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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 and some of his contemporaries in the later fourteenth century. This course concentrates 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 a number of important aspects of the cultural history of the Middle Ages, including social structure, church and clergy, ideas about nature, love, sex and marriage, dress and food, life and death, the production of manuscripts, 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.


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

Mode of instruction

One hour lecture and one hour seminar per week.

Course Load

The course load of this course is 140 hours.

  • hours spent on attending lectures and seminars: 26

  • time for studying the compulsory literature:78

  • time to prepare for the exam: 36

Assessment method

Written mid-term examination (30%); written final examination (70%), both of them consisting of translations and open questions.

If the final grade is 5 or less students may take the resit once and the mark of the resit will constitute 100% of the final grade.


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

Reading list

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

  • Horobin, Simon (2012 or 2007). Chaucer’s Language, Palgrave Macmillan.

  • Reader with background material, order via Reader Online.


First year students will be assigned to a tutor group. All other students (including exchange students) must see the coordinator 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 via Studeren à la carte
Registration via Contractonderwijs


English Language and Culture departmental office, P.N. van Eyckhof 4, room 102C. Tel. 071 5272144;
Coordinator of studies: Ms T.D. Obbens, MA, P.N. van Eyckhof 4, room 103C.


Students are expected to prepare for the first class. Information about reading and assignments for week 1 is available both on Blackboard (enrollment is required) and in the Reader. From week 2 onwards the weekly syllabus will only be available on Blackboard.