Chaucer and His Contemporaries (EAS2071)

StaffDr Elliot Kendall - Lecturer
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level6
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks;

Module aims

The module aims to provide an introduction to the literature of the late middle ages in England.The syllabus is split more or less equally between the works of Chaucer and the anonymous literature of the late Middle Ages. You will also consider the particular nuances of Middle English as a vehicle for literary expression. You will also explore some of the resources offered by the city of Exeter for an understanding of late-medieval culture.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. demonstrate informed appreciation of specific medieval authors and texts;
  • 2. demonstrate an appreciation of the stage of the language known as Middle English;
  • 3. demonstrate an informed appreciation of medieval literary history;
  • 4. demonstrate an informed appreciation of the relation between medieval literature and important historical and intellectual developments of the time;

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 5. demonstrate an ability to analyse the literature of an earlier era and to relate its concerns and its modes of expression to its historical context;
  • 6. demonstrate an ability to interrelate texts and discourses specific to their own discipline with issues in the wider context of cultural and intellectual history;
  • 7. demonstrate an ability to understand and analyse relevant theoretical ideas, and to apply these ideas to literary texts;

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 8. through essay-writing, demonstrate appropriate research and bibliographic skills, a capacity to construct a coherent, substantiated argument and a capacity to write clear and correct prose;
  • 9. through research for seminars and essays, demonstrate proficiency in information retrieval and analysis;
  • 10. through research, seminar discussion, and essay writing demonstrate a capacity to question assumptions, to distinguish between fact and opinion, and to critically reflect on their own learning process;
  • 11. through sitting their final examination, demonstrate proficiency in the use of memory and in the development, organization, and expression of ideas under pressure of time.

Syllabus plan

Topics to be covered may include

Love lyrics, sacred and profane

The Body of Christ


Mandeville, The Book of Marvels and Travels


A block of four weeks on Chaucer,  The Canterbury Tales


The Cloud of Unknowing


Malory's stories of Arthur


Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities11lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities22seminars
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities5Canterbury Tales reading workshops
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities2Revision workshop
Guided independent study33discussion group preparation and meetings
Guided independent study70seminar preparation (individual)
Guided independent study157reading, research and essay preparation

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Group translation and presentation7 minutes1-2, 5,7,9-10Oral feedback with opportunity for tutorial follow-up.

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay452000 words1-10Feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow-up.
Exam452 hours1-8, 11Feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow-up.
Seminar Participation10Continuous 1–7, 9–10Oral Feedback with opportunity for office hours follow-up

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay1-10Referral/deferral period
ExamExam1-8, 11Referral/deferral period
Seminar Participation Repeat Study or mitigation 1–7, 9–10Referral/deferral period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Core Reading:

[You are advised to buy copies of each of these books]

Pearl: A New Verse Translation, trans. Simon Armitage (Liveright, Norton, 2016). This has the Middle English in parallel text.

Sir John Mandeville, The Book of Marvels and Travels, trans. Anthony Bale (Oxford World's Classics, 2012)

Sir Thomas Malory, Le Morte D'Arthur, ed. Stephen H. A. Shepherd (Norton, 2003) 

The Cloud of Unknowing, trans. A. C. Spearing (Penguin, 2001)

Geoffrey Chaucer, The Riverside Chaucer, ed. L. D. Benson, 3rd edn (Oxford University Press, 1987)


Secondary Reading: 

M. Turner, ed., A Handbook of Middle English Studies (Blackwell, 2013)

P. Boitani and J. Mann, eds, The Cambridge Companion to Chaucer (Cambridge UP, 2003)

J.A. Burrow and T. Turville-Petre, A Book of Middle English (Blackwell, 2005)

L. Patterson, ed., Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales: A Casebook (Oxford UP, 2007)

Module has an active ELE page?


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date

February 2018

Key words search

English, Literature, Medieval, Middle Ages, Chaucer