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Literatures on the British Isles: the Middle Ages

Class at Faculty of Arts |




Combining an overview of the development of the most important literary forms and genres of medieval English literature with a series of miniature textual analyses, this survey course seeks to explore the literature as a product of the medieval mind. We will focus on the central issues of medieval literature: 1. the status of a (literary) text in

Early and High Middle Ages; 2. the interaction of oral (native) and learned (Latinate) traditions; 3. the concept of genre; the developments of and interactions between genres; 4. the European context of medieval English literature. The lecture aims at presenting the literature as an an integral part of a larger historical and social context.

Separate sessions will be devoted to a basic outline of medieval Scottish and Irish literature.

PROGRAMME 1 Introduction;

Migration period mythologies: problems in Old English heroic poetry (H.Znojemská) a) Germania and Romanitas; dating and record; literature in society b) form: metre, alliteration, poetics – in relation to a) 2 After conversion (H.Znojemská) a) historical background; Latin in England (Bede, Aldhelm, Alcuin) b) religious epic: biblical, Latinate, vernacular impulses 3 "Portrait 1": Beowulf, Exodus (H.Znojemská) 4 generic overview – Old English poetry (H.Znojemská) towards alternative voices? (elegies, „minor“ genres) 5 The literature of medieval Ireland (R. Markus) 6 Old English prose (H.Znojemská) a) evolution b) establishing a tradition: saints’ lives, histories 7 from Old English to Middle English: overview (H.Znojemská) 8 The literature of medieval Scotland (P. Poncarová) CONDUCTED ONLINE 9 Middle English lyrics (H.Znojemská) a) continental background b) English tradition 10 Courtly literature: romances and affiliated genres – French and English traditions (H.Znojemská)

"Portrait 2": Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (H.Znojemská) 11 City literature (H.Znojemská) a) 12th century Renaissance b) drama c) “national” voice – 14th century 12 "Portrait 3": Chaucer (H.Znojemská)


The seminar, compulsory for single-subject students, is primarily designed as a companion and extension course to the lecture. Working more closely with primary texts, it aims to provide a survey of basic issues and tensions shaping the literature and our understanding of it.


Joint-subject students obtain a credit (zapocet) passing the test which follows the lecture.

Single subject students obtain a credit (zapocet) passing the test and fulfilling the requirements for the seminar: active participation, one presentation, final essay of 1000 words. The final grade (zkouska) will be determined on the basis of the aggregate performance in all the above, i.e. participation, presentation, test, essay. The relative weight of individual components is: essay:37%, test:33%, presentation:15%, participation:15%.

Essay subject to 1 rewriting, test subject to two re-sits.

Students must complete all the credit requirements BY THE END OF THE YEAR FOLLOWING THAT IN WHICH .

THEY REGISTERED FOR THE COURSE in keeping with the rules set for zkouska, with the allowance of an extra year as per the Dean's Decree No. 2/2024.