Medieval Literature

The three non-English works listed below and those written in Old English may be read in translation. The Middle english works must be read in the original versions.

In addition to the primary works listed below, examinees are expected to know the general outline of English literary history in the Old and Middle English periods. Familiarity with the common terminology of genres, themes, and techniques appropriate to medieval literature is assumed.

Old English:

  • Beowulf
  • “The Wanderer”
  • Bede’s account of Caedmon and his “Hymn” from the Ecclesiastical History of the English People
  • “Phoenix”


  • Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy
  • Dante, The Divine Comedy
  • G. de Lorris and Jen de Meun, The Romance of the Rose

Middle English:

  • The Owl and the Nightingale
  • Dame Sirith
  • King Horn
  • Sir Orfeo
  • Sir Launfal
  • The Tournament of Tottenham
  • The Debate of the Body and the Soul
  • Pearl
  • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
  • Piers Plowman (Version B, Prologue and Passus I, II, V)
  • a dozen secular lyrics of your choice
  • a half-dozen religious lyrics of your choice
  • John Gower, Confessio Amantis (Book I)
  • Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales, Troilus and Criseyde, The Book of the Duchess, The House of Fame, The Parlement of Foules

Medieval Drama:

  • Noah (York Cycle)
  • Second Shepherd's Tale (Townley Cycle)
  • Everyman
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