Middle English Literature
This book provides a boldly original account of Middle English literature from the Norman Conquest to the beginning of the sixteenth century. It argues that these centuries are, in fundamental ways, the momentous period in our literary history, for they are the long moment in which the category of literature itself emerged as English writing began to insist, for the first time, that it floated free of any social reality or function.
This book also charts the complex mechanisms by which English writing acquired this power in a series of linked close readings of both canonical and more obscure texts. It encloses those readings in five compelling accounts of much broader cultural areas, describing, in particular, the productive relationship of Middle English writing to medieval technology, insurgency, statecraft and cultural place, concluding with an in depth account of the particular arguments, emphases and techniques English writers used to claim a wholly new jurisdiction for their work.
Both this history and its readings are everywhere informed by the most exciting developments in recent Middle English scholarship as well as literary and cultural theory. It serves as an introduction to all these areas as well as a contribution, in its own right, to each of them.
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allegory alliterative Ancrene Wisse Anglo-Saxon Book Canterbury Canterbury Tales Caxton chansons de geste Chaucer Christian Chronicle complaint Confessio Amantis craft culture described Distichs Distichs of Cato Edward England estates satire ethics fifteenth century forto fourteenth century French friars Further citations identified genre grete Havelok the Dane Henry Ibid identified by line important insists insurgent kind king king’s knight kyng labour Langland Latin line number literary Lollard London Lydgate Lydgate’s Malory’s Mannyng manuscripts Margery Kempe Medieval Middle Ages Middle English Middle English literature monastic monk Morte MWME narrative Nightingale particular Piers Plowman pilgrimage pilgrims poem poem’s poet poetry political prince Prologue prose Proverbs Proverbs of Alfred Richard saints sche schoolroom social sort South English Legendary stanzas story surviving Synne Tale techniques ther thou tion tradition translation Troilus and Criseyde usually called verse vision word written