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EN2J1/EN3J1 Women and Writing, 1150-1450

Seminars Fridays term 1, 11-12:30

Convenor: Dr Sarah WoodLink opens in a new window

Module description and aims

‘Who painted the lion?’ The best-known female character in Middle English literature, the Wife of Bath, was written by a man, yet as that text makes clear, Chaucer made women, their relationships, their trials, and their position in relation to textual culture his favourite themes. The medieval period before Chaucer had witnessed a remarkable early flowering of religious literature written in Britain in the vernacular for women (because women generally could not read Latin). The period c. 1150-1450 also produced the first named woman author writing in English, Julian of Norwich, and the first professional woman writer in Europe, Christine de Pizan.

This module explores the centrality of female voices, real and fictional, to the history of medieval writing by studying Chaucer’s women alongside examples of pre- and post-Chaucerian texts written specifically for female audiences or by women authors. We will focus in particular on writings for and by religious women who lived enclosed lives in anchorholds, exploring these texts' concerns with control of the female body. The module will also introduce students to the work of several major female authors writing from the 12th to the 15th centuries in a range of modes (romance, religious vision, love poetry, polemic).

SyllabusLink opens in a new window
Books to buyLink opens in a new window
Assessment and learning outcomesLink opens in a new window

Students are expected to have studied EN121 Medieval to Renaissance Literature.

Reading listLink opens in a new window

Required readings for the weekly seminars and suggested further readings are provided in the module reading list.

Seminar materialsLink opens in a new window

Instructions for weekly seminars will be published here one week in advance of each seminar.

Office hours

If you would like to discuss your work for the module with me, please make an appointment to do so during my office hours, Wednesdays 10-11, Fridays 9:30-10:30. Click here for my booking pageLink opens in a new window.