Literature of the Later Middle Ages EN2025

This course offers an introduction to English literature of the later Middle Ages, placed within a broad historical and cultural context.

A diversity of genres, styles, dialects and literary traditions may be explored. The topics you may study include:

  • social satire;
  • the Arthurian tradition and uses of the Arthurian myth;
  • shifts in literary technique, genre and attitudes toward women;
  • myths of social and literary decadence;
  • ideas of society and the individual;
  • high and low culture, spirituality and secularity;
  • chivalry and the figure of the knight;
  • literacy and education;
  • art and architecture;
  • magic and the supernatural;
  • medieval Scotland and the Scottish Chaucerians.

Learning outcomes

If you complete the course successfully, you should now:

  • Be able to describe a range of genres and conventions in medieval writing and deploy critical concepts appropriate to the period in response to such conventions.
  • Be able to show some facility in reading texts in the original.
  • Be able to recognise some ways in which the writings articulate the period’s social and cultural assumptions.
  • Be able to discuss gender implications in the texts.
  • Be able to reflect critically on how texts articulate relations between individual and society.

Essential reading

Among texts and authors which students may choose to study are:

  • Chaucer
  • The Gawain poet
  • Malory
  • Henryson,
  • The Breton lai
  • Selected lyrics