Reading List 1: Medieval Literatures

Faculty Committee:  Heather Blurton, L. Aranye Fradenburg

All works in English, whether Old or Middle, must be read in the original, unless an exception is granted by permission. If you wish to read the French and/or Latin texts in the original, speak to Heather Blurton.

Many of the shorter texts below are available in Elaine Treharne, ed. Old and Middle English, c. 890 – 1400 (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2004)

A very helpful resource (but which unfortunately excludes the Anglo-Saxon period) is The Cambridge History of Medieval English Literature, ed. David Wallace (Cambridge: CUP, 1999)  Selections marked with a cross (+) are digitized and available online, consult with the Staff Graduate Adviser.

Reading List

Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy+

Bede, Ecclesiastical History of the English People +

 Anglo-Saxon Chronicle:

In The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: a Collaborative Edition, eds. Dumville and Keynes, read aroung in vols. 3 and 4 for a general sense of the Chronicle. Pay special attentions to the annals for 755-871, 911-924, and 933-946. In vol. 4 compare the years 911-19 (the Mercian Chronicle)+

Old English Short Poems: Wulf and Eadwacer, The Wanderer, The Seafarer, The Dream of the Rood, The Wife’s Lament+



Aelfric, Lives of Saints

Aelfric’s Lives were edited by Skeat for the Early English Text Society (EETS) nos. 76, 82, 94, 114. Read the lives of Eugenia, Aetheldryd, Swythun, Oswald, Edmund, and Eufrasia+

The Life of Christina of Markyate+

Thomas of Britain, Tristan+

Geoffrey of Monmouth, History of the Kings of Britain+

Chrétien de Troyes, Erec and Enide and Lancelot, or The Knight of the Cart+

The Song of Roland+

Gerald of Wales, The Journey Through Wales+

Marie de France, Lais

The Owl and the Nightingale+

The Mabinogion+

The Katherine Group: Seinte Katerine; Seinte Margaret; Hali Meidenhad+

Middle English Lyrics and short poems:+

Consult Robert D. Stevick, ed. One Hundred Middle English Lyrics; the Norton edition of Middle English lyrics; R. H. Robbins, ed. Historical Poems of the XIVth and XVth centuries and Secular Lyrics of the XIVth and XVth Centuries; The Harley Lyrics, in ed. Treharne.

Middle English Romance: Horn, Havelok, Athelstan, Orfeo, Launfal, The Wedding of Sir

Gawain and Dame Ragnell+

Julian of Norwich, Book of Showings

Book of Margery Kempe,

Guillaume de Lorris & Jean de Meun, The Romance of the Rose+

Christine de Pisan, The Book of the City of Ladies+

John Gower, Vox Clamantis+

Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales+

Troilus and Criseyde+
Dream Visions (The Legend of Good Women; The Parlement of Fowles; The Book of the Duchess)+

The Pearl-poet, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight+

St Erkenwald+

William Langland, Piers Plowman (B Text)+

John Lydgate, Troy Book+

William Dunbar, ed. Kinsley or Bawcutt: “Hale sterne superne”; “Quhen Merche wes with variand windis past” (“The Thrissill and the Rois”); “Blyth Aberdeane”; “The Goldyn Targe”; “Lang heff I maed of ladyes quhytt” (“Ane Blak Moir”); “The Tretis of the tua mariit Wemen and the Wedo”; “Off Februar the fyiftene nycht” (“The Dance of the sevin deidly synnis”); “I that in heill wes and gladnes” (“Lament for the Makaris”); “Quhy will ye marchantis of renoun”; “The Flyting of Dunbar and Kennedie”; “Sir Jhon Sinclair begowthe to dance” (“Of a Dance in the Quenis Chalmer”); “Schir, ye have mony servitouris”; “We that ar heir in hevins glory” (“Dirige to the king”)+

Robert Henryson, Testament of Cresseid+

Sir Thomas Malory, La Morte Darthur+

Vinaver edition: The Tale of King Arthur, Sankgreal, Sir Launcelot and Queen Guinevere, The Most Piteous Tale of the Morte Arthur saunz Guerdon.

The Travels of Sir John Mandeville+

Medieval Drama: Mankind; York Mystery Plays; “The Second Shepherds’ Play” from the Wakefield aka Towneley Cycle+

English Wycliffite Writings+

Selections from English Wycliffite Writings, ed. Anne Hudson (Cambridge: CUP, 1978)


We’ve organized the readings on the exam list into topic groups to help you think about how to approach these works. You will want to think about your own ways of approaching them; but the topics we list or describe below will suggest some ways you could begin to organize your thinking. If you have questions about secondary bibliography, please consult with the examiner.


These issues are relevant to each work on the list. We’d like you to think about the significance, cultural and otherwise, of medieval shapings of the English language. This would include: verse forms (for example, alliterative verse and its use in political poetry; aureate verse and the function of splendor in Dunbar’s poetry and the lyrics to the Virgin); the use of continental forms (Chaucer’s “imports,” for example); vernacular patriotism and nationalism; prose styles (e.g. Malory); lyric and other “voices” (for example, in connection with questions of subjectivity); rhetorics of affect (for example, the discourses of passion and contentment in mystical writing).


Bede. Ecclesiastical History of the English People
Geoffrey of Monmouth
Gerald of Wales
The Life of Christina of Markyate
Lydgate, Troy Book
Wakefield Cycle
Aelfric. Lives of Saints+
Christine de Pisan. Book of the City of Ladies
Chaucer. Legend of Good Women


Wanderer, Seafarer, Dream of the Rood, Andreas
Aelfric. Lives of Saints
Bede. Ecclesiastical History
The Life of Christina of Markyate
Gerald of Wales
Song of Roland
Owl and the Nightengale
Wycliffite writings (English)
Book of Margery Kempe
Julian of Norwich. Book of Showings
Katherine, Margaret, Holy Maidenhood, selections from South English Legendary
Piers Plowman
Wakefield Cycle
Religious lyrics



Bede. Ecclesiastical History
Henryson. Testament of Cresseid
Romance of the Rose
Lais, Marie de France.
City of Ladies.
Chrétien de Troyes
Song of Roland
Gerald of Wales

B. COURT CULTURE. Richard II and Henry IV.

Chaucer selections
Piers Plowman
Gower. Vox Clamantis
Lydgate, Troy Book
Wycliffite (English)

BORDERS. [Political, material, formal, psychological/ spiritual]

Anglo-Saxon Chronicles
Dream of the Rood
Sir Orfeo
The Book of Margery Kempe
Mandeville. Travels
Gerald of Wales
ME romances


Wulf and Eadwacer, Wife’s Lament
Romance of the Rose
Chrétien de Troyes
Christina of Markyate
Christine de Pisan. Book of the City of Ladies.
Julian of Norwich. Showings
The Book of Margery Kempe
Saints’ Lives (Anglo Saxon and Middle English)
Marie de France
ME Lyrics
ME Romances

Revised 4/09