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EN121/EN2J5/EN3J5 Medieval to Renaissance English Literature

Convenor: Dr Sarah Wood

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: Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales; Sir Gawain and the Green Knight; medieval and early modern drama; travel writing; poems by Sidney, Spenser, and Shakespeare.

All materials for the module will be supplied on or linked from these webpages. Please use the tabs above or the links below for further information.

  • Course outline
  • Lecture list and links to the online lectures, which will be posted weekly throughout terms 1 and 2.
  • Materials to support your Middle English Reading Classes.
  • The Reading List (to which you will have access when enrolled as a student) sets out the required primary readings for each week of the module, together with recommended further reading from which you may make a selection depending on your interests. See the box below for more information about suggested summer reading and the books that you will need to buy.
  • Resources for study, including guidance on beginning independent research.
  • Information about assessments.

Books to buy for 2021-22 academic year


  • The Norton Chaucer: The Canterbury Tales, ed. by David Lawton (2019) ISBN 9780393643503. If you are unable to obtain a copy of this book in time for the week 2 seminars, the following are acceptable alternatives: either 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).
  • Poems Of The Pearl Manuscript: Pearl, Cleanness, Patience, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, ed. by M. Andrew and R. Waldron, 5th edn (Exeter, 2007), ISBN978-0-859-89790-7. **IMPORTANT NOTE: please ensure that you do NOT purchase The Poems of the Pearl Manuscript in Modern English Prose Translation by the same editors and publisher, as this version does not include the original Middle English text that we will be studying.** You can obtain the set book from Blackwell's or from the publisher. Second-hand copies are also available.
  • 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
  • Other primary texts for the module will be provided in electronic copies.

Suggested summer background reading

  • In the second half of term 1, we will be reading Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, in Poems Of The Pearl Manuscript: Pearl, Cleanness, Patience, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, ed. by M. Andrew and R. Waldron, 5th edn (Exeter, 2007). We will be studying the text in the original Middle English, but you are encouraged to read the translation that comes with this book over the summer. Your copy will contain details giving you access to the translation in electronic format.
  • J.A. Burrow, Medieval Writers and their Work, 2nd edn (Oxford, 2008)
  • Maurice Keen, English Society in the Later Middle Ages 1348-1500 (Penguin, 1990) or Chris Wickham, Medieval Europe (Yale, 2016)

Reading list 2021-22

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.