How to Enjoy Medieval Literature

Ref: C3744272

We shall explore the riches of medieval literature, to take in epic, elegy, lament, beast fable, riddles, allegory, exempla, dream vision, lays, chivalric romance and fabliaux. Texts will include the earliest example of written English, Caedmon’s Hymn (7th C), Beowulf, The Seafarer and other short poems in Old English; then later works, in Middle English, such as Gawain and the Green Knight, the work of the ‘Pearl’ poet, and Piers Plowman, through to the fabliaux of Geoffrey Chaucer. While we shall look at the original Old English and Middle English where possible, to help experience the power and texture of the language, most of our close reading and analysis will be carried out with modern translations.

Course aim

To provide an introduction to the diverse and surprising range of literature from the earliest written examples of 6th century Old English to the full flowering of Chaucerian Middle English.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • No skills or experience needed
  • This course is suitable for beginners and improvers

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • outline the major changes in English literature between the 6th and 15th centuries.
  • discuss a range of genres used in the early and late medieval periods.
  • compare and contrast poetic expression of the communal and personal experiences of this time.
  • analyse the influence of early English texts on writing today.

How will I be taught?

  • The WEA tutor will use a range of different teaching and learning methods and encourage you and the group to be actively involved in your learning
  • You may be asked to undertake additional work in your own time to support your learning

What kind of feedback can I expect?

  • A range of informal activities will be used by the tutor to see what you are learning which may include quizzes, question and answer, small projects and discussion
  • You will be encouraged to share your work with the group and discuss your learning

What else do I need to know?

  • It would be helpful if you had access to the internet (Mobile phone, tablet or computer at home or through a library etc.)
  • Most texts will be supplied or sent by email, although a small number may need to be bought or borrowed.

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • No pre reading is required but research on the subject on the internet or in the library may be helpful

What can I do next?

  • Progress to another WEA course
  • Progress to a course with another provider
  • Become involved with the WEA in a range of voluntary work and other activities including campaigning as a WEA member

Download full course information sheet

How to Enjoy Medieval Literature

Is this course right for me? Request more information

This course is not available for online enrolment.


As a registered charity, and to meet our funders’ requirements, we need to check a few things with you before you book. Please could we ask that you check the list below to ensure you meet our basic criteria:

  • You are paying the standard fee (with a credit or debit card) or you are on any of the qualifying benefits
  • You have a valid email address so that you can receive confirmation of your booking
  • You have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • You are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2019
  • You have read and accept our standard terms and conditions

Not sure or have further questions? Contact

Visa Credit payments supported by RBS WorldPay Visa Debit payments supported by RBS WorldPay Visa Electron payments supported by RBS WorldPay Mastercard payments supported by RBS WorldPay Maestro payments supported by RBS WorldPay JCB payments supported by RBS WorldPay Solo payments supported by RBS WorldPay
RBS WorldPay Payments Processing