Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2022-2023 (archived)


Department: English Studies


Type Open Level 1 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2022/23 Module Cap 200 Location Durham


  • A level English Literature or History (Grade B).


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To introduce students to the literature and thought of the later medieval period (e.g. the works of Chrétien de Troyes, Marie de France, Chaucer, the Gawain-poet, Malory).
  • To analyze the chosen texts closely, at an appropriate level for students who have already obtained an A-level in English.
  • To introduce students to the cultural, socio-political, moral and philosophical ideas of the medieval period, in particular, the notions of chivalry, knighthood and courtliness.
  • To explore the development of courtly literature associated with chivalry, in particular the development of the romance genre, and the conventions and modes of representation associated with it.
  • To explore contemporary critical perspectives on the medieval period.
  • To explore the influence of the romance genre and chivalric literature on post-medieval literature and culture.


  • This module treats the concepts of knighthood, courtliness and chivalry in a range of later medieval texts (12th to 15th century), examines the development of the romance genre in both literary and cultural terms, and explores its influence on later literature and culture.
  • Where Old French or dialectically difficult English texts are used, the students are expected to use translations, but for Chaucer and Malory, original texts are used.
  • Texts to be studied normally include: Chrétien de Troyes: The Story of the Grail (Perceval), Malory: Le Morte Darthur (esp. last 3 books), Chaucer: 'The Knight's Tale' and 'The Franklin's Tale', Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and Laxdaela Saga.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • To gain knowledge of a body of medieval literature.
  • To place medieval works in their cultural contexts.
  • To gain a knowledge of romance as a major genre.
  • To demonstrate familiarity with a variety of literary forms (e.g. narrative poetry, alliterative poetry, prose).
  • To gain some experience of the Middle English language (e.g. the writing of Chaucer, the Gawain-poet and Malory).
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Students studying this module will develop:
  • critical skills in the close reading and analysis of texts
  • an ability to demonstrate knowledge of a range of texts, authors, and critical approaches within this literary genre
  • an informed awareness of formal and aesthetic dimensions of literature and an ability to offer cogent analysis of their workings in specific texts relating to this literary genre
  • a sensitivity to generic conventions and to the shaping effects on communication of historical circumstances, and to the affective power of language
  • an ability to articulate and substantiate an imaginative response to literature
  • an ability to articulate knowledge and understanding of concepts and theories relating to this literary genre
  • skills of effective communication and argument
  • a command of a broad range of vocabulary and an appropriate critical terminology
  • an awareness of literature as a medium through which values are affirmed and debated
Key Skills:
  • Students studying this module will develop:
  • a capacity to analyse critically
  • an ability to acquire complex information of diverse kinds in a structured and systematic way involving the use of distinctive interpretative skills derived from the subject
  • a competence in the planning and execution of essays
  • a capacity for independent thought and judgement, and ability to assess the critical ideas of others
  • skills in critical reasoning
  • an ability to handle information and argument in a critical manner
  • information-technology skills such as word-processing and electronic data access information
  • organisation and time-management skills

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Lectures: enable students to gain subject-specific knowledge of cultural, aesthetic and intellectual issues in relation to individual works and authors, an area or period, or a theoretical or language-related topic; encourage students to be aware of the range and variety of approaches to literary study; present ideas and information to encourage, on the part of students, further thought and discussion
  • Tutorials: enable students to explore, in a selective way, through small-group discussion, specific texts and topics (many of which will be addressed by lectures); to focus on selected literary issues and problems; and guide them in developing subject-specific analytical skills and knowledge
  • Formative essays: are written on a text or texts, or a literary topic, and they require the student to demonstrate appropriate subject-specific knowledge and skills, such as the ability to articulate knowledge and understanding of concepts and theories relating to literary study. A considerable element of choice of essay topics encourages development in students of their capacity for independent thought and judgement.
  • Essay handbacks: encourage students to reflect critically and independently on their work
  • Independent but directed reading in preparation for lectures and tutorials provides opportunity for students to enrich subject-specific knowledge and enhances their ability to develop appropriate subject-specific skills.
  • Examination: tests the student's ability to present subject-specific knowledge, to select appropriate materials, and to construct and manage clear and effective arguments in a timed period; to demonstrate independent thinking, and test that students have achieved stated learning outcomes.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 21 1 Per Week 1 Hour 21
Tutorials 7 1 Hour 7
Essay Feedback Sessions 2 15 minutes 0.5
Preparation and Reading 171.5
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Examination Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Written examination, open book 3 hours 100%

Formative Assessment:

2 tutorial essays (c.2000 words)

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University