The course aims to illustrate the distinguishing features, the main literary genres and the history of medieval English literature. In addition to completing the educational path of the English literature specialists, the course has two further learning objectives: showing the relative and historically determined value of the modern concepts of literature, and providing linguistic and critical competence for dealing with literary texts from pre-modern times. All of this, by keeping in mind the radical otherness and, at the same time, the surprising modernity of medieval literature. These learning objectives are consistent with the general learning objectives of the Study Programme as they help graduates gain extensive and in-depth knowledge and skills in the historical and critical literary field. In particular, the introductory lessons of the course aim to illustrate the very concept of literature that characterizes the medieval world, with the peculiar nature of the manuscript text, the author and the relationship between author and public. The course then develops by presenting some authors (Geoffrey Chaucer in the first place), genres and texts of Middle English literature through a (usually thematic) selection of representative texts, which are included in the framework of the literary tradition of the 12th-15th centuries. Finally, attention is focused on the monographic component of the course, which deals in depth with a topic or text relevant to the literary production of the English Middle Ages.
Expected learning outcomes
Knowledge and understanding: knowledge of the literary output in the English Middle Ages; knowledge of the distinguishing features of the medieval literary text; understanding of the evolutionary relationship between medieval and post-medieval literature.
Applying knowledge and understanding: ability to read, translate, and critically interpret and evaluate literary texts of the English Middle Ages; ability to grasp the historical, social and cultural implications of literary texts; increased awareness about the nature of literature.
The course is entitled Medieval polyphony: voices, writers and genres in Middle English literature and it is divided into the following three teaching units:
A: Medieval polyphony I: Chaucer as a writer, pilgrim, and story-teller in The Canterbury Tales; B: Medieval polyphony II: authors and audiences in a selection of Middle English texts; C: Literary traditions: authors and genres of Middle English literature.
After a short introduction to the distinguishing feature of medieval literature, a number of passages from the General Prologue and different sections of The Canterbury Tales will be analysed in order to assess Chaucer's different roles as author, pilgrim and story-teller (Unit A). Unit B will tackle the relationship between authors and their audience/readership in a selection of Middle English literary texts, while Unit C is meant to set the main genres of Middle English literature in their socio-historical context.
The 6-credit exam consists of two compulsory teaching units (A and B); students interested in the 9-credit exam will add unit C.
Students taking the exam for 9 credits will also have to undertake a short research on an author or text of Middle English literature. The topic will have to be agreed on with Prof. Iamartino. The findings of the research (to be summarized in 3 or 4 A4 pages or a dozen powerpoint presentation slides) will be discussed during the exam
The syllabus is valid until July 2021.
Prerequisites for admission
The course, which is taught in English, the texts read during the classes, and the bibliography for the exam all imply that students should be competent in English (QCER B2+/C1 level). Also, students are expected to be knowledgeable about the English literary canon with reference to the main forms and genres.
The following teaching methods will be used: lectures; passages from the different Middle English texts will be read aloud, translated into modern English, and commented on from a literary and stylistic point of view.
Teaching Units A-B · J.A. Burrow, Medieval Writers and their Work. Middle English Literature 1100-1500, 2nd edn, OUP, Oxford 2008 (compulsory reading); · A handbook of Middle English literature to be chosen between the following, which are available in the English studies library: the volume Albert C. Baugh, 'The Middle English Period', in A Literary History of England, ed. by A.C. Baugh, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London 1967, vol.1, is fairly old, but it is still useful and provides very clear and well-organized information on the different literary genres; much richer and more updated is David Wallace (ed.), The Cambridge History of Medieval English Literature, CUP, Cambridge, 1999 (either text should be consulted only as far as the authors and works dealt with during the classes are concerned); · One's lesson notes; · handouts and powerpoint presentations made used of during the classes and available on the ARIEL course website.
Teaching Unit C · By using the bibliography for Units A and B, students are expected to acquire a wider and more in-depth knowledge of the forms and genres of Middle English literature; · The bibliography for one's own research depends on the topic chosen and should be agreed on with Prof. Iamartino.
Notice for non-attending students The syllabus is the same for attending and non-attending students. The only exception is what follows for Unit A: · The section on Geoffrey Chaucer in D. Wallace's handbook (see above) makes compulsory reading; · Each non-attending student will have to select and read 3 articles on one of Chaucer's Tales; the choice of these articles - to be found in the University's data-banks of academic journals - will have to be agreed on with Prof. Iamartino.
Assessment methods and Criteria
The exam consists of an individual interview, which includes questions asked by the teacher, interactions between the teacher and the student, and the analysis and commentary of one or more excerpts from the works in the program. The interview has a variable duration (usually 15-20 minutes), depending on the teaching units on which the student is presented, and takes place at the student's choice in English or Italian. The interview aims to verify the knowledge of the texts read, the ability to contextualize authors and works, the ability in the exposition, the precision in the use of specific terminology, the capacity for critical and personal reflection on the proposed themes. The final grade is expressed in thirtieths, and the student has the right to refuse it (in this case it will be verbalized as "withdrawn"). International or Erasmus incoming students are invited to contact the teacher promptly. The examination procedures for students with disabilities and / or with DSA must be agreed with the teacher, in agreement with the competent Office.