English Literature MA

From the Beginnings to the Early Modern in Older Scots Literature (1375-1501) SCOTLIT4031

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Critical Studies
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Either Semester 1 or Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

This course charts an entire cultural period and its major authors and themes in more or less chronological order. Issues of nationhood and national identity, as well as the relationship between historiography and literature, figure large at the start. Subsequently, the course provides the required depth to study the later fifteenth century (the 'Golden Age of the Makars') on its own terms and investigate how contemporary literature increasingly self-consciously evolved from within itself unprecedented ways of addressing private as well as public matters, from alliterative narratives via romance and the lyric to fantasy literature, and particularly against the backdrop of the rise of humanism in Europe.


1 x lecture per week over 10 weeks as scheduled on MyCampus.

1 x 1 hr session per week over 10 weeks (9 seminars and 1 workshop) as scheduled on MyCampus.


This is one of the Honours options in Scottish Literature and may not run every year. The options that are running this session are available on MyCampus.

Excluded Courses



Examination (1.5 hours duration): 50%
Essay (
1800 words): 40%
Seminar presentation of 8 minutes: 10%

Main Assessment In: April/May

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? Not applicable for Honours courses

Reassessments are normally available for all courses, except those which contribute to the Honours classification. For non-Honours courses, students are offered reassessment in all or any of the components of assessment if the satisfactory (threshold) grade for the overall course is not achieved at the first attempt. This is normally grade D3 for undergraduate students and grade C3 for postgraduate students. Exceptionally it may not be possible to offer reassessment of some coursework items, in which case the mark achieved at the first attempt will be counted towards the final course grade. Any such exceptions for this course are described below. 

Course Aims

This course aims to:

■ investigate issues of nationhood and national identity in Older Scots literature;

■ challenge modern perceptions about the relationship between historiography and literature;

■ achieve an in-depth understanding of fifteenth-century literature in Scots as seen through its own textual traditions;

■ develop skills in the close reading of Older Scots literature in a wide range of genres;

■ map the literary dimensions and innovations in the representation of self-hood specific to contemporary literature in Scots;

■ investigate the material dimensions of Scottish and European book-history relevant to the above objectives through a visit to GU Special Collections.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:

■ analyse the content and style of specific passages of Older Scots verse;

■ show knowledge of the interaction of metrical form, style and genre in historiography, romance, allegory, advice poetry and fantasy verse;

■ analyse, in both written and oral formats, Older Scots literature within its own literary traditions and in the context of book history

■ show an understanding of the function of supernatural and fantasy narrative within medieval Scottish literature;

■ recognise the influence of humanism in Scotland at the end of the fifteenth century;

■ comment on the development of the lyrical persona in Older Scots literature.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.