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Pulp Fictions of Medieval England: Romance & Popular Literature - ENG00042H

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  • Department: English and Related Literature
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Nicola McDonald
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2022-23

Module summary

This module invites you to ‘get medieval’ on pulp fictions from the middle ages and the modern era, in literature and in film.

Over the past few decades the study of (contemporary) popular culture has exploded, revealing a world of complex ideas and challenging aesthetics below the seemingly simple surface of popular narrative.  The purpose of this module is to take today’s lively ‘pop’ debate back to the Middle English romances, the most important (as well as the zaniest) form of literature to emerge from medieval England. Romance is also the origin of the modern novel, the ancestor of almost all contemporary popular fiction, in print and on screen, and the middle ages’ go-to genre for asking questions about everything from racial and sexual identities to political formations. We will study these eminently readable medieval texts in ‘collision’ with twentieth and twenty-first century pop literature and film, including westerns, mass market romance, and the long tradition of big and small screen medievalism, from Monty Python to Game of Thrones. Critical insight will be drawn from the theoretical innovations of cultural and gender studies, as well as sociology and anthropology. Where possible, practitioners of contemporary forms popular fiction will join us as guest speakers.

The module will focus on the Middle English verse romances (texts may include The King of TarsOctavianEmaréSir GowtherSir Gawain and the Carl of Carlisle, Sir Perceval of Galles, Floris and Blancheflur, and the Squire of Low Degree). Each week’s seminar will invite you to read the romances in dialogue with a twentieth- or twenty-first-century fictional or theoretical text.  In some weeks, seminars will be supplemented by film screenings; these may include Pulp FictionStagecoachThe Searchers, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and A Knight’s Tale.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Spring Term 2022-23

Module aims

The aim of this module is to offer an invigorating study of the most popular literature of medieval England, one that will sharpen our critical knowledge of a single medieval genre by colliding it with the popular literature and theory of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

Module learning outcomes

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

  • Demonstrate an advanced understanding of and engagement with a range of Middle English romance as well as some of the key genres and theories of contemporary popular fiction
  • Demonstrate an advanced understanding of and engagement with some of the contexts (variously social, political, religious, and material) for the production and circulation of Middle English romance.
  • Evaluate key debates within the relevant critical fields of Middle English romance and popular culture, medieval and modern, as relevant..
  • Produce independent arguments and ideas which demonstrate an advanced proficiency in critical thinking, research, and writing skills.


Task Length % of module mark
3000 Word Essay
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

  • You will be given the opportunity to hand in a 1000 word formative essay in the term in which the module is taught (usually in the week 7 seminar).  Material from this essay may be re-visited in your summative essay and it is therefore an early chance to work through material that might be used in assessed work. This essay will be submitted in hard copy and your tutor will annotate it and return it two weeks later (usually in your week 9 seminar).  Summary feedback will be uploaded to your eVision account.  All students will have the opportunity to give an in-class individual presentation during a seminar in weeks 2-9.


Task Length % of module mark
3000 Word Essay
N/A 100

Module feedback

  • You will receive feedback on all assessed work within the University deadline, and will often receive it more quickly. The purpose of feedback is to inform your future work; it is designed to help you to improve your work, and the Department also offers you help in learning from your feedback. If you do not understand your feedback or want to talk about your ideas further you can discuss it with your tutor or your supervisor, during their Open Office Hours  
  • For more information about the feedback you will receive for your work, see the department's Guide to Assessment

Indicative reading

Texts may include The King of Tars, Octavian,Emaré, Sir Gowther, The Sultan of Babylon, Sir Gawain and the Carl of Carlisle, The Seege of Troye, Sir Perceval of Galles, Ywain and Gawain, Floris and Blancheflur, The Squyr of Lowe Degre.

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.