Middle English II

ENGL3023 - Available in 2015-16 and 2017-18

Course Convenor:  Dr. Natalie Jones

The particular focus of this course is literature in English that was composed in the later part of the Middle English period. One of its aims is to explore writing that was produced in the wake of Chaucer’s literary achievement, and that was influenced by this. But it also explores writing that was produced outside the sphere of influence of Chaucer’s works: devotional and dramatic literature, for example. For both of these reasons, the course extends material studied for the core course ‘Chaucer and his Literary Background’.

In addition to looking at such writers as Thomas Hoccleve and William Dunbar, admirers but also potentially questioners of Chaucer’s poetic œuvre, the course examines some of the works produced by female authors in England in the late-fourteenth and the fifteenth centuries: the Revelation of Love of the woman visionary Julian of Norwich, for example, and the equally remarkable Book of Margery Kempe, which presses the claims to sanctity of one serial pilgrim, and mother of fourteen children, from East Anglia. A major component of the course is medieval drama, both the mystery cycles that were performed in prosperous English towns in the late Middle Ages, and ‘morality plays’, much more cerebral and stylised examples of dramatic writing that continued to be produced in the ‘early modern’ era, and that were influential on the playwrights of other forms of drama that were written then. Late-medieval England was a place of protest against authority, both political and religious, as well as deference to it, and the course also looks at, for example, the challenges to the official doctrines of the Church issued by the followers of the Oxford theologian John Wyclif.

By the end of the course, students will have been made aware of the variety of both writing and the individuals who produced it in England in the Middle Ages. They will also have extended their competence in reading Middle English.