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 (use S. A. J. Bradley, Old English Poetry, M. Swanton, Anglo-Saxon Prose, and K. Crossley-Holland, The Anglo-Saxon World), though all doctoral candidates (especially those who plan to focus on texts written before 1200) are encouraged to read the original Old English texts.


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

Kerby-Fulton, Books Under Suspicion (2006) 

Ellis, ed. Chaucer: An Oxford Guide (2005) 

Minnis and Johnson, eds. The Cambridge History of Literary Criticism: The Middle Ages (2005) 

Nolan, John Lydgate and the Making of Public Culture (2005) 

Spearing, Textual Subjectivity (2005) 

Edwards, ed. A Companion to Middle English Prose (2004) 

Fowler, Literary Character (2003) 

Fulk and Cain, A History of Old English Literature (2003) 

Somerset et al, eds., Lollards and Their Influence in Late Medieval England (2003) 

Steiner, Documentary Culture and the Making of Medieval English Literature (2003) 

Mann, Feminizing Chaucer (2002)  

Simpson, Reform and Cultural Revolution (2002) 

Holsinger, Music, Body and Desire in Medieval Culture (2001) 

Strohm, Theory and the Premodern Text (2000) 

Wallace, ed. The Cambridge History of Medieval English Literature (1999) 

Wogan-Browne et al, eds. The Idea of the Vernacular (1999) 

Wallace, Chaucerian Polity (1997) 

Brewer and Gibson, eds. A Companion to the Gawain-Poet (1996) 

Putter, An Introduction to the Gawain-Poet (1996) 

Turville-Petre, England the Nation (1996) 

Baker, ed. Beowulf: Basic Readings (1995) 

Beadle, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Medieval English Theatre (1994) 

Lerer, Chaucer and His Readers (1993) 

Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars (1992) 

Godden and Lapidge, eds. The Cambridge Companion to Old English Literature (1991) 

Carruthers, The Book of Memory (1990) 

Overing, Language, Sign, and Gender in Beowulf (1990) 

Simpson, Piers Plowman: An Introduction to the B-Text (1990) 

Dinshaw, Chaucer’s Sexual Poetics (1989)

Howe, Migration and Mythmaking in Anglo-Saxon England (1989) 

Scase, Piers Plowman and the New Anticlericalism (1989) 

Strohm, Social Chaucer (1989) 

Alford, ed. A Companion to Piers Plowman (1988) 

Hudson, The Premature Reformation (1988) 

Minnis, Medieval Theory of Authorship, 2nd edn (1988) 

Salter, English and International (1988) 

Patterson, Negotiating the Past (1987) 

Riddy, Sir Thomas Malory (1987) 

Robinson, Beowulf and the Appositive Style (1985) 

Spearing, Medieval to Renaissance in English Poetry (1985) 

Keen, Chivalry (1984) 

Smalley, The Study of the Bible in the Middle Ages, 3rd edn (1983) 

Nolan, The Gothic Visionary Perspective (1977) 

Pearsall, Old English and Middle English Poetry (1977)

Burrow, Ricardian Poetry (1971) 

Kolve, The Play Called Corpus Christi (1966) 

Muscatine, Chaucer and the French Tradition (1957) 

Curtius, European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages (1953) 

Southern, The Making of the Middle Ages (1953) 

Lewis, The Allegory of Love (1936) 

Tolkien, “Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics”, PBA 22 (1936), 245–95; rptd in R. D. Fulk, Interpretations of Beowulf (1991) 

Huizinga, The Waning/Autumn of the Middle Ages (1924; 1996)