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Philology 6: Middle English Literature and Culture


Admission requirements

Completion of Philology 1 or comparable course.


This course offers a survey of Middle English literature that provides fascinating insight into the literature of the later English Middle Ages and the complex (often conflicted) world that nurtured it. The course elaborates on Philology 1 (which is why Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales will not be dealt with). In combination with background literature, we will read and study a representative selection of Middle English literature: lyrical poetry, titillating fabliau, serious religious instruction, highbrow allegory, exciting romance. Texts will be read in the original Middle English with the help of marginal glosses. We will also explore some of the most exciting and important debates surrounding Middle English literature. After a short lecture on the cultural and historical context of the text(s) read for that week, we will discuss our translations, new insights, and interpretations of the assigned readings in a seminar-style setting.

Course objectives

The student acquires:

  • Proficiency in translating Middle English in various dialects

  • Abilities in interpreting representative texts from the various genres of medieval literature in their cultural-historical context

  • Abilities in interpreting key debates in the field of Middle English literature

  • Skills in oral discussion and written analysis

  • Practice working with secondary sources

Successful completion of the course will enable the student to write a B.A. thesis on a Middle English subject and to follow a course in Middle English at the M.A. level.


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Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Assessment method


  • Two assignments

  • Five critical reflections (one of which is a brief presentation)

  • An essay-length literary analysis assignment


  • Two assignments 30%

  • Five critical reflections 20%

  • An essay-length literary analysis assignment 50%


When the final grade is 5.49 or lower, one or more of the longer elements (elements 1 or 3) will have to be retaken during the resit period. There is no resit for the critical reflections (element 2).


Attendance is compulsory. Missing more than two tutorials means that students will be excluded from the tutorials. Unauthorized absence also applies to being unprepared, not participating and/or not bringing the relevant course materials to class.

Inspection and feedback

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.

Reading list

  • Course reader

  • Elaine Treharne, ed., Old and Middle English c. 890 – c. 1400: An Anthology, Third Edition, Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010.

  • The Riverside Chaucer, ed. Larry D. Benson, Oxford University Press paperback, 1988 or later editions.

  • The Norton Anthology of English Literature, 8th edition, 2006, Volume I or Volume A.

  • Supplementary background material via Brightspace.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available on the website

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Dr. K.A. Murchison


Students are expected to be prepared right from week 1. The work for week 1 is to be found in Brightspace.

Disclaimer: Please note that the course descriptions, in particular the assessment method, might be adjusted (timely) depending on the measures taken regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.