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Long-Distance Romance: la transmission du roman courtois médiéval


Admission requirements

Relevant BA-degree.


English-Track Description
Note: Students can follow this course in either English or French, and students following the class in the English Track do not need to have any French skills to succeed in the course.

The stories of King Arthur are often described as the “matter of Britain”, but many of the elements we associate with them--the round table, the love affair of Guinevere and Lancelot--first appear in French works, added by either continental writers or French speakers living in England in the wake of the Norman Conquest. Romance writing was fundamentally transregional in the medieval period, and yet the study of Romance today is often limited by disciplinary boundaries grounded in national ones.

This course will interrogate the division between the “matter of Britain” and the “matter of France” by breaking down the disciplinary boundaries that have emerged between French and English literary studies, and by exploring medieval textual transmission in various forms. Exciting primary readings, including lais by Marie de France, Arthurian adventures by Chrétien de Troyes, and Christine de Pizan’s renowned allegory, The Book of the City of Ladies will be approached using the ideas of classic secondary readings by scholars such as Gaston Paris, Mary Dominica Legge, and Paul Zumthor.

To challenge disciplinary boundaries in a holistic manner, this class will be taught in both English and French. English students will be encouraged to explore and engage with material in French as a means of enriching their language and literary analysis skills, but students with limited knowledge of French will not be at a disadvantage, since all readings, material for assessment and evaluations for them will be in English, or in heavily-glossed Middle English.

French-Track Description
Les histoires du roi Arthur sont souvent considérées «la matière de Bretagne», mais plusieurs éléments que nous associons à ces histoires-- la Table ronde, l’infidélité de Guenièvre et Lancelot-- apparaissent pour la première fois dans la littérature française, ajoutés par les écrivains continentaux ou anglo-normands. Le roman courtois était fondamentalement transregional durant la période médiévale; pourtant, la recherche du roman courtois est souvent limitée par le cloisonnement disciplinaire.

Ce cours examinera la scission traditionnelle entre «la matière de Bretagne» et «la matière de France» en éliminant les barrières qui séparaient traditionnellement les études de la littérature française et anglaise, et en explorant la transmission du texte médiéval dans toutes ses formes. Les textes littéraires, y compris les lais de Marie de France, les récits du roi Arthur de Chrétien de Troyes, et l’allégorie classique Le Livre de la Cité des Dames de Christine de Pizan, seront appuyées par des textes théoriques classiques, y compris celles de Gaston Paris, Mary Dominica Legge, et Paul Zumthor.

Dans le but de transcender les frontières disciplinaires d'une façon globale, ce cours sera enseigné également en anglais et en français.

Course objectives

English-Track Objectives

  • Knowledge of medieval literature in English and French

  • Knowledge of theoretical concepts about medieval textual transmission

  • Familiarity with key debates in medieval French and English literary studies

  • Experience with independent research and writing in English

French-Track Objectives

  • Connaissance de la littérature française et anglaise du Moyen Âge

  • Connaissance des conceptions théoriques de la transmission du texte médiéval

  • Familiarisation avec le débat actuel sur la littérature francaise et anglaise medievale

  • Expérience avec la recherche autonome et la composition des exposés en français


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. These hours will be distributed approximately as follows:

  • ±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

Assessment method


For English-Track students:
1) Weekly reading responses (in English)
2) Presentation (~20 minutes)(in English)
3) An end-of-term research essay (in English)

For French-Track students:
1) Les devoirs hebdomadaires (en français)
2) Un exposé oral (~20 minutes)(en français)
3) Un exposé écrit (en français) (~4000 mots)


For students in both tracks:
1) 10%
2) 20%
3) 70%


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

  • providing students with additional information/reading material

  • essay and assignment submission and grading

Reading list

Note: Students need only the books listed for their chosen track.

For English-Track Students
Books to buy:

  • Marie de France, The Lais of Marie de France, ed. Robert Hanning and Joan Ferrante (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1978).

  • Chrétien de Troyes, Lancelot, or, the Knight of the Cart, trans. Burton Raffel (New Haven: Yale UP, 1997).

  • Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun, The Romance of the Rose, trans. Frances Horgan (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2009).

  • Christine de Pizan, The Book of the City of Ladies, trans. Rosalind Brown-Grant (London: Penguin, 2000).

  • Course reader

For French-Track Students
Les oeuvres à acheter

  • Lais De Marie De France, éd & trad. L. Harf-Lancner, Paris 1990, Le Livre de Poches «Lettres Gothiques»

  • Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun, Le Roman de la Rose, éd & trad. d’Armand Strubel, Paris 1992, Le Livre de Poches «Lettres Gothiques»

  • Christine de Pizan, Le Livre de la Cité des Dames, éd & trad. Thérèse Moreau et Éric Hicks, Paris 1986, Stock «Moyen-age»

  • Chrétien de Troyes, Lancelot ou Le Chevalier de la charrette, éd. Charles Méla, Paris 1992, Le Livre de Poches «Lettres Gothiques»

  • plan de cours


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable


For questions concerning the course content or blackboard module contact the instructor of the course: Dr Krista A. Murchison Literary Studies departmental office

Coordinator of studies: Mr. J. Donkers, MA


Note: This course is cross-listed for both Literary Studies/English and Literary Studies/French; students can receive credit for it for either program.