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Medieval Literature


To narrow your search for works in the CUNY Catalog it helps to do an advanced, rather than a basic, search. In an advanced search you can enter Boolean terms to expand, exclude, or narrow your search. You can also define your search by format, if you're interested in e-books or films, or by location in the library, which is relevant if you want to limit your search to authoritative reference works. The reference works at Rosenthal include dictionaries, handbooks, encyclopedias, bibliographies and original works of literature by and about Early English writers (though original works are mostly located in the stacks, not in reference). Much of the material about Early English literature is in circulation or in e-books rather than in reference; try searching the collection for particular themes or a particular author you are researching.

Subject verses author searches

Remember that when searching for books BY an author you will enter the author's name (last name, first name) in the Author entry field in your search. If you are searching for works ABOUT an author you enter the author's name (last, first) under the Subject entry field in your search.

For instance, Authors such as Geoffrey Chaucer, Thomas Aquinas, William Langland and so forth are also subject headings. In general, authors are listed in the subject headings last name first, like this: Chaucer, Geoffrey, d. 1400.

However, many medieval authors' names include references to the town where they lived rather than surnames. These authors are listed by personal name. Thomas Aquinas is a good example; if you search for “Aquinas, Thomas,” you will be directed to “Thomas Aquinas, Saint, 1225?–1274.”

Subject headings:

  • Arthurian romances
  • Chivalry in literature
  • Christian hagiography
  • Christian literature — English (Old)
  • Ethics, Medieval
  • English language — Old English, ca. 450-1100.
  • English language — Middle English, 1100-1500.
  • English literature — Old English, ca. 450-1100.
  • English literature — Middle English, 1100-1500
  • Epic Poetry, English (Old)
  • Literature, Medieval.
  • Neoplatonism in literature
  • Philosophy, Medieval
  • Poets, English — Middle English, 1100-1500

Some tips about subject headings:

  • Remember to browse, as some of these are further broken down into more specific subjects. For instance, in addition to Philosophy, Medieval, you may also see Philosophy, Medieval—History and Philosophy, Medieval, in literature.
  • Although all of these are real subject headings and you should feel free to use them, this is just a list of examples to help you get started and give you some idea what kinds of searches are possible.
  • In particular, notice that genres of literature, such as Christian hagiography and epic poetry, are often subject headings.

Call Numbers:

Here is a list of call ranges where books relevant to medieval studies might be found in the library. Those ranges beginning with PN and PR are literature-oriented, but some resources in other areas of study, such as history and art may also be useful to you.

  • BX 2325-2333—Saints. Hagiology
  • D 111-203—Medieval History
  • DA 129-260—Early and Medieval History of Great Britian
  • ND 2889-3416—Illuminating of manuscripts and books
  • PE 101-458—Old English Language
  • PE 501-693—Middle English Language
  • PN 49—Literature and Philosophy
  • PN 661-694—Medieval Literature
  • PN 685—Arthurian Literature
  • PR 171-236—History of English Literature: Anglo-Saxon (Beginnings through 1066)
  • PR 251-396—History of English Literature: Medieval. Middle English (1066-1500)
  • PR 1490-1799—Anglo-Saxon Literature
  • PR 1803-2165—Anglo-Norman and Early Middle English Literature


Companions are ready reference resources designed to help readers understand complex concepts within the work; entries tend to be alphabetic by entry and indexed by subject. Depending on the specificity of the resource, one can look up an author, a character, a common theme, a work, and more, and read scholarly interpretations on the topic. They tend to give a broader scope than a book analyzing only one author, or theme, but are good for grounding information. Here are some examples:

An Anglo-Saxon Dictionary (Reference Level 3—PE279 .B5)
Also known as Bosworth-Toller, this is currently the most comprehensive and authoritative Anglo-Saxon dictionary available. We also have a circulating copy on Level 5.
An Atlas of Anglo-Saxon England (Art Stacks Level 6 G1816.S2 H5 l98l)
An atlas illustrating Anglo-Saxon England's history, geography, language distribution, demography and more.
The Cambridge History of Medieval English Literature (Reference Level 3—PR255 .C35 1999)
A narrative, collaborative history of literature in the British Isles from 1066 to 1547.
A Companion to Old and Middle English Literature (Reference Level 3—PR166 .C66 2002)
This companion devotes a chapter to each genre of medieval literature, defining it and describing its conventions, with examples. Includes bibliographies.
Dictionary of the Middle Ages (Reference Level 3—D114 .D5 1982)
A multivolume encyclopedia covering the middle ages in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. Wide-ranging in its coverage. Most entries include bibliographies.
Medieval Studies: An Introduction (Stacks—D116 .M4)
Introductory essays to important aspects of medieval studies, including literature, numismatics, philosophy and more.
Old and Middle English Literature (Reference Level 3—NEW BOOK AREA PR166 .O43 1994)
This volume is part of the Dictionary of Literary Biography, a series presenting short biographies of literary authors.
Old English and Middle English Poetry (Stacks—PR201 .P7)
A handbook of characters, places and concepts relevant to the study of Chaucer, alphabetically arranged.
Records of Early English Drama (Stacks, distributed among PN 2596)
A collection of archival material relating to performances prior to 1642. New records are being added to REED online.
Women in the Middle Ages: An Encyclopedia (Reference Level 3—HQ 1143 .W643 2004)
Entries cover medieval women in Europe and other parts of the world. The encyclopedia includes both articles about specific women, and articles about issues that affected their lives. Each entry includes a bibliography.


Bibliographies compile citations of critical works discussing texts, which can be organized by topic, theme, work, or lines of text within works. Note that more recently published critical essays will be found in our electronic databases, which are frequently updated. However, print bibliographies on older literature often cover material you may not find in databases. Here are some examples:

A Bibliography of Publications on Old English Literature to the End of 1972 (Z2012 .G83)
This is a bibliography of editions, translations and studies of Old English literature. Although it does not include references to anything published after 1972, it is an excellent source for early materials, which MLAIB does not cover.
A Manual of the Writings in Middle English (PR 255 .S4)
This bibliography gives information about the history and characteristics of each work it covers, from romances (Volume 1) to sermons and homilies (Volume 11). Also includes bibliographies of studies back to the nineteenth century, which MLAIB does not cover.



Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism
This is part of Literature Criticism Online. Like other series in this collection, it collects excerpts of some of the most important criticism on authors, works and genres. Helpful for getting a general overview of what's been said on a topic.
Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index
An index to journal articles and book reviews concerning women, gender and sexuality from 450 to 1500.
Humanities Source
Humanities Source covers the humanities broadly, including both literary and some historical materials.
Full-text archives of journals in all disciplines, including medieval studies. The strength of JSTOR is full-text searching; its weaknesses are the lack of indexing and the exclusion of the most recent work.
MLA International Bibliography
The most comprehensive and well-indexed literature database. You can search by the title or author of the work of interest. However, you will need to use FindIt to see whether we have the full text of articles you find.
Old English Newsletter Bibliography Database
Allows you to search the bibliography of the OEN Bibliography from 1973 to 2005. Free registration required.
Oxford English Dictionary
The premier dictionary of the English language, the OED is especially useful for its extensive etymologies and examples of early usage of words.
REED (Records of Early English Drama)
A rather specialized resource, the REED database provides data about appearances by professional performance troupes. You can search by venue, patron or troupe. Maps are also available. More information is available in the print Records of Early English Drama (Stacks, distributed among PN 2596).


These journals specialize in medieval studies or some aspect thereof. You can browse them to get an idea of what people are talking about in the field. If you need to find articles on a particular topic, however, you are probably better off using a database.

Links are to the most recent issues of the journal that we have.

Web Resources

MLA Style

MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, 7th ed.

  • Stacks (Call # A-L Level 4; Call # P-Z Level 5) - LB2369 .G53 2009
  • Reference Level 3 - LB2369 .G53 2009

Online MLA Formatting and Style Guide from the OWL at Purdue

RefWorks is a database for research management, writing, and collaboration. Users can create a personalized profile to create, gather, manage, store, and share citations regardless of original format. Citation lists and bibliographies can be generated using many standard citation formats, including MLA. A code is needed to access RefWorks from home--please ask at the Library Research Office (RO 339).

If you use Firefox, you may also want to check out Zotero, a citation manager that works directly from your browser.


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