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Reading Medieval Women: Literacy and Writing Women in Medieval France and England


Admission requirements

Admission to the MA Literary Studies, research master Literary Studies and research master Arts, Literature and Media.
Students from other Master programs are welcome to apply. Feel free to contact the study adviser to see if there are still places available.


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 origins of our modern discussions of gender equality can be traced back to the medieval period according to some scholars. This period witnessed the appearnace of many important women writers, such as Marie de France, Margery Kempe, and Christine de Pizan. This course will examine this crucial moment for the development of women’s writing and reading.
To challenge disciplinary boundaries and approach women’s writing (and reading) 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.

Description pour le parcours français

Notez bien: Vous pouvez suivre ce cours en anglais ou en français, et ceux et celles qui suivent le parcours français n’ont pas besoin de compétences en anglais pour réussir dans ce cours.
Selon certain chercheurs, les origines de nos discussions actuelles sur l'égalité des sexes remontent à la période médiévale. Cette période a été témoin de l'apparition de nombreuses grandes femmes écrivains comme Marie de France, Margery Kempe, et Christine de Pizan. Ce cours examinera ce moment important pour l'accès des femmes à la lecture et à l'écriture.
Dans le but de transcender les frontières disciplinaires et d’explorer la transmission des ouvrages écrits par ( et pour ) des femmes dans toute son envergure, ce cours sera enseigné en anglais et en français.

Course objectives

English-Track Objectives

Knowledge of medieval literature in English and French
Knowledge of theoretical concepts
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
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 timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

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

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)
ResMA Students Only:
4) Additional paper (~3000 words)
For French-Track students:
1) Les devoirs hebdomadaires (en français)
2) Un exposé oral (~20 minutes)(en français)
3) Un exposé écrit (en français)
Exclusivement pour les étudiants de la ResMA:
4) Un travail écrit supplémentaire (~3000 mots)


For both tracks / Pour les deux parcours
1) 10%
2) 30%
3) 60%
For ResMA students only / Exclusivement pour les étudiants de la ResMA:
1) 10%
2) 20%
3) 30%
4) 40%


If the average grade is lower than 6, a new research essay must be submitted during the Department’s resit period. There is no resit for the other course components.

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

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). (or another edition)
Christine de Pizan, The Book of the City of Ladies, trans. Rosalind Brown-Grant (London: Penguin, 2000). (or another edition)
The Letters of Abelard and Heloise, ed. and transl. by Betty Radice and revised by Michael Clanchy (London: Penguin, 2003) (or another edition)
Course reader

Pour les étudiants du parcours français:

Les oeuvres à acheter
Lais De Marie De France, éd & trad. L. Harf-Lancner, Paris 1990, Le Livre de Poches «Lettres Gothiques» (ou une autre édition)
Christine de Pizan, Le Livre de la Cité des Dames, éd & trad. Thérèse Moreau et Éric Hicks, Paris 1986, Stock «Moyen-age» (ou une autre édition)
Lettres et vies – Héloïse et Abelard, éd & trad. Yves Ferroul, Paris 1996, GF Flammarion (ou une autre édition)
Plan de cours


Enrolment through MyStudyMap is mandatory.
General information about course and exam enrolment is available on the website


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

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Arsenaal

Coordinator of studies:


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