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Philology 6: Middle English Literature and Culture


Admission requirements

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


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: lyrical poetry, teasing fable, titillating fabliau, propagandistic chronicle, serious religious instruction, highbrow allegory, exciting romance.We will read Sir Gawain and the Green Knight in the translation, but all other texts will be read in the original Middle English with the help of marginal glosses. After a short lecture on the cultural and historical context of the text(s) read for that week, we will discuss our translations, new insights, and interpretations of the assigned readings in a seminar-style setting.

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 is available on the BA English website

Mode of instruction


Course Load

Course Load: 280 hours

  • hours spent attending the seminar: 26

  • time for studying the compulsory literature in preparation for the seminar and writing the two essays: 234 hours

  • time to prepare for the final exam: 20 hours

Assessment method

Two take-home essays (50%) and a final written examination (50%). The final exam will require the student to carry out two translations and two text commentaries on the texts from which the translations were taken, 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.

When the final grade is 5.0 or less, the student must resit all the components for which an insufficient grade was received. It is only possible to resit insufficient components when the final grade is 5.0 or less.

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 the weekly assignments, additional reading materials, extra information, and a sample of the exam.

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.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory. Please note that students other than BA English language and culture studies will have to have permission from the coordinator of studies before enrolling.
General information about uSis is available in English
and Dutch

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte
Registration Contractonderwijs

Contact Student administration Van Eyckhof


Students are expected to be prepared right from week 1. The work for week 1 is to be found in Blackboard.