Old and Middle English Literature | Department of English | SIU

Southern Illinois University



College of Liberal Arts

Old and Middle English Literature

The program in Old and Middle English literatures at SIU Carbondale embraces a wide range of scholarly and critical approaches: primarily literary history, language studies, historicist, materialist, and feminist.


In addition to the survey courses in English literature, which introduce undergraduates to the most important works from the seventh through the fifteenth centuries, we regularly schedule upper-level courses in Old and Middle English prose and poetry. These include "Old English Language and Literature" (a study of the English language spoken before 1066 and readings in Old English heroic and elegiac poetry); "Studies in Beowulf" (readings in the original Old English epic in its historical, cultural, and critical contexts); "Medieval Allegory, History, and Romance" (readings in works from the ninth through the fifteenth centuries, including The Dream of the Rood, The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Sir Orfeo, Piers Plowman, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, The Book of Margery Kempe, and Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur); "Medieval Lyric, Ballad, and Drama" ("The Wife's Lament," "The Husband's Message," the Corpus Christi Carols, Robin Hood Ballads, drama from the Quem Quaeritis through Everyman, and many other works); and "Chaucer" (Troilus and Criseyde and The Canterbury Tales). In addition to these literature courses, "History of the English Language" has a large Old and Middle English component. Also available to students are advanced Independent Studies, which allow students to pursue their special interests in Old and Middle English literatures beyond the regular course offerings.

Special Topics Courses

Recent special topics courses in Old and Middle English literatures have included "Arthurian Legend and Literature," "Medieval Drama," and "Chaucer's Minor Works."


In addition to undergraduate and special topics courses, faculty in Old and Middle English literatures regularly schedule a range of graduate seminars which emphasize close, scholarly study of specialized areas. Each spring a seminar is offered (alternately) in Old or Middle English literature. Recent graduate seminars include Myth and Myth-making in Medieval Ireland and Reading Late Medieval Culture: Politics and Piety.