England in the High Middle Ages: Middle English Culture and Literature

Course information


England in the High Middle Ages: Middle English Culture and Literature


Larisa Kocic-Zámbó [Zámbóné Kocic Larias]

Course code

YSE_BTK011 [???]






Friday 12-14

Course description

Short description

The course plunges right into the eleventh century, the end of the Old English period marked both politically (by the change of the ruling dynasty) and linguistically (by the coming of the Middle English stage in the history of the English language). But the change meant more than this: the continental connections the Norman kings provided put England into the European circuit of thinking, art, and literature in a completely different way. Thus, the Middle English period’s interest lies in the relationship of England and Europe, whether in social structure, philosophy, architecture, or literature; and the course will concentrate on these fields to survey the changes. A historical overview is provided by linking English developments to continental ones and will include topics like feudalism and the development of urban culture, Romanesque and Gothic art, the rise of new monastic orders, scholastic theology, and the universities. The rise of the middle class and the concomitant changes in cultural/literary patterns will also be treated, e.g. through one of the favorite genres (romance) and subject matters (King Arthur), but special attention will be paid to the best known and greatest medieval English poet, Geoffrey Chaucer. The course closes with an outlook towards the sixteenth century, where Humanism already starts to define the previous period as the ‘Dark Ages’, the printing press revolutionarizes literary production, and social change makes evident a new age is under way.




Fall semester


Requirements to get the grade

Final written exam

Reading list

Primary readings will be available through CooSpace

Suggested reading list

Amtower, Laurel. 2000. Engaging Words: The Culture of Reading in the Later Middle Ages. New York and Houndsmill: Palgrave Macmillan.

Rigby, S. H. 1995. English Society in the Later Middle Ages: Class, Status and Gender. Houndsmill and London: Macmillan.

Scanlon, Larry, ed. 2009. The Cambridge Companion to Medieval English Literature 1100-1500. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Summit, Jennifer. 2003. “Women and Authorship.” In The Cambridge Companion to Medieval Women’s Writing:, edited by Carolyn Dinshaw and David Wallace, 91–108. Cambridge University Press.

Wetherbee, Wintrop. 2004. Geoffrey Chaucer The Canterbury Tales (A Student Guide). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.