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Philology 6: Middle English Literature and Culture


Admission requirements

Successful completion of Philology 1, 2 and 3, or equivalent courses.


This course offers a survey of Middle English literature (12th-15th centuries) that provides a fascinating insight into the imaginary world of the English later Middle Ages and the complex (often conflicted) world that nurtured its literature. The course elaborates on Philology 1 (which is why Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales will not be dealt with). In combination with background literature, we will read and study a representative selection of Middle English literature: exciting romance, lyrical poetry, teasing fable, titillating fabliau, propagandistic chronicle, serious religious instruction, highbrow allegory, lively drama. After short introductions to the literary history of the period and the cultural and historical context, translation and interpretation of the texts read will follow in the tutorials.

Course objectives

The student acquires:

  • Proficiency in translating Middle English in various dialects

  • Abilities in interpreting representative texts from the various genres of medieval literature in their cultural-historical context

  • Skills in oral discussion and written analysis

  • Practice with secondary sources

Successful completion of the course will enable the student to write a B.A. thesis on a Middle English subject and to follow a course in Middle English at the M.A. level.


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

Mode of instruction

Two-hour seminar.

Course Load

The course load of this course is 140 hours.

  • hours spent on attending lectures and seminars: 26 hours

  • time for studying the weekly assignments and writing the two essays: 99 hours

  • time to prepare for the examination: 15 hours

Assessment method

Two take-home essays, which should also demonstrate familiarity with the background (50%).
Written exam, consisting of translations of excerpts taken from one of the set texts and two text commentaries based on this excerpt (50%).


This course is supported by Blackboard. Blackboard will be used to provide the students with the weekly syllabus, extra information and a sample test. It will also include a discussion board.

Reading list

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

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

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

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

  • Supplementary background material via Blackboard.


Students should register through uSis. Exchange students cannot register through uSis, but 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: english@hum.leidenuniv.nl.

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; english@hum.leidenuniv.nl.
Coordinator of studies: Ms T.D. Obbens, MA, P.N. van Eyckhof 4, room 103C.


Students are expected to have prepared for the first week. Information about reading and assignments for week 1 is available on Blackboard (enrollment is required).