reflected, and helped to construct and constrain, women's lives, bodies, sexualities, identities and experiences, and the avenues through which they expressed their thoughts, desires and fears. By examining a range of material, including lyrics and romances, devotional manuals, saints lives, plays, letters, conduct books, sculptures, iconography and the everyday objects owned by women, we will encounter, for example: women as they were and how they were supposed to be; female friendship and same-sex desire; women’s diverse roles in society and in the home; how their bodies and relationships were used in polemic and political discourse; their influence on prominent male writers of the period; and the construction and erasure of late-medieval women’s voices in the historiography of later ages. The specific topics, materials and the date range covered by the module may alter from year to year to reflect teaching staff’s specialisms and interests.


This module appears in the following module collections.

Contact hours

Total Contact Hours: 30
Private Study Hours: 270
Total Study Hours: 300

Method of assessment

100% Coursework:

Seminar Performance (10%)
Research report (2,000 words) (30%)
Research project (4,000 words) (60%)

Indicative reading

Barratt, Alexandra, ed. (2010), Women's Writing in Middle English, 2nd edn. (Harlowe: Pearson). (Extracts)
Chaucer, Geoffrey (1987), The Legend of Good Women, in The Riverside Chaucer (1987), gen. ed. Larry D. Benson (Oxford: OUP).
William Dunbar (2004), The Tretise of Twa Mariit Wemen and the Wedo, in The Complete Works, ed. John Conlee (Kalamazoo: Medieval Institute Publications).
How the Good Wiif Taughte Hir Doughtir (2008), in Codex Ashmole 61: A Compilation of Popular Middle English Verse, ed. George Shuffelton (Kalamazoo: Medieval Institute Publications).
Martin, Joanna, ed. (2015), The Maitland Quarto, The Scottish Text Society (Woodbridge: Boydell). (Extracts)
de Pizan, Christine (1997), The Selected Writings of Christine de Pizan, trans. Kevin Brownlee, ed. Renate Blumenfeld-Kosinski (New York & London: Norton & Co) (Extracts).

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1 read and respond critically to a range of late-medieval writing and material culture
2 show a sophisticated understanding of literature in relation to the social, political, and cultural contexts of the period
3 show a critical understanding of the history of women's writing in the period and its relationship with other literary cultures
4 be conversant with current critical and theoretical approaches to and debates about late-medieval literature by, for and about women.

The intended generic learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1 analyse texts critically and make comparisons across a range of materials
2 understand and interrogate various critical approaches and the theoretical assumptions that underpin these approaches
3 show a command of written and spoken English and their abilities to articulate coherent critical arguments
4 display good presentational skills
5 display an ability to carry out independent research


  1. Credit level 6. Higher level module usually taken in Stage 3 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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