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Philology 5: Middle English Literature and Culture


Admission requirements

A good working knowledge of Middle English and basic knowledge of medieval culture as acquired in Philology 1.


A survey of Middle English Literature (12th to 14th centuries): chronicle, religious instruction, romance, lyrical poetry, fable, fabliau, allegory, drama. All texts will be read in the original, but with marginal glosses. After short introductions to the literary history of the period and the experimental nature of the pristine vernacular literature in its cultural and historical context, translation and interpretation of the texts read will follow in the tutorials.

Course objectives

Proficiency in reading and translating Middle English in its various dialects; interpretation of representative texts from the various genres of medieval literature in their cultural-historical context; oral discussion and written analysis; practice with elementary secondary sources.


The timetable will be available by June 1st at the website.

Mode of instruction

Two-hour seminar per week.

Assessment method

Two essays during the course, from which familiarity with the background should also appear, and a written exam consisting of an “unseen” translation; each of these parts counts for one-third of the final mark.


The course is supported by Blackboard.

Reading list

  • Elaine Treharne, ed., Old and Middle English c. 890-c. 1400. An Anthology, 2nd edn (Oxford: Blackwell, 2004) or 3rd edition, (Oxford: Blackwell, 2010). (in your possession)

  • The Riverside Chaucer, ed. Larry D. Benson, Oxford University Press paperback, 1988. (in your possession)

  • The Norton Anthology of English Literature, 8th edition, 2006. volume I of Volume A. (in your possession)

  • N.H.G.E. Veldhoen & H. Aertsen, eds., Companion to Early Middle English Literature, Second enlarged edition, Amsterdam: V.U. University Press, 1995 of Third edition, 2009.


Students should register through uSis. First-year students cannot register through uSis. They will be registered by the administration. Exchange studentens cannot register through uSis, but must see the director of studies and register with her. If you have any questions, please contact the departmental office, tel. 071 5272144 or mail: english@hum.leidenuniv.nl.

Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply.

Contact information

Departmental Office English Language and Culture, P.N. van Eyckhof 4, room 102C. Tel. 071 5272144; mail: english@hum.leidenuniv.nl.
Studentcounsellor Bachelor: Ms. S.H.J. Bollen, P.N. van Eyckhof 4, room 103B.
Coordinator of Studies Master: Ms. K. van der Zeeuw-Filemon, P.N. van Eyckhof 4, room 103C.


You can download the reader here.