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Editing Medieval English Texts: The Leiden Lydgate Project


Admission requirements

Relevant BA-degree. A good working knowledge of Middle English language and literature is highly recommended; students who haven’t followed a course in Middle English need to contact the coordinator at least four weeks before the course starts for an alternative, online means to grasp the basics of Middle English.


Although mostly consulted in modern editions, medieval texts survive in hand-written manuscripts. In this course, we shall study the ways in which a medieval text may be made available to a modern audience. The course will enable students to produce their own edition of a late medieval English text, by developing and applying their skills in transcription (paleography), making editorial choices (a critical vs. a diplomatic edition), compiling a glossary, providing an explanatory commentary, and digitizing texts.

The main focus of this course is a fifteenth-century manuscript from the Special Collections of the University Library in Leiden: The Leiden Lydgate manuscript. This miscellany features texts of various genres, such as Arthurian literature, hagiography, debate poetry, proverbs, as well as poems ascribed to John Lydgate. The students will not only discover how such texts may be edited, but will also learn how to place these texts in their cultural, linguistic and codicological context. As part of the course, we will develop an online portal that will host the best editions and/or contextual essays, made by the students in this course.

Within the course, the expertise of three lecturers is combined: medieval paleography and codicology (Dr. Erik Kwakkel), Old and Middle English literature (Dr. Thijs Porck & Dr. Krista Murchison). As such, students will experience the additional value of an interdisciplinary approach to editing texts. This multifaceted course will appeal to students with an interest in Medieval Studies, manuscript studies, historical linguistics and medieval English literature and culture.

Course objectives

  • The students will be introduced to the medieval manuscript and its context

  • The students will be introduced to various scholarly approaches to medieval texts.

  • The students will learn more about literary, historiographical, cultural and linguistic aspects of studying texts and manuscripts from the Middle Ages in England.

  • The students will extend their knowledge of and insights into medieval English writing and develop research skills which they can apply to the course subject. At the end of the course, the students will be able to carry out a small-scale research problem by independently reading and interpreting relevant primary and secondary literature.

  • The students will gain experience in ‘Digital Humanities’ and acquire skills that are not only valuable for those who decide to pursue doctoral studies in medieval studies, but also for those who decide to pursue careers in scholarly editing or academic publishing.

Upon completion of the course, students will be well equipped to write their MA thesis on a topic in Medieval Studies, with a focus on medieval English language, literature and cultureand/or manuscript studies.


The timetable is available on the Literary Studies website

Mode of instruction

Two-hour seminar per week
Independent study of primary material and critical, secondary texts.

Course Load

The course load is 10 ECTS = 280 hours of study.

  • ±26 hours of seminars

  • ±150 hours of studying primary and secondary material in preparation for tutorials

  • ±104 hours for independent research and writing of coursework
    This is an approximation; some students read quickly and write slowly and vice versa.

Assessment method


1) Active participation in the course
2) Three research assignments
3) An end-of-term research essay and/or a critical edition of (part of) a medieval English text of c. 2500-3000 words.


Element 1) 10%
Element 2) 3 x 15% = 45%
Element 3) 45%


If the average grade is lower than 6, the research essay needs to be revised and resubmitted during the English Department’s resit period in March. There is no resit for the participation and the research assignments.

Exam review

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.


Blackboard will be used to provide students with additional information/reading material.

Reading list

Clemens, R. and Graham, T. (2007), Introduction to Manuscript Studies (Cornell University Press)


Enrolment through uSis for classes, exams and final paper for classes, exams and final papers is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch

When registering students of the MA Literary studies take priority. The deadline for registration is August 15. All other students should contact the coordinator of studies: Jurjen Donkers.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable


For questions concerning the course content or blackboard module contact the instructor of the course: Thijs Porck.

Literary Studies departmental office

Coordinator of studies: Mr. J. Donkers, MA