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Philology 6: Middle English Literature and Culture


Admission requirements

Successful completion of Philology 1 or comparable course.


In this course, students will be introduced to a selection of literary forms and genres from the Middle English period (c. 1100 to c. 1500), including lyric, Breton lai, courtly romance, beast fable, mock epic, fabliau, dream vision, and allegory. The course follows a roughly chronological structure, beginning near the start of the thirteenth century and moving ahead to the lyric florescence later that century and in the first several decades of the 1300s. The bulk of the texts covered during the course come from the later Middle English period, which witnessed the rise of vernacular English courtly literature during the reign of Richard II (1377-1399). To conclude the semester, students will investigate Middle English religious writings of various forms: dream vision texts, morality plays and allegories. These texts span the 14th and early 15th centuries.

Texts will be read in the original Middle English with marginal glosses, although references to available (partial) translations in the Norton Anthology will be communicated to students throughout the course. These translations should be used as complimentary, since the course requires students to fully engage with medieval literature in its original (albeit edited) language.

Course objectives

The student acquires:

  • Proficiency in translating Middle English in various dialects

  • Proficiency in Middle English grammar

  • 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 BA thesis on a Middle English subject and to follow a course in Middle English at the MA level.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

Seminar and self-tuition time

Assessment method


  • Short papers throughout the semester

  • Final essay

  • Attendance, active participation and cooperation in class


  • Short papers throughout the semester: 40%

  • Final essay: 50%

  • Attendance, active participation and cooperation in class: 10%

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.


When the final grade is 5.49 or lower, one or more of the elements (dependent on students’ final grade) will have to be retaken during the resit period.

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

  • Elaine Treharne, ed., Old and Middle English c. 890 – c. 1400: An Anthology, Third Edition, Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2004/2010.

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

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

  • Veldhoen, N. H. G. E. & H. Aertsen (Eds.) Companion to Early Middle English Literature. Amsterdam: VU University Press, 1995.

Additional reading material will be provided by the lecturer on Brightspace ahead of the individual seminars.


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

General information about MyStudyMap 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 Student administration Arsenaal


Students are expected to come fully preparated to class from the beginning of the course. Failure to come prepared to class will likely translate in the class being cancelled. Students are also expected to actively engage with their peers and tutor during the seminar discussions in order to create an enriching learning environment.