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EN121/EN2J5/EN3J5 Medieval and Early Modern Literature

Convenor: Dr Sarah WoodLink opens in a new window 

Information for students interested in taking this module in 2024-25Link opens in a new window

Please click the link above for more details about this module for the next academic year.

Module information

This module will study a number of works of medieval and early modern literature in the context of contemporary beliefs and historical and social developments. The module will be taught by means of lectures on the historical, cultural and critical context; seminars to discuss particular texts; and (in weeks 2-5 of term 1 only) supplementary classes to help develop your skills in reading texts written in earlier forms of English.

Works studied include: The Canterbury Tales; Sir Gawain and the Green Knight; The Book of Margery Kempe; travel writing; poems by Sidney, Spenser, and Mary Wroth; and medieval and early modern drama.

Please use the tabs above or the links below for further information.

Books required for 2023-24 academic year

You will need your own copies of the books listed below. Incoming first years who are based in the English Department will be provided with free copies of some textbooks (see details below); others you will need to buy yourself. NB Please be aware that retailers may take a couple of weeks to order these books for you. You are strongly advised to place your orders well in advance.

  • The Norton Chaucer: The Canterbury Tales, ed. by David Lawton (Norton, 2019). You will need this for term 1, weeks 1-5. Incoming first years who are based in the English Department will be provided with a copy.

If you are unable to obtain this book, the following are acceptable alternatives:

The Canterbury Tales: Seventeen Tales and The General Prologue, ed. V. A. Kolve and Glending Olson, 3rd edition (Norton, 2018) OR The Riverside Chaucer, ed. L. D. Benson, 3rd edition (OUP, 2008)

  • The Works of the Gawain Poet: Pearl, Cleanness, Patience, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, ed. by Ad Putter and Myra Stokes (Penguin, 2014) OR The Poems of The Pearl Manuscript: Pearl, Cleanness, Patience, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, ed. by M. Andrew and R. Waldron (Liverpool: Exeter Medieval Texts, 2007), ISBN978-0-859-89790-7. You will need this for term 1, weeks 7-8.

**IMPORTANT NOTE: please ensure that you do NOT purchase The Poems of the Pearl Manuscript in Modern English Prose Translation by Andrew and Waldron, as this version does not include the original Middle English text that we will be studying.**

  • The Norton Anthology of English Literature: Volume B: The Sixteenth Century The Early Seventeenth Century, ed. by Stephen Greenblatt et al, 10th edition (2018) ISBN 9780393603033. You will need this book for your work in term 2. Incoming first years who are based in the English Department will be provided with a copy.
  • Other primary texts for the module will be provided in digital formats.

How to obtain books

For information about buying books at Warwick see here: opens in a new window

Secondhand copies are widely available from sources such if you wish to reduce costs.

Pre-owned copies of set books may also be available free of charge from the English department for students who may struggle to buy books. For an up to date list of books available, please email our Widening Participation Officer,

Warwick's student literature society facilitates students who wish to buy and sell secondhand books on campus; for information see their Facebook pageLink opens in a new window.

Recommended summer background reading

  • For an introduction to the literature of the medieval period, our focus in term 1, we recommend that you read J.A. Burrow, Medieval Writers and their Work, 2nd edn (Oxford, 2008). For an overview of historical and social developments, please see Maurice Keen, English Society in the Later Middle Ages 1348-1500 (Penguin, 1990).
  • For a taste of some of the texts we'll be studying, you might like to read the General Prologue to The Canterbury Tales, which we'll be studying in the first half of term 1. You can find it with an interlinear modern English translation on the Harvard Geoffrey Chaucer websiteLink opens in a new window.

Reading list 2023-24Link opens in a new window

The reading list provides details of the required reading from the primary texts for each week, as well as recommended further reading. You are expected to select relevant secondary sources from this list when researching your essays.

Please see the 'Books required for 2023-24' box for details of the books you will need to acquire for this module.

Link to Moodle for this course

Assessment question papers and instructions will be published on Moodle.