A Knight's Tale: Chivalric Literature and Courtly Love in Premodern England - ENGL7280

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2024 to 2025.


This module will explore arguably the most popular of secular literary forms from late medieval and early modern Europe. The course will explore a range of chivalric romances alongside a variety of other literary, textual and material productions that testify to a cultural fascination with the ideals of knighthood and with courtly values more generally. The module will pay particular attention to the rise of romance literature in the late medieval period, with narratives that were repeatedly translated into English for socially diverse audiences. The module will explore particular tropes within romance literature and courtly lyric poetry, particularly in respect of the portrayal of women. It has long been recognised that romance literature was often read by mixed gender audiences and the module will explore how the genre functioned to guide female behaviour against patriarchal and social norms.
The module will also study how supposedly courtly literatures consistently appealed to 'middling' socially aspirant consumers and not only to society’s elite who were so often the protagonists portrayed in such texts. Actual readers, manuscript case studies and England’s first generations of printers will be examined to explore the contexts for the middling classes’ fascination with chivalric literature.


Contact hours

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

Method of assessment

Main assessment methods:

Seminar performance (10%)
A 10-15 minute presentation/ film/ audio production (20%)
Independent research project (4,000 words) (70%)

Reassessment methods:
Failed components will be reassessed on a like-for-like basis.

Indicative reading

Indicative Reading List:

*Anderson , J.J. ed. (1996) Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl, Cleanness, Patience (London: Everyman).
*Bliss, A. J., ed. (1954; rept. 1966) Sir Orfeo, second edition (London: Oxford University Press).
Chaucer, Geoffrey, Troilus and Criseyde, ed. Barry Windeatt (London: Penguin, 2003).
*Laskaya, A. and Salisbury, E. eds. (1995) The Middle English Breton Lays, Middle English Texts (Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute Publications for TEAMS).
Pearsall, Derek ed. (1999) Chaucer to Spenser: An Anthology (Oxford: Blackwell).
*Schmidt, A. V. C. and Jacobs, N., eds (1980) Medieval English Romances, II vols. (London: Hodder and Stoughton).
*Warrington, John, ed. (1975), The Paston Letters (London: Dent).

(*Texts will be provided in a module Reading Pack).

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 and early modern writings and artworks;
2. show a sophisticated understanding of literature in relation to the social, political, and cultural contexts of the late medieval and early modern period;
3. show a critical understanding of the socio-literary contexts for romance and courtly love literature in the period and its relationship to issues such as gender politics and social aspiration;
4. be conversant with current critical and theoretical approaches to and debates about premodern chivalric and courtly literatures.

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. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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