Encountering the Other in Medieval Literature (EAS3182)

StaffDr Naomi Howell - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level6
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks;

Module aims

As well as studying individual texts in depth, we will aim to examine links between texts, and between texts and their social and cultural contexts. The module will introduce you to primary research materials, including digitized medieval manuscripts and facsimile editions of medieval books. The module aims to develop research skills and interpretative methods that will help you to analyse texts from all periods of history and to situate them in various historical contexts. Study group meetings and prepared seminar presentations will give you the opportunity to develop their own approaches to the syllabus texts and other materials.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Demonstrate an informed appreciation of specific authors and texts from the classical to the early modern period, centring on the Middle Ages
  • 2. Demonstrate an informed appreciation of the literary and cultural history of the high medieval period
  • 3. Demonstrate a capacity to make detailed and theoretically informed connections between premodern literature and the social, sexual, and political issues of its period

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. Demonstrate an advanced ability to analyse the literature of an earlier era and to relate its concerns and its modes of expression to its historical context
  • 5. Demonstrate an advanced ability to understand and analyse relevant theoretical ideas, and to apply these ideas to literary texts

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 6. Through seminar work and the assessed presentation, demonstrate advanced communication skills, and an ability to work both individually and in groups
  • 7. Through essay writing, demonstrate appropriate research and bibliographic skills, an advanced capacity to construct a coherent, substantiated argument, and a capacity to write clear and correct prose
  • 8. Through research for seminars and assessed work, demonstrate advanced proficiency in information retrieval and analysis

Syllabus plan

The syllabus emphasises the following themes:

1)    The medieval reception and re-imagining of classical narratives involving encounters with the Other, some of which inflect our understanding of the non-Christian East to this day. Works studied in the first weeks of the module include Virgil’s Aeneid, the Roman d’Eneas, Chaucer’s Legend of Good Women, Marlowe’s Dido Queen of Carthage, and various versions of the Romance of Alexander.

2)    Encounters with the marvellous or miraculous Other, including the non-human, animals, and the dead. Texts include the lais of Marie de France and the Middle English poem St Erkenwald

3)    Danger and Dialogue: encounters between Christians and Jews, Muslims, Mongols, and others, in works that reveal moments of cooperation and friendship as well as suspicion and violence; we will read texts including Chaucer’s Prioress’s Tale, Mandeville’s Travels, William of Rubruck’s Mission to Asia, and Melech Artus, a Hebrew romance of King Arthur.

4)    The ‘Erotic Other’ in tales of cross-cultural romance, including Floire and Blancheflor, Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra, and its medieval parallels.

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
Guided independent33study group preparation and meetings
Guided independent70seminar preparation (individual)
Guided Independent 158research, reading, essay preparation

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
Group Presentation2515 Minutes1-7, 8Instant feedback in seminar, supplemented by feedback sheet.
Essay251500 words1-5, 7-8Written feedback plus tutorial follow-up
Essay503000 words1-5, 7-8Written feedback plus tutorial follow-up

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Group presentationPresentation materials and 750-word reflective piece OR 1500-word essay1-5, 7-8Mitigation deadline or refer/defer period
Essay 1500 wordsEssay 1500 words1-5, 7-8Refer/Defer period
Essay 3000 wordsEssay (3000 words)1-5, 7-8Refer/Defer period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic reading

Geoffrey Chaucer, The Riverside Chaucer, ed. Larry D. Benson, 3rd edn (OUP, 1987)

John Mandeville, The Book of Marvels and Travels, ed. Anthony Bale (OUP, 2012)

The Lais of Marie de France, ed. and tr. Glyn S. Burgess and Keith Busby, 2nd edn (Penguin, 1999)

William Shakespeare, Antony and Cleopatra, ed. John Wilders(Arden, 1995)


You should purchase copies of the above primary texts. Other texts will be provided in a module reading pack.

You do not need to purchase the Arden edition of Shakespeare recommended above. Other good scholarly editions are available and you may, for instance, already own a collected works such as the Riverside or Norton.


Selected secondary texts

Geraldine Heng, Empire of Magic: Medieval Romance and the Politics of Cultural Fantasy (Columbia, 2003)

Iain Macleod Higgins, Writing East: The “Travels” of Sir John Mandeville (Penn, 1997)

Sharon Kinoshita and Peggy McCracken, Marie de France: A Critical Companion (D. S. Brewer, 2012)

Amin Malouf, The Crusades Through Arab Eyes (Saqi, 2012)

Elisabeth Van Houts, Memory and Gender in Medieval Europe 900-1200 (Toronto, 1999)


Reading for week 1

Selections from Virgil’s Aeneid and the Roman d’Eneas; these will be available on ELE before the beginning of the teaching term.


Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

ELE – College to provide hyperlink to appropriate pages

Web based and electronic resources:

Middle English texts: http://www.lib.rochester.edu/camelot/teams/tmsmenu.htm

Available as distance learning?


Last revision date


Key words search

romance, Chaucer, Arthur, Saracen, Jewish, travel, Mandeville, gender, knight, chivalry, medieval, middle ages, Shakespeare, bodies, objects