Medieval Women's Literature
Run by School of Arts, Culture and Language
20.000 Credits or 10.000 ECTS Credits
Organiser: Prof Sue Niebrzydowski
Overall aims and purpose
To introduce students to a range of secular and religious works written by medieval women.
To study the relationship of these texts to their historical and cultural contexts, particularly in relation to the construction of medieval womanhood.
To analyse the genres and literary strategies used by medieval women to voice their opinions.
To introduce students to the range of critical opinion concerning medieval women’s literature, and enable participation in the ongoing critical discussion of these texts.
What texts were medieval women writing and reading? This module examines women’s textual culture in an historical period in which many male-authored works encouraged women to be ‘chaste, silent and obedient,’ in spite of an assumption that women were naturally inclined towards lust and gossip. The module explores a range of literature written by women, and examines the ways in which female-produced works (those written, translated, read, commissioned, performed and discussed in medieval England) were in dialogue with the constructions of medieval womanhood current during this period. The texts studied in seminar offer opportunity to hear, amongst others, the intimate thoughts and words of Margery Kempe, Julian of Norwich, the Paston wives and Marie de France, on topics as broad as love, marriage, sex, death and religion, as recorded in travel narratives, letters, devotions, lyrics and other literature – all of which contributed to the rich textual culture of the Middle Ages. This module is an ideal companion to any of the other level three medieval or early modern literature modules.
Typically, work graded A- to A** (or 70 to 100) will show many of the following qualities:
• Discusses ideas with confidence and precision • Demonstrates maturity and sophistication • Displays deep knowledge of the subject in question; the answer is totally relevant • Shows independent, analytical and clear thought • Gives evidence of substantial and relevant reading • Shows great accuracy in expression, displaying total mastery over all aspects of the language • Shows occasional signs of brilliance and originality of thought • In creative work: displays considerable originality • Command over medium; may have potential for publication/production
Typically, work graded D- to D+ (or 40 to 49) will show many of the following qualities: • Unsure and lacking in confidence when discussing ideas • Referring to the subject in question in a superficial manner • Making an effort to provide fairly balanced answers • Some points in the argument irrelevant to the topic • Little evidence of background reading • Some uncertainty over language and syntax • Strengths and weaknesses fairly balanced; occasionally clumsy and unimaginative • In creative work: superficial • Not succeeding in mastering the requirements of the medium
Typically, work graded B- to B+ (or 60 to 69) will show many of the following qualities: • Discusses ideas adeptly • Most of the arguments about a specific field are well-aired • Displays knowledge of the subject in question; the answer is relevant • Shows analytical and clear thought • Gives evidence of relevant reading • Shows accuracy in expression with mastery over language. • A few minor errors here and there. • Signs of creative thought deserve a higher position within the class • In creative work: shows signs of originality, having understood the requirements of the medium • Plans of well-balanced and full answers, despite some gaps
Select, digest and organise material and produce a consistent and coherent argument, presented in essay form, to a deadline.
Make use of online databases of late medieval texts, developing both IT and critical skills in the process.
Analyse, interpret and evaluate the literary quality of the Middle English texts studied on the module.
Participate in the ongoing critical discussion of these texts and their authors, genres, reception and intertextuality.
Relate the texts to their original literary and cultural contexts, particularly those of the literary construction of womanhood and women’s textual responses to this.
Identify and make use of ideas and theories relevant to an understanding of medieval women’s literature.
Teaching and Learning Strategy
In your private study time you are expected to read the primary texts allocated for each seminar discussion, and relevant critical material.
Week by week in seminars you will have opportunity to discuss a range of medieval women's writing, and critical reponses to these texts.
Study groups meet once a week for an hour x 11 weeks.
- Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
- Computer Literacy - Proficiency in using a varied range of computer software
- Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
- Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
- Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
- Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
- Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting
- Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others
Subject specific skills
- The ability to organise and present ideas within the framework of a structured and reasoned argument in written and/or oral assignments and class discussions. (Benchmark statement 5.14)
- Competence in the planning and execution of essays, presentations and other written and project work; bibliographic skills, including the accurate citation of sources and consistent use of conventions and appropriate style in the presentation of scholarly work. (Benchmark statement 5.10, 5.14, 5.15)
- The ability to gather information, analyse, interpret and discuss different viewpoints and to place these in a wider socio-cultural and/or geo-historical and political and/or socio-linguistic context and to revise and re-evaluate judgements in light of those of the course leader, certain individuals or groups studied and/or fellow students. (Benchmark statement 5.13, 5.15 and 5.16)
- The ability to write and think under pressure and meet deadlines. (Benchmark statement 5.15)
- The ability to write effective notes and access and manage course materials including electronic resources / information provided on online learning platforms and library resources. (Benchmark statement 5.15, 5.16)
- The ability to work creatively and flexibly both independently and/or as part of a team. (Benchmark statement 5.15).
- The ability to comprehend, critically engage with and apply relevant theoretical concepts to materials being studied. (Benchmark statement 5.10)
- The ability to engage in analytical, evaluative and original thinking. (Benchmark statement 5.14)
- The ability to organise and present ideas and arguments in presentations, classroom discussions and debates. (Benchmark statement 5.14, 5.16)
- The ability to develop and manage an independent research project in the target language. (Benchmark statement 5.3, 5.4, 5.10, 5.15, 5.16)