Middle English Literature

A.Y. 2021/2022
Overall hours
Learning objectives
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.
Course syllabus and organization

Single session

Lesson period
First semester
TEACHING METHODS: The lessons will be held face to face (in the classroom), if the sanitary situation allows it; anyway, reference will be made to the University's decisions and guidelines. Should it be advisable to change to online teaching, the information on how to attend the lessons via Microsoft Teams will be made available on the ARIEL webpage of the course: please consult ARIEL regularly.
The course will include different types of teaching methods: lectures, analysis of linguistic material, and student-teacher interaction.
SYLLABUS AND READING LIST: For the syllabus and the reading list see the relevant section of this form. The situation might determine slight changes in the way the course is held (as mentioned above).
ASSESSMENT METHODS AND CRITERIA: for the assessment methods and criteria see the relevant sections of this form.
Course syllabus
The course is entitled "Eating and drinking in Middle English literature" and is meant to deal with the peculiar features of Middle English literature by analyzing a number of texts that focus on the literary representation of food: indeed, the literary treatment of 'mete and drinc' can tell us a lot on the evolution of society, custom and economy in the English middle ages; at the same time, it will enable us to analyse a number of different text-types that, in a literal or figurative way, 'tell the tale' of human beings by means of the food they consume.
Students can take the exam for 6 or 9 credits. Students taking the exam for 9 credits will also have to undertake a brief research on a specific course-related topic, text or author 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 the same for attending and non-attending students.
The syllabus is valid until February 2023.
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; some knowledge of the historical development of the English language is useful, but not strictly necessary.
All the students should register for the course before the first lesson via the Unimi Easy Lessson app.
Teaching methods
The following teaching methods will be used: lectures (with ample space for discussion and interaction); a number of literary texts will be read aloud, translated into modern English, and commented on from a literary, stylistic an cultural point of view.
Teaching Resources
1) J.A. Burrow, Medieval Writers and their Work. Middle English Literature 1100-1500, 2nd edn, OUP, Oxford 2008 (required reading);
2) In order to better contextualize the literary texts to be prepared for the exam, one may refer to the histories of Middle English literature to be found in the Anglistica library. Although any will do in order to provide the basic data, 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 still valuable and very clear; more up-to-date and much richer is David Wallace (ed.), The Cambridge History of Medieval English Literature, CUP, Cambridge 1999;
3) J.A. Burrow & T. Turville-Petre, A book of Middle English, 3rd edn, Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford 2004 may also be useful for the texts in this anthology are very well introduced and commented on;
4) 'Middle English 1100-1550', in Ishtla Singh, The history of English, Hodder Arnold, London, 2005 (also available on the course website) provides some linguistic information that may be useful for students with no background knowledge in the history of the English language;
5) Prof. Iamartino's handouts and powerpoint presentations (also available on the course website);
6) one's lesson notes;
7) further critical material may be made available during the classes.
Assessment methods and Criteria
The exam consists of an interview, which includes questions asked by the teacher, interactions between the teacher and the student, and the analysis of and comments on one or more textual excerpts. The interview usually lasts between 15 and 20 minutes, depending on whether the student takes the exams for 6 or 9 credits, and it is carried out in either English or Italian at the student's choice. The exam will be taken either in a Department classroom or online (Microsoft Teams platform), depending on the University's guidelines at the time.
The interview aims to verify the knowledge of the literary facts and phenomena dealt with in the course; the student's ability to contextualize and comment on the literary texts, his/her precision in the use of terminology, and his/her ability to frame the texts under scrutiny in the literary history and in the relevant genre. The final mark is out of 30, and the student has the right to refuse it (in this case it will be recorded as "withdrawn").
International or Erasmus incoming students are invited to promptly contact the teacher. The examination procedures for students with disabilities and/or with DSA must be agreed on with the teacher, in agreement with the proper Office.
Unita' didattica A
L-LIN/10 - ENGLISH LITERATURE - University credits: 3
Lessons: 20 hours
Unita' didattica B
L-LIN/10 - ENGLISH LITERATURE - University credits: 3
Lessons: 20 hours
Unita' didattica C
L-LIN/10 - ENGLISH LITERATURE - University credits: 3
Lessons: 20 hours
Educational website(s)
On Fridays, 9.00-10.30 am and 6.00-7.30 pm via Microsoft Teams; please make an appointment by email
The English Studies (Anglistica) branch of the Department (not during the Covid-19 pandemic)