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Philology 1: Introduction to Middle English Language and Literature


Admission requirements



After the Norman Conquest of 1066, the English language and English literature came fully into their own in the works of Geoffrey Chaucer (c.1343-1399) and some of his contemporaries in the later fourteenth century. This course will concentrate on Chaucer’s famous Canterbury Tales: we will read some of the Tales, “translate” parts of them in class, and study elementary Middle English grammar. In order to understand these remote texts properly, the lectures will deal with aspects of medieval cultural history, including: 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:

  • Skills in reading and translating fourteenth-century English

  • A working knowledge of elementary Middle English grammar

  • Insight into the cultural history of the Middle Ages

H3. Timetable

The timetable will be available by June 1st on the website

H3. Mode of instruction

One hour lecture and one hour seminar per week

Assessment method

Written midterm examination (30%); written final examination (70%), both of them consisting of translations and short open questions.
The mark for both exams may not be lower than 5.


A Blackboard site will support this course. The weekly syllabus (from week 1, in the ‘Course Documents’), assignments and relevant information will be made available to students through this site. See Blackboard

Reading list

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

  • Simon Horobin, Chaucer’s Language, Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.

  • Reader with background material, order via Reader Online.


Students should register through uSis. Exchange students 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:
Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren a la Carte
Registration Contractonderwijs


Departmental Office English Language and Culture, P.N. van Eyckhof 4, room 102C. Tel. 071 5272144;
Co-ordinator of Studies: Ms T.D. Obbens, MA, P.N. van Eyckhof 4, room 103C.