The Medieval Book - ENG00109M

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  • Department: English and Related Literature
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Holly James-Maddocks
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2019-20
    • See module specification for other years: 2018-19

Module summary

Middle English writing is profoundly conditioned by its circumstances of production and dissemination. Hand-crafted and unique, the manuscript invites us to consider how our readings of medieval texts can be modified in light of their material contexts. In other words, how does the material form in which we read a text matter to the meaning of that text?

This course offers an advanced introduction to the challenges of finding, editing, and interpreting Middle English writings from a pre-print culture, with practical instruction in the skills required by editors and literary critics of medieval texts. While some seminars will focus on issues relating to textual criticism, the majority will consider different aspects of codicological study (materials, script, illumination, binding, attribution, provenance, etc.), providing insight into the research methods employed by specialists.

There will be an opportunity for first-hand examination of medieval books where the focus will be on writing a formal description of a manuscript (or a ‘copy-specific’ record of an early printed book). The purpose of this course is to encourage you to look at the Middle English text in its manuscript-form and, as a result, to develop some of the specialist skills necessary for advanced work in medieval studies.

After an introduction looking at the History of the Book in relation to the study of English manuscripts, 1350-1500, and how this field of study has developed since the C19th, we will consider such questions as What is an author? What is a text? What is a book?

During the module we will visit the Special Collections in Durham University Library, where you will be given the opportunity to examine manuscripts of Middle English literature (Chaucer, Hoccleve, Lydgate).  This trip will both both increase your confidence in handling manuscripts and to attempt a formal manuscript description.

Module occurrences

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Spring Term 2019-20

Module aims

The aim of this module is to offer you an advanced introduction to the challenges of finding, editing, and interpreting Middle English writings from a pre-print culture, with practical instruction in the skills required by editors and literary critics of medieval texts.

Module learning outcomes

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

  1. An enhanced appreciation of the difficulties of establishing the authorial text of medieval literary works and basic skills for preparing editions of such works;
  2. The ability to read a medieval literary text in its original context, the handwritten book;
  3. Knowledge of the vocabulary of manuscript description and ability to apply information acquired from first-hand examination of manuscript context to the interpretation of texts;
  4. Confidence in handling and examining medieval manuscripts;
  5. The ability to produce independent arguments and ideas which demonstrate an advanced proficiency in critical thinking, research, and writing skills.

Assessment

Task Length % of module mark
Essay/coursework
4500 word essay
N/A 100

Special assessment rules

None

Additional assessment information

You will hand in an essay of approximately 2,000 words in Week 6 of the Autumn term. The main purpose of the essay is to ensure that the department can identify those students who may require additional assistance with academic writing skills.  Material from the procedural essay may be re-visited in either one of the January essays or the dissertation. It is therefore an early chance to work through material that might be used in assessed work. The title topic of the essay, like the title topic of all assessed work for the degree, is left open to the individual student.

Reassessment

Task Length % of module mark
Essay/coursework
4500 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 MA convenor, module tutor or your supervisor, during their Open Office Hours

Indicative reading

Key texts for this module will be available nearer the start of the module, and the detailed reading list will be available on the VLE.



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.