Beasts, Marvels and Masterpieces: Discovering Middle English Literature

Six-week course, - , 18.00 - 20.00
Beasts, marvels and masterpieces
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  • Tel: +44 (0)1937 546546
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  • From £250 – £295
    Concessions available

Immerse yourself in medieval times.

This six-week course is designed as an introduction to Middle English literature from the 13th to the 15th centuries. It will cover some of the most famous and canonical works of the period, like Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and the anonymous Gawain and the Green Knight, but also lesser-known works by writers like Margery Kempe and Julian of Norwich.

The aim is to give participants a sense of the richness and diversity of Middle English literature, from comic courtly poetry, to sophisticated philosophical writing. The course is designed so that the texts under discussion become increasingly more complicated in their language, form and structure, so that the work of each session builds on the last. Participants will be immersed in the texts and will gain an understanding of dynamics of the Middle English language, as well as a sense of their broader historical and literary context.

This course runs across six dates:

Tuesdays 5, 12, 19 and 26 September, 3 and 10 October 2023

Read the full course outline (PDF)


Dr Mary Wellesley is a former British Library Research Affiliate. She studied English Literature at Lincoln College, Oxford before moving to University College London to pursue post-graduate research. Her book, Hidden Hands: the Lives of Manuscripts and Their Makers (2021) was chosen as one of the history books of the year by the Sunday Times and BBC History Magazine. Mary is passionate about communicating medieval history to the widest possible audience. Alongside her academic work, she writes widely – her work has appeared in the Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The London Review of Books, The New York Review of Books and The Times Literary Supplement, amongst others. She is also the co-host of two podcast series made by the London Review of Books, ‘Encounters with Medieval Women’ and ‘Medieval Beginnings’. She spent 2017 developing the medieval section of the British Library’s Discovering Literature online resource, which showcases the Library’s medieval English literary collections.


Please email to discuss any access needs.

Previous knowledge or experience

None required. A willingness to participate in group discussion and to undertake the required reading will help you get the most from this course.


When: - , 18.00 - 20.00
Price: From £250 – £295
Concessions available
Where: Harry M Weinrebe Learning Centre
The British Library
96 Euston Road
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Enquiries: +44 (0)1937 546546
Book now