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Philology 4A: Highlights of Medieval English Literature


Admission requirements

Completion of Philology 1 and 2 or comparable courses.


This course builds on Philology 1 and Philology 2. It offers a survey of medieval English literature (7th-15th centuries) that provides fascinating insight into the imaginary world of the English Middle Ages, as well as an exploration of some of the new digital horizons of medieval studies. Texts that are read and discussed include Beowulf, The Battle of Maldon, The Dream of the Rood, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and other Middle English Arthurian literature. In the first half of the class, students will be reacquainted with the Old English language and learn more about Anglo-Saxon literature and culture; at the end of this block, there will be an optional visit to the Special Collections of the Leiden University Library, to look at Old English material in the Leiden collections. In the second half of the class, students will draw on and expand their knowledge of medieval English by writing an essay on a medieval English text.

Our work with these texts will be supported through the use of translations and glossaries and enriched through exciting secondary readings. As such, students will acquire a deeper insight into a broad range of aspects of medieval English culture which they have not yet, or only cursorily, studied.

Course objectives

  • Abilities in interpreting representative texts from the various genres of medieval literature in their cultural-historical context

  • Familiarity of the various genres and methods of interpretation

  • Experience with archival material, in physical or digital form

  • Practice with secondary sources

  • Successful completion of the course will enable the student to follow a third-year course on Old English or Middle English.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

Combination of lectures and seminars

Assessment method


  1. A 2-hour written mid-term exam, with a short translation, short open questions and essay questions, on the material of Block III (Old English).
  2. Preparation and participation for Block III, including weekly homework assignments via Brightspace.
  3. Preparation and participation for Block III, including weekly homework assignments via Brightspace.
  4. A longer written assignment, submitted during Block IV, worth 45%


Element 1) 45%
Element 2) 5%
Element 3) 5%
Element 4) 45%


When the final grade is 5.49 or lower, one or more of the more substantive evaluation elements (elements 1 and 4) will have to be retaken during the resit period. There is no resit for preparation, participation, or the assignments (elements 2 and 3).


Attendance is compulsory. Missing more than two tutorials means that students will be excluded from the tutorials. Unauthorized absence also applies to being unprepared, not participating and/or not bringing the relevant course materials to class.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

  • Elaine Treharne, ed., Old and Middle English c. 890 – c. 1400: An Anthology, Third Edition, Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available on the website

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte

Registration Contractonderwijs


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Student administration Arsenaal


Students are expected to be prepared right from week 1. The work for week 1 is to be found in Brightspace.