Medieval English Literature

Aus Iaawiki

Summer Semester 2020

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Course Information
Nr. Kursbezeichnung Typ Zeit Raum DozentIn
154223 Medieval English Literature - Group A 2 HS Do 08:30 - 10:00 R. 3.206 Binder
154224 Medieval English Literature - Group B 2 HS Do 10:15 - 11:45 R. 3.206 Binder
Course Description

The middle ages are not dead! Current fashion, architecture, film, fantasy and the popular arts, just to mention a few areas, widely exploit and appropriate cultural phenomena from the medieval past. So, what makes the ‘dark ages’ so fascinating to the present? Can it be that they were not so dark after all? In what ways is the medieval cultural heritage an integral part of our current identity? From this opening you can see that the course is not based on a classical canon of ‘highlights’ of medieval literature. Instead, it focuses on those elements and aspects that are culturally alive and meaningful to the present for various reasons.
Besides, medieval literature is a multicultural product with a high amount of intertextuality. In order to discuss medieval ‘English’ literature we will have to turn not only to other countries within Western Europe (e.g. Germany, Italy, France, Spain, Portugal) and Eastern Europe, but also to the Near East, the Orient, the Indian Sub-Continent and Asia. A cosmopolitan world view is required indeed in order to understand the unique cross-cultural qualities of medieval literature and its absorption and appropriation of heterogeneous religious concepts and philosophical world views.
Furthermore, the course enables participants to see the continuity of special English literary traditions without which later literary and cultural phenomena are impossible to be adequately understood and assessed. Emphasis on the close intersection of the oral and written traditions of medieval literature and culture within highly changeful socio-political and economic contexts is another characteristic feature of the course.
For some participants it may be astonishing to see the broad range of subjects addressed by medieval literature as well as its varied modes of lyric, epic and dramatic presentation. In order to do justice to the complex thematic and formal qualities of the texts studied we will move into the discourses of historiography, politics, philosophy, the arts such as music, painting, and architecture, and the sciences. A special focus of the lecture is on the modest, but important beginnings of female writing and issues of feminism.


Primary Literature:

  • Anonymous: The Owl and the Nightingale (probably opening years of the 13th century)
  • Anonymous: Ancrene Riwle/Ancrene Wisse (the Anchoress’s Rule or Guide) (c. 1230)
  • Gawain-poet: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (second half of the 14th century)
  • Gawain-poet: Pearl (second half of the 14th century)
  • Langland, William: The Vision of Piers Plowman (three versions between 1367-86)
  • Chaucer, Geoffrey: The Canterbury Tales (planned c. 1387)
    • The General Prologue, lines 445-476
    • The Wife of Bath’s Prologue
    • The Wife of Bath’s Tale
  • Henryson, Robert: The Testament of Cresseid
  • Anonymous: Everyman (c. 1495)
  • Anonymous: The Castle of Perseverance (c. 1405)
  • Kempe, Margery: The Book of Margery Kempe (c. 1432, revised 1436-8)
  • Caxton, William: The Proem to The Canterbury Tales
  • ----. from The Preface to The Aeneid

Most of the texts can be found in: J.B. Trapp et al., eds. (2002), Medieval English Literature, OUP [SEK 110-26] (Handapparat).
A Reader will be available a week prior to the beginning of the course (“Copyshop”). You are expected to have it with you from the beginning.


Credits will be awarded on the basis of either:

  • ‘aktive Teilnahme’ (oral presentation and shorter paper or Project as AT)
  • Literature/Culture Projects (presentation in class)
  • term paper (including participation in class discussion)

Personal attendance during the first session is required to maintain enrolment status. The tasks will already be assigned during the very first session, so be there on time!

2009 703, 704 601, 1001 601, 701, 702, 1001 703
2016 601, 703, 704 601, 1001 601, 701, 702, 1001 703
Angewandte Sprachwissenschaften/Angewandte Literatur-/Kulturwissenschaften:
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PO ab WS 16/17:
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