MEDV1090 Introducing Medieval European Literature

Reading List

Discovery module overview

Module Summary

Module Summary

This module will introduce students to the European literature of the eleventh to fourteenth centuries. It will range across English, French, German and Italian literature—and beyond—and develop a strong understanding of the key medieval genres of lyric, epic, romance and satire.


This module aims to:

  • - introduce new undergraduates to the field of medieval studies
  • -To acquaint students with canonical works of high medieval literature
  • -To develop an appreciation of Europe’s multilingual cultural heritage and Britain’s place in it
  • -To develop transferable critical and theoretical skills in textual analysis


The module falls into four genre-based sections. As a cross-faculty team-taught module, it is designed to be flexible in content but robust in delivering its objectives. Thus the precise texts set for detailed seminar study will vary from year to year according to staffing and to avoid undue overlap with other modules. In any given year, however, English, German, French and Italian literature will be represented at minimum. Texts will be taught in translation, using, wherever practicable, editions with translation facing the original.
Heroic literature (weeks 1–3)
Representative texts: one to two of the Nibelungenlied (German); the Chanson de Roland (French); Egils saga Skallagrímssonar (Scandinavian); and Mio Cid (Iberian)
Lyrics and song (weeks 4–5)
Representative texts: selections from the Carmina Burana (Latin); troubadour poetry (French); Minnesang (German); Petrarch (Italian); and the anonymous lyrics and carols of England
Romance (weeks 6–8)
Representative texts: one to two of a romance of Chrétien de Troyes (French); a romance of Wolfram von Eschenbach (German); the lais of Marie de France (Anglo-Norman); Sir Orfeo (English)
Humour and satire (weeks 9–11)
Teaching will focus on Boccaccio’s Decameron (Italian) and Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (English)

Learning Outcomes

Familiarity with major medieval texts in a range of genres
A grasp of the broad trajectory of medieval European history, and key concepts in Christian theology
Acquaintance with a range of approaches to interpreting literary texts from unfamiliar cultures

Assessment and teaching

Assessment and teaching


Assesment type Notes % of formal assesment
Essay 1,500 words due by 12 noon on Monday of teaching week 8 30
Essay 2,500 words due by 12 noon on Monday of exam week 1 70
Total percentages (Assessment Coursework) 100

Private Study

Students will prepare for seminars on the basis of guidance provided in writing and through lectures. Preparation will prominently include reading primary texts, with selected secondary reading, and with structured agendas for subsequent seminar discussion. Essay-writing will structure further independent learning.

Progress Monitoring

Seminar discussions will enable tutors to monitor student progress, with consultation hours providing opportunities to follow up particular concerns. The first essay on the module will be an important opportunity for the formative as well as summative assessment, and the second an opportunity to gauge and discuss progress across the module.

Teaching methods

Delivery type Number Length hours Student hours
Lecture 11 1 11
Seminar 11 1 11
Private Study Hours 178
Total Contact Hours 22
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits) 200

Reading List

Reading List
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