ENGL 4113 History and Culture of Medieval England

Instructor Contact:

Rachael Deagman Simonetta

Email: deagman@colorado.edu

About the Course:

In this course, we will explore the extraordinarily rich literature, history, and culture of medieval England. The class contains five units that allow us to explore the Middle Ages across time periods and disciplines: song and poetry, medieval women, religion and resistance, art and architectural history, and drama. In some ways, these materials will seem very alien and challenging –the culture is quite distinct from our own. But we’ll also learn to recognize how medieval life anticipates and informs our own historical moment.


Students who read closely and carefully and who actively participate in the work of the course will have the ability to do the following by the end of term:

  • Interpret and analyze the assigned poems and plays with a particular emphasis on language, genre, poetic form, and performance space;
  • Identify important cultural contexts of medieval English literature such as sacramental culture, religious reform, the alliterative revival, feudalism and the rise of the market economy, and chivalry/court culture;
  • Describe important historical events in late medieval England including the Bubonic Plague, the 1381 Peasants’ Revolt, the translation of the Bible, the history of literacy and manuscript culture, the rise of the printing press;
  • Write clear, concise, analytical prose.

Required Texts:

The course text is available for purchase in the CU Bookstore:

George Economou, William Langland’s “Piers Plowman”: The C Version; A Verse Translation. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1996. Print.

Please do not substitute with other editions of Piers Plowman. The reading assignments for this class will not make sense to you if you’re working from another edition. You may also order the book from an online bookseller or check to see if the library has a copy.

Grading (out of 100 points):

The percentage breakdown is as follows:

Syllabus Quiz: 5%

Discussion Posts: 25%

Translation Assignment: 10%

Close Reading Assignment: 10%

Medievalism Assignment: 10%

Midterm Essay: 15%

Final Project: 25%


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8:00am to 5:00pm


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