Accessibility statement

Ecomedieval - ENG00026C

« Back to module search

  • Department: English and Related Literature
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. George Younge
  • Credit value: 10 credits
  • Credit level: C
  • Academic year of delivery: 2019-20

Module summary

What do global warming, carbon trading, the deep ecology movement, and Extinction Rebellion have to do with medieval literature? More than you might imagine.

In this module, students will read a selection of medieval texts (and their modern reinterpretations) that engage with environmental change and the natural world. These include the Wanderer and the Seafarer, Old English laments that meditate on man's relationship with the environment, and the Poetic Edda: a collection of Old Norse and Icelandic mythological writing that shows an astonishing preoccupation with ecological issues, from the great 'world tree' (Yggsdrasill) to the global extinction that marks the culminating myth, 'Ragnarok'. The second half of the module focuses on the Deeds of Hereward the Wake, the story of an Anglo-Saxon outlaw who seeks refuge in the fens, a 'managed' ecosystem on the East Anglian coast. In the final week, we will read The Wake (2015), a startling revoicing of the Hereward legend by climate activist, writer, and apocalyptic maverick Paul Kingsnorth.

The module addresses some of the bigger questions about medieval culture and the environment. How did medieval writers conceive of the boundaries between the human, animal and inanimate worlds?  What role did climate change (e.g. the Medieval Warm Period) have on imaginative literature. How do medieval climate myths anticipate and modify our understanding of the current environmental crisis? And how have medieval scholars challenged and interrogated modern ecocritical theory?

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Summer Term 2019-20

Module aims

  • introduce students to medieval texts in translation from across a range of languages and regions.
  • to familiarise students with a selection of ecocritical approaches, particularly as they relate to medieval literature.
  • to consider how modern writers make use of the medieval past.

Module learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module, you should be able to:

  1. Demonstrate a basic understanding of and engagement with medieval texts from across the North Sea world.
  2. Engage with comparative and interdisciplinary ecocritical approaches, relevant critical vocabulary and contexts.
  3. Successfully manage a collaborative project, making use of digital tools where appropriate.
  4. Deliver a presentation, demonstrating appropriate oral, written, performance, and/or digital skills.


Task Length % of module mark
Oral presentation/seminar/exam
Group Presentation
N/A 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Essay: 1500 words
N/A 100

Module feedback

Students will receive group feedback by email by the end of Summer week 10.

Indicative reading

Key texts may include:

The Wanderer and The Seafarer (Old English laments)

The Poetic Edda (Old Norse and Icelandic mythological poetry)

The Deeds of Hereward the Wake (Latin romance)

Paul Kingsnorth, The Wake (2015) 

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.