English and Englishness in the Middle Ages: the politics of the Vernacular

Course tutors: Ardis Butterfield and Marilyn Corrie, English Department.

Time: Wednesday 11.00 - 1.00 in alternate weeks, Cruciform B.3.01

Course code: MDVLGE10

Credits: 40

This course aims to examine writing in England within the period 1100-1500. Following the Norman Conquest, England became thoroughly multilingual with ‘English’ writers producing work in Latin and French as well as English. It explores the complex role and meaning of English as a literary language by taking account of this multilingual environment. The possibility of writing in other languages meant that writing in English became politically significant, and often controversial. Literary works are therefore placed in the context of the fluctuating and often fraught relationship between England and France after the Conquest, culminating in the Hundred Years’ War. Several important works and authors of the period will be discussed against the background of these resulting social and political pressures, such as the Gawainmanuscript, Chaucer, Gower, Malory, and Charles d’Orléans.

A variety of approaches will be taken towards understanding and reassessing the concept of ‘Englishness’ in this period, among women as well as men. The course offers the opportunity to study both familiar and less familiar medieval English texts from a fresh and theoretically varied perspective. Non-Middle English material used on the course will be available in English translation; guidance will be given to anyone wishing to read works in their original languages.

Assessment: 2 essays of 5,000 words each.

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