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Philology 6: Middle English Literature and Culture


Admission requirements

Completion of Philology 1, 2 and 3 or comparable courses.


This course offers a survey of Middle English literature (12th-15th centuries) that provides a fascinating insight into the imaginary world of the later English 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


Course Load 140 hours.

  • hours spent on attending lectures and seminars: 26 hours.

  • time for studying the compulsory literature: 80 hours.

  • time to prepare for the exam and/or write a paper (including reading / research): 34 hours.

Assessment method

Two take-home essays (50%) and a final written examination (50%). The final exam will requires the student to carry out two short translations and two text commentaries on excerpts taken from the set texts, covering issues discussed in the tutorials. The translations are worth 20% of the final grade and the text commentaries are worth 30% of the overall grade.

If the final grade is 5 or less students may only resit the insufficient course component(s).

Attendance is compulsory. Unauthorized absence will mean that you cannot take part in the relevant exam(s).


Blackboard will be used to provide students with an overview of current affairs, as well as specific information about (components of) the course.

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.


Enrollement trough uSis is mandatory. If you have any questions, please contact the departmental office, tel. 071 5272144 or mail:

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte
Registration Contractonderwijs via

Contact details

English Language and Culture student administration, 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 be prepared right from week 1. The work for week 1 is to be found in Blackboard.