Medieval to renaissance english literature 2009-10




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MEDIEVAL TO RENAISSANCE ENGLISH LITERATURE 2009-10

Module Convenor: Professor Peter Mack (room H509)


Learning Outcomes


By the end of this module you should have:

  1. Acquired skill in reading Middle English and some understanding of the structure and history of the

English language.

  1. Acquired some knowledge of Medieval English literature (especially the work of Chaucer and his contemporaries), society and culture.

  2. Become aware of the forms and metres of English poetry in preparation for future modules.

  3. Obtained some knowledge of sixteenth-century English poetry and its intellectual and social context.

  4. Acquired some knowledge of the Christian, classical and continental literary background of English

renaissance literature.

  1. Improved your skills in textual analysis and essay-writing.


Texts to buy:

L. D. Benson (ed.) The Riverside Chaucer (Oxford)

J. Burrow (ed.) Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Penguin)

Stephen Greenblatt et al. (ed.) The Norton Anthology of English Literature, 8th Edition. Volume B. The Sixteenth Century. The Early Seventeenth Century. (Norton, 2006)

Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene (ed.) A. Hamilton (Longmans)
Teaching Methods:


  1. Translation Classes (weekly, term 1 only)

  2. Lectures (weekly, Tuesdays 12 noon, Arts Centre Conference Room)

  3. Seminars (weekly, tutors’ rooms)

  4. Essays (two essays and two commentary exercises); approximate deadlines are indicated in the course outline below (seminar tutors will specify precise deadlines). Further information on the submission of essays is available in the Student Handbook.


Sections of the Module:

  1. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (weeks 2-5)

  2. Chaucer, selected Canterbury Tales (weeks 7-10)

  3. Elizabethan Poetic Form, Court Poetry, Sonnets (weeks 11-15)

  4. Spenser’s Faerie Queene Bks. 1 & 3 (weeks 17-20)

  5. Epyllia and John Donne (weeks 21-3)


Module Requirements:

  1. Attend lectures, seminars and textual classes, having prepared material as directed by your tutor.

and (for first-year students):

  1. Submit two unassessed commentaries (halfway through terms 1 & 2), and two unassessed essays (at the ends of terms 1 & 2).

  2. Write final examination of three hours (100% examined)

(for second-year students):

2. Submit two assessed essays of 3,000 words each (60%) and two unassessed commentaries.

(Second-year students will choose two unassessed essay topics to do in assessed form; they will submit essays at the time specified by their tutor for that unassessed essay).

3. Write final examination of 11/2 hours (40%)


Examination: 2 translations from Chaucer and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

4 commentaries (2 medieval, 2 renaissance)

1 essay (choice of 5-7 titles)
Useful Background Reading: Chaucer, General Prologue to The Canterbury Tales, Maurice Keen, English Society in the Later Middle Ages 1348-1500 (Penguin, 1990), J. Guy, Tudor England (Oxford, 1988), S. T. Bindoff, Tudor England (Penguin, 1991).

Plan of the Module

This outline aims to show what primary reading is required. Tutors will give direction on which particular lines or poems need to be read. The module bibliography provides a list of secondary materials from which you can select further reading.



Autumn Term 2009

Week 2 Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Fitt 1

Week 3 Fitt 2

Week 4 Fitt 3

Week 5 Fitt 4
Assignment: passages for comment from Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. To be handed in Week 5.
Week 7 The Knight’s Tale from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales

Week 8 Miller’s Tale and Reeve’s Tale

Week 9 Wife of Bath’s Tale and Merchant’s Tale

Week 10 Franklin’s Tale and Nun’s Priest’s Tale


Essay of around 2000 words on Canterbury Tales and/or Sir Gawain and the Green Knight to be handed in Week 10 of Term 1.

Spring Term 2010

Week 1 Middle English Translation Test: MONDAY 12-1pm, TBA

Week 1/2 An introduction to Renaissance Poetry.

A selection of poems at the choice of the tutor, from the Norton Anthology. These could include ballads, long lines, short lines, and couplets.

Please also read the section in the Norton Anthology on poetic form.

Week 3 Sir Thomas Wyatt (Norton Anthology)

Week 4 Sir Philip Sidney, Astrophil and Stella (Norton Anthology)

Week 5 Shakespeare’s Sonnets (Norton Anthology)


Assignment: a Renaissance poetry commentary. To be handed in Week 5.
Week 7 Edmund Spenser, Faerie Queene, Book I, Cantos 1-6, and ‘A letter of the authors’

Week 8 Faerie Queene, Book I, Cantos 7-12

Week 9 Faerie Queene, Book III, Cantos 1-6

Week 10 Faerie Queene, Book III, Cantos 7-12


Vacation essay of about 2000 words on Renaissance poetry and/or the Faerie Queene. To be handed in by Week 1 of Term 3.

Summer Term 2010




Week 2 Middle English Translation Test: MONDAY 12-1pm (wk 1), TBA

Week 1 Christopher Marlowe, Hero and Leander (Norton Anthology)

Week 2 William Shakespeare, Venus and Adonis (text will be provided)

Week 3 The religious and love poetry of John Donne (Norton Anthology)

Week 4 Revision seminars

Medieval to Renaissance Lecture List 2009-10

Lectures will take place on TUESDAYS at 12 noon in Arts Centre Conference Room (in the Arts Centre)



Autumn Term 2008




Week 1. Introduction to the course Peter Mack

2. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Fitt 1 Peter Mack


  1. 3. SGGK Fitt 2 Peter Mack

  2. 4. SGGK Fitt 3 Peter Mack

5. SGGK Fitt 4 Amanda Hopkins

6. Reading Week: No Lecture

7. The Knight’s Tale Peter Mack

8. The Miller’s Tale and The Reeve’s Tale Amanda Hopkins

9. The Wife of Bath’s Tale and The Merchant’s Tale Peter Mack

10. The Franklin’s Tale and The Nun’s Priest’s Tale Peter Mack



Spring Term 2010

Middle English Translation Test: MONDAY (wk 1) 12-1pm. TBA


Week 1. Rhythms and Forms of Renaissance Poetry Peter Mack

2. English Renaissance Lyrics Catherine Bates

3.Sir Thomas Wyatt Catherine Bates

4. Sir Philip Sidney Catherine Bates

5. Shakespeare’s Sonnets Jan Sewell

6. Reading Week: No Lecture

7. Spenser Faerie Queene, Introduction and Book I: Cantos 1-6 Peter Mack

8. Spenser Faerie Queene, Book I: Cantos 7-12 Peter Mack

9. Spenser Faerie Queene, Book III: Cantos 1-6 Catherine Bates

10. Spenser Faerie Queene, Book III: Cantos 7-12 and Conclusion Peter Mack


Summer Term 2010

Middle English Translation Test: MONDAY (wk 1) 12-1pm. TBA


Week 1. Marlowe: Hero and Leander Catherine Bates

2. Shakespeare: Venus and Adonis Catherine Bates



3. Donne, Religious and Love Poetry Catherine Bates


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