Manual The Literature of Medieval England

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The texts included here from "The Middle Ages" attempt to convey that diversity. They date from the sixth to the late- fifteenth century.

EN398 Medieval Alterities: Race, Religion, and Orientalism in the Literature of Medieval England

An Anglo-Saxon poet who was writing an epic based on the book of Genesis was able to insert into his work the episodes of the fall of the angels and the fall of man that he adapted with relatively minor changes from an Old Saxon poem thought to have been lost until a fragment from it was found late in the nineteenth century in the Vatican Library. Germanic mythology and legend preserved in Old Icelandic literature centuries later than Beowulf provide us with better insights into stories known to the poet than anything in ancient Greek and Roman epic poetry.

Particular attention is given to religious orders and to the ascetic ideals that were supposed to rule the lives of men and women living in religious communities such as Chaucer's Prioress, Monk, and Friar, who honor those rules more in the breach than in the observance and anchorites such as Julian of Norwich living apart.

The Rule of Saint Benedict , written for a sixth-century religious community, can serve the modern reader as a guidebook to the ideals and daily practices of monastic life. The mutual influence of those ideals and new aristocratic ideals of chivalry is evident in the selection from the Ancrene Riwle Rule for Anchoresses, NAEL 8, [1.

Though medieval social theory has little to say about women, women were sometimes treated satirically as if they constituted their own estate and profession in rebellion against the divinely ordained rule of men. The tenth-century English Benedictine monk Aelfric gives one of the earliest formulations of the theory of three estates — clergy, nobles, and commoners — working harmoniously together.

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But the deep- seated resentment between the upper and lower estates flared up dramatically in the Uprising of and is revealed by the slogans of the rebels, which are cited here in selections from the chronicles of Henry Knighton and Thomas Walsingham, and by the attack of the poet John Gower on the rebels in his Vox Clamantis. In the late-medieval genre of estates satire, all three estates are portrayed as selfishly corrupting and disrupting a mythical social order believed to have prevailed in a past happier age.

Such adventures often take the form of a quest to achieve honor or what Sir Thomas Malory often refers to as "worship. In the thirteenth century, clerics turned the sagas of Arthur and his knights — especially Sir Lancelot — into immensely long prose romances that disparaged worldly chivalry and the love of women and advocated spiritual chivalry and sexual purity. These were the "French books" that Malory, as his editor and printer William Caxton tells us, "abridged into English," and gave them the definitive form from which Arthurian literature has survived in poetry, prose, art, and film into modern times.

Preached by Pope Urban II, the aim of the crusade was to unite warring Christian factions in the common goal of liberating the Holy Land from its Moslem rulers. The chronicle of Robert the Monk is one of several versions of Urban's address. The Hebrew chronicle of Eliezer bar Nathan gives a moving account of attacks made by some of the crusaders on Jewish communities in the Rhineland — the beginnings of the persecution of European Jews in the later Middle Ages.

In the biography of her father, the Byzantine emperor Alexius I, the princess Anna Comnena provides us with still another perspective of the leaders of the First Crusade whom she met on their passage through Constantinople en route to the Holy Land. The taking of Jerusalem by the crusaders came to be celebrated by European writers of history and epic poetry as one of the greatest heroic achievements of all times.

The accounts by the Arab historian Ibn Al-Athir and by William of Tyre tell us what happened after the crusaders breached the walls of Jerusalem from complementary but very different points of view. Other Anglo-Norman writers are described in our authors page.

Rape and Ravishment in the Literature of Medieval England - Corinne J. Saunders - Google книги

The works of Aristotle and other Greeks became widely available in the twelfth century. Translated into Latin for the first time, they fueled a renaissance. Universities in Bologna, Padua, Paris, Oxford, and Cambridge took up the teaching of logic and science. Most reading was done by cloistered clerics or by French aristocracy. There was almost no social cachet in being an author or in owning books. The thirteenth century marks the flowering of Latin literature in England.

The reign of King John — is characterized in part by an increasingly deep cultural separation between France and England. Anti-papal attitudes Oxford professor Robert Grosseteste called Pope Innocent IV the Antichrist and a growing sense of nationalism helped to fuel native literary talent. English literature comes into its own.

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Still, very little survives, and most of it is in Latin. The "preaching orders" of monks came into existence: the Dominicans and the Franciscans.


Scholar A. Rigg says, "They formed a new kind of intellectual elite Their evangelical fervour and commitment to academic training contributed to the rise of the English universities. In this century, they help to increase literacy and the stock of books in England. During the fourteenth century English literature comes into its own.

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We also have a number of surviving vernacular romances such as Sir Orfeo , as well as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. We will read these in the original Middle English. The Battle of Bannockburn and the defeat of the English by the Glorious Scots is only one of many upheavals and revolutions during this tumultuous century. Perhaps the single most important development for our purposes is the wholesale replacement of the French language in government and law by the English language. Anti-French attitudes due to the war, among other things helped displace French from polite society and from literature.

John Gower, Chaucer's friend, wrote one of his major poems in Latin, another in French, and a third in English. For our purposes, one of the interesting developments concerns the Mystery Plays. Mysteries were unions or guilds. These plays were performed in a number of towns and involved much of the working population. They retell the story of the Bible, sometimes humorously. Another remarkable literary phenomena of the early fifteenth century is Scottish interest in Chaucer. Like today's "fan fiction," Scots authors copied Chaucer's style so well that for centuries some of their stories were thought to be Chaucer's own.

At the end of the century, a German silversmith named Johannes Gutenberg invented moveable type.