MA/PhD Orals Lists -- Medieval

MA and PhD Orals Reading List for the Medieval Period
Revised May 2008

MA lists must include 10 primary and 2 secondary works; PhD lists must include 40 primary and 6 secondary works.

Under headings I-III, the items marked with asterisks are suggested for MA orals. For both MA and PhD orals, students are invited to develop their own emphases, in terms of theme and genre, within these lists, and to follow up those emphases with reading from outside the lists. The items under heading IV are suggested for MA orals; those preparing for PhD orals should consult their advisers about their choice of secondary works.

 I. Old English

Old English texts may be read in translation for MA exams: use S. A. J. Bradley, Old English Poetry, M. Swanton, Anglo-Saxon Prose, and K. Crossley-Holland, The Anglo-Saxon World.


Cædmon's Hymn*
The Dream of the Rood*
The Wanderer*
The Battle of Maldon*
The Battle of Finnsburg
The Seafarer
Advent Lyrics (=Christ I)
Guthlac A and Guthlac B*
Riddles from the Exeter Book


Alfred, Prefaces to Gregory's Pastoral Care,* Boethius's Consolation of Philosophy, Augustine's Soliloquies
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (ed. J. Bately, The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: A Collaborative Edition, 3: MS A [Cambridge: Brewer, 1986]). Suggested selections: 755, 871-901, 978-1017, 1066.
Ælfric, "Sermon on the Sacrifice on Easter Day,"* "On the False Gods," "Life of St. Edmund,"* "Preface to Genesis"
Wulfstan, "Sermon of 'Wolf' to the English"*
Lives of St. Margaret, in M. Clayton and H. Magennis, eds., The Old English Lives of St Margaret (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1994)


II. Middle English

Ancrene Riwle
The Owl and the Nightingale
Layamon, Brut
Chaucer, Canterbury Tales*, Troilus and Criseyde*, Book of the Duchess*, House of Fame*, Legend of Good Women*
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight*
Saint Erkenwald
Langland, Piers Plowman (either B-text or C-text)*
Gower, Confessio Amantis, selection
Middle English romances, selection (e.g. Middle English Romances, ed. Stephen H. A. Shepherd); for MA, Havelok*, Sir Orfeo*
Richard Rolle, English Writings, ed. Hope Emily Allen
Selections from English Wycliffite Writings, ed. Anne Hudson
The Cloud of Unknowing
Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love (Long Text)*
Nicholas Love, Mirror of the Blessed Life of Jesus Christ
The Book of Margery Kempe
Hoccleve, selection (e.g. ‘My Compleinte’ and Other Poems, ed. Roger Ellis)
Lydgate, selection (e.g. John Lydgate: Poems, ed. John Norton-Smith)
Osbern Bokenham, Legendys of Hooly Wummen, selection
Skelton, selection (e.g. John Skelton: Poems, ed, Robert F. Kinsman)
Malory, Morte Darthur (Books VI, VII, XIII–XXI as divided by Caxton)*
Caxton’s Own Prose, ed. N. F. Blake
The Kingis Quair
Henryson, Testament of Cresseid*, Moral Fables*
Dunbar, selection (e.g. William Dunbar: Selected Poems, ed. Priscilla Bawcutt)
Douglas, selection (e.g. Selections from Gavin Douglas, ed. David F. C. Coldwell)
The York Plays*
The Towneley Plays*
Digby Play of Mary Magdalene
Croxton Play of the Sacrament


III. Intellectual and Cultural Background (These works may be read in translation)

Boethius, Consolation of Philosphy*
St. Augustine, Confessions,* On Christian Doctrine*
Aldhelm, In Praise of Virginity (trans. M. Lapidge and M. Herren, Aldhelm: The Prose Works [Ipswich: Brewer, 1979])
Aldhelm, Riddles (trans. M. Lapidge and J. L. Rosier, Aldhelm: The Poetic Works [Cambridge: Brewer, 1985])
Bede, Ecclesiastical History of the English People (Penguin trans.)*
Asser, Life of King Alfred (trans. S. Keynes and M. Lapidge, Alfred the Great [London: Penguin, 1983])
Chanson de Roland*
Marie de France, Lais*
Chrétien, Erec,* Yvain,* Lancelot,* Perceval*
Christine de Pisan, Le livre de la cité des dames
Anglo-Norman romances, selection (e.g. The Birth of Romance: An Anthology, trans. Judith Weiss)
Geoffrey of Vinsauf, Poetria nova*
Alain de Lille, De planctu naturae
Geoffrey of Monmouth, History of the Kings of Britain
Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun, Roman de la Rose*
Dante, Inferno,* Purgatorio, Paradiso, Vita nuova*
Medieval Literary Theory and Criticism, ed. A. J. Minnis and A. B. Scott


IV. Secondary Works

John A. Alford, ed. A Companion to Piers Plowman (Berkeley: U California P, 1988)
Peter S. Baker, ed. Beowulf: Basic Readings (New York: Garland, 1995)
Richard Beadle, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Medieval English Theatre (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1994)
Derek Brewer and Jonathan Gibson, eds. A Companion to the Gawain-Poet (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1996)
J. A. Burrow, Ricardian Poetry (London: Routledge, 1971)
Mary Carruthers, The Book of Memory (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1990)
E. R. Curtius, European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages (New York: Pantheon, 1953)
Carolyn Dinshaw, Chaucer’s Sexual Poetics (Madison: U Wisconsin P, 1989)
Eamon Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars (New Haven: Yale UP, 1992)
A. S. G. Edwards, ed. A Companion to Middle English Prose (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2004)
Steve Ellis, ed. Chaucer: An Oxford Guide (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2005)
Elizabeth Fowler, Literary Character (Ithaca: Cornell UP, 2003)
R. D. Fulk and Christopher Cain, A History of Old English Literature (Oxford: Blackwell, 2003).
Malcolm Godden and Michael Lapidge, eds. The Cambridge Companion to Old English Literature (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1991)
Bruce Holsinger, Music, Body and Desire in Medieval Culture (Stanford: Stanford UP, 2001)
Nicholas Howe, Migration and Mythmaking in Anglo-Saxon England (New Haven: Yale UP, 1989)
Anne Hudson, The Premature Reformation (Oxford: Clarendon P, 1988)
J. Huizinga, The Waning/Autumn of the Middle Ages (London, 1924/ Chicago: U Chicago P, 1996)
Maurice Keen, Chivalry (New Haven: Yale UP, 1984)
Kathryn Kerby-Fulton, Books Under Suspicion (Notre Dame: U Notre Dame P, 2006)
V. A. Kolve, The Play Called Corpus Christi (Stanford: Stanford UP, 1966)
Seth Lerer, Chaucer and His Readers (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1993)
C. S. Lewis, The Allegory of Love (Oxford: Clarendon P, 1936)
Jill Mann, Feminizing Chaucer (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2002)
A. J. Minnis, Medieval Theory of Authorship, 2nd edn (Philadelphia: U Penn P, 1988)
Alastair Minnis and Ian Johnson, eds. The Cambridge History of Literary Criticism: The Middle Ages (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2005)
Charles Muscatine, Chaucer and the French Tradition (Berkeley: U California P, 1957)
Barbara Nolan, The Gothic Visionary Perspective (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1977)
Maura Nolan, John Lydgate and the Making of Public Culture (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2005)
Gillian R. Overing, Language, Sign, and Gender in Beowulf (Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1990)
Lee Patterson, Negotiating the Past (Madison: U Wisconsin P, 1987)
Derek Pearsall, Old English and Middle English Poetry (London: Routledge, 1977)
Ad Putter, An Introduction to the Gawain-Poet (London: Longman, 1996)
Felicity Riddy, Sir Thomas Malory (Leiden: Brill, 1987)
Fred C. Robinson, Beowulf and the Appositive Style (Knoxville: U Tennessee P, 1985)
Elizabeth Salter, English and International (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1988)
Wendy Scase,  Piers Plowman and the New Anticlericalism (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1989)
James Simpson, Piers Plowman: An Introduction to the B-Text (London: Longman, 1990); Reform and Cultural Revolution (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2002)
Beryl Smalley, The Study of the Bible in the Middle Ages, 3rd edn (Oxford: Blackwell, 1983)
Fiona Somerset et al, eds.  Lollards and Their Influence in Late Medieval England (Woodbridge: Boydell P, 2003)
R. W. Southern, The Making of the Middle Ages (London: Hutchinson, 1953)
A. C. Spearing, Medieval to Renaissance in English Poetry (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1985); Textual Subjectivity (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2005)
Emily Steiner, Documentary Culture and the Making of Medieval English Literature (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2003)
Paul Strohm, Social Chaucer (Cambridge MA: Harvard UP, 1989); Theory and the Premodern Text (Minneapolis: U Minnesota P, 2000)
J. R. R. Tolkien, “Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics”, PBA 22 (1936), 245–95; rptd in R. D. Fulk, Interpretations of Beowulf (Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1991)
Thorlac Turville-Petre, England the Nation (Oxford: Clarendon P, 1996)
David Wallace, Chaucerian Polity (Stanford: Stanford UP, 1997)
David Wallace, ed. The Cambridge History of Medieval English Literature (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1999)
Jocelyn Wogan-Browne et al, eds. The Idea of the Vernacular (University Park: Penn State UP, 1999)