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Philology 1: Introduction to Middle English Language and Literature


Admission requirements

Not applicable.


After the Norman Conquest of 1066 the English language and English literature came fully into their own in the works of Geoffrey Chaucer and some of his contemporaries in the later fourteenth century. This course will concentrate on Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales: we will read some of the Tales and translate parts of them in the seminars, for which elementary Middle English grammar will be studied. In order to understand these remote texts properly, the lectures will deal with aspects of Middle English and of the cultural history of the Middle Ages, such as social structure, church and clergy, ideas about nature, love, sex, marriage, dress and food, life and death, and especially the tension between ideal and reality.

Course objectives

Students will acquire
1. Skills in reading and translating fourteenth-century English
2. A working knowledge of elementary Middle English grammar
3. Insight in the cultural history of the Middle Ages.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

One hour lecture and one hour seminar per week.

Assessment method


  1. Written midterm examination consisting of a translation and open questions (mandatory)
  2. Written final examination consisting of a translation and open questions (mandatory)

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


  1. Midterm exam: 30% of final grade
  2. Final exam: 70% of final grade


If the final grade (the average of midterm and final exams) is lower than 6.0, students may take the resit once. The resit covers the entire material of the course and the mark constitutes 100% of the final grade, thus replacing all previously earned marks. There is no resit for the midterm exam.

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

  • Benson, Larry D. ed. (2008). The Riverside Chaucer, Oxford University Press, paperback ISBN 978-0-19-955209-2

  • Horobin, Simon (2012). Chaucer’s Language, paperback ISBN 978-0-230-29379-3.

  • Reader with background material, order via Reader Online.


Enrolment through My Studymap (Login | Universiteit Leiden) is mandatory.

General information about MyStudyMap is available on the website

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Information for those interested in taking this course in context of À la carte education (without taking examinations), eg. about costs, registration and conditions.

Information for those interested in taking this course in context of Contract teaching (with taking examinations), eg. about costs, registration and conditions.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment and admission, contact the study advisor

  • For other questions, contact the Student administration Arsenaal


Students are expected to prepare for the first class. Information about reading and assignments for week 1 is available both on Brightspace (enrollment is required) and in the Reader. From week 2 onwards the weekly syllabus will only be available on Brightspace.
Textbooks need to be ordered as soon as possible so that they will be available by the beginning of the semester.