ENG32390 A Book of Kings

Academic Year 2021/2022

Students in this module will engage with the world of knights and ladies, courtly love, jousts, forests, fairy knights and abandoned children. The purpose of the module is to study a number of Medieval English texts in the context of the manuscript (or handwritten book) in which they were written. The module will focus on a single manuscript, known as the Auchinleck manuscript, which is famous for its many romance narratives, all of which were written in Middle English, and which address questions about dynasty, continuity, distribution of wealth, love, and family.

An online facsimile will be the main resource used.

Students on this course will give particular consideration to the ways in which textual production and the context in which the manuscript was produced influences our understanding of the literary text. By the end of this module, you will have a better understanding of courtly literature and book production in the middle ages.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

At the end of the module students will be able to:
Read, with greater confidence, Middle English literature in the original language
Select, engage, review and contribute to the critical debate on the Auchinleck manuscript
Select, engage, review and contribute to the critical debate on medieval romance narratives
Read (with guidance) a limited selection of Middle English writing
Work with (under supervision) medieval manuscripts and other archived material
Demonstrate a basic knowledge of Middle English manuscript production and how that knowledge influences our understanding of the text
Produce a research essay on a related topic

Indicative Module Content:

In this module, we will focus primarily on texts found in the Auchinleck manuscript, the first manuscript containing wholly Middle English material. The primary source will be the online Auchinleck manuscript, as indicated in the reading list.
The key question we will consider is: how does our understanding of the manuscript influence our understanding of the text?
Here is the provisional seminar schedule for 2020-21

Wk 1: Module introduction: manuscript culture; language to describe manuscripts; brief introduction to palaeography; socio-historical context in which manuscript was produced; introduction to the critical debate.
Wk 2: Mothers and Daughters in the dynastic cycle: Lay le Freine
Wk 3: The distribution of wealth in Floris and Blancheflour
Wk 4: Educating the young. Comparing two versions of St. Margaret
Wk 5: Fathers and Sons 1: Sir Degaré
Wk 6: Fathers and Sons 2: Horn and Rimenchild
Wk 7: Visit to Special Collections
Wk 8: Disguise, journey, love and loss: Sir Guy of Warwick
Wk 9: Kingship: Sir Richard
Wk 10:Reviewing the Auchinleck Manuscript
Wk 11: Essay preparation

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours
Seminar (or Webinar)


Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
The emphasis on this module is on independent research. Students will be directed towards a final research essay, through engagement with each of the primary texts and guidance through the critical debates surrounding the text, particularly the text as it occurs in the Auchinleck manuscript.

Students will be provided with a set amount of reading - both primary and secondary - each week, which they will be expected to prepare in order to contribute to discussion in the seminar. In addition, there will be a number of short writing exercises throughout the module, designed to help the student prepare for the final essay. 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations
Learning Requirements:

Students enrolled in this module will have had prior learning in Medieval English. The entire module addresses Medieval English literature, in the original language.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade
Essay: Students will write an original, research-based essay on a theme or topic agreed with the module coordinator Week 12 n/a Graded No


Continuous Assessment: Students will be expected to complete and submit a number of short writing exercises in the course of module, which are designed to build towards the final assignment. Throughout the Trimester n/a Graded No


Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Autumn No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, on an activity or draft prior to summative assessment
• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment
• Group/class feedback, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Short preparatory exercises: you will receive feedback through the online journal system in Brightspace within a week of submitting each exercise. Summary feedback will be provided in the class following the examination of the online submissions. Final written assignment: on request, students can receive individual written feedback post-assessment upon request.

Auchinleck Manuscript online: https://auchinleck.nls.uk/

Fein, Susanna, ed. Auchinleck Manuscript: New Perspectives. Woodbridge, Suffolk, Boydell and Brewer, 2017.