The centuries between 1100 and 1500 were the crucible in which English language and literature, after the blow of the Norman Conquest, were reformed with results that affected all later times. The national language and literary culture were reconstructed influences. The medieval centuries present a fascinating success story of recovery, inventiveness and major achievement in all aspects of national life.
In literature, lyric verse, narrative poetry, drama and discursive prose were all established in characteristic modes. In the present book many works are discussed, while such masterpieces as the works of Chaucer, Langland's Piers Plowman, the poems of the Gawain-poet and Malory's Morte Darthur are shown as the secular equivalent in words of the great medieval Gothic cathedrals. The forms of this varied body of literature had as characteristic a period style as contemporary Gothic art and architecture themselves. English literature may equally be described as Gothic, with assumptions and achievements which both lead to and contrast with later Neoclassical styles. Black and white photographic illustrations further the comparison and suggest some background.
English Gothic literature derives from many interrelated social context - court, town, monastery and countryside. It was recorded in manuscripts that blend the qualities of popular speech and folktale with some of the more impersonal regular qualities of printing, that last of fundamental medieval inventions. In this new concept of the history of medieval literature, Derek Brewer illuminates the major literary works with detailed exposition to make them available to the reader coming fresh to them. At the same time he places them in the context of developing literacy and individualism, secular realism, romantic love, personal religion, etc., setting forth a coherent framework of cultural history which will challenge the interest of those who already know the period.
About the Author
DEREK BREWER is Master of Emmanuel College, Cambridge. He has written many books and essays on medieval and later English literature, especially on Chaucer.
Table of Contents
Acknowledgements.- Editor's Preface.- Preface.- PART 1: CONTINUITIES AND BEGINNINGS.- Invasion.- The Anglo-Saxon Literary Achievement.- Social and Religious Bases of Literature.- Layamon's Brut: Almost an English National Epic.- PART 2: THE INNER LIFE.- Spiritual Instruction as Literature.- English Recluses: Christina and Wulfric.- The Ancrene Riwle: Manuscripts and Author.- Other Devotional Texts.- PART 3: THE UESTION OF SONG.- The Owl and the Nightingale.- The Bestiary as an Example of the Archaic World-view.- Anecdotal Didactic Poems and the Church's Educational Effort.- PART 4: THE QUESTION OF SONG LYRICS, SHORT POEMS, BALLADS.- Early Poems: Men Speaking Plainly to Men.- The Love Rune and Religious Love.- Other Gothic Manuscript Miscellanies and Various Poems.- Fifteenth-century Religious and Secular Poems.- Appendix: The Ballards.- PART 5: ADVENTURE AND LOVE: ROMANCES IN RHYME.- King Horn: An Archetypal Romance.- Havelok and Grimsby.- Floris and Blancheflue and Romantic Love.- Fabliau and Beast Fable.- Sir Orfeo and the Auchinleck Manuscript.- Fourtheenth-century Arthurian Rhyming Romances.- Fifteenth-century Romances.- PART 6: CHAUCER.- The Book of the Duchess and the English and European Literature.- Traditions.- Medieval Romantic Love in English.- Le Roman de la Rose: Guillaume.- Le Roman de la Rose: Jean de Meung.- An ABC.- Chaucher's Life and Personality.- The House of Fame.- The Parliament of Fowls.- The Consolation of Philosophy.- Troilus and Criseyde: The Story.- The Knight's Tale.- The Legend of Good Women.- The Canterbury Tales.- Archaic and Modern in Chaucer.- PART 7: CHAUCER'S FRIENDS AND FOLLOWERS IN ENGLAND AND SCOTLAND.- Gower, Clanvowe, Scogan.- Lydgate.- Hoccleve and Others.- Scottish Chaucerians.- PART 8: ALLITERATIVE POETRY.- Wynnere and Wastoure.- The Parliament of the Thre AgesAlliterative Romances.- Historical Poems.- PART 9: THE GWAIN-POET.- Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: The Story.- Pearl: The Story.- Cleanness: The Story.- Patience: The Story.- St Erkenwald.- The Gawain-poet and his Milieu.- The Fading of the Alliterative Chivalric Tradition.- PART 10: PIERS PLOWMAN.- Medieval Provincial Culture and the Desire for Salvation.- The A-test of Piers Plowman: The StoryThe B-text.- The C-text.- Poetry Based on Association.- Allegory.- Piers Plowmann as Spiritual Authobiography.- The Materials of the Poem.- The Absorption of the Alliterative Tradition.- A Note on Allegory and Typology.- PART 11: DRAMA.- The Nature of Drama.- The Beginnings of European and English Religious Drama.- Early Plays in England.- The Fourtheenth-century Growth of Drama.- Developing Biblical Dramas.- Varieities of Dramatic Experience.- Morality Plays.- The Secular Play Dux Moraud.- The Miracle Plays.- PART 12: Later Religious Prose.- The Nature of Prose.- The Cloud of Unknowing.- Walter Hilton.- Julian of Norwich.- Margery Kempe.- The Mirror of the Blessed Life of Jesus Christ.- The Lollard Bible and Sermons and Tracts.- Saints' Legends.- Expository Prose.- Fifteenth-century Consolidation and Religous Anti-intellectualism.- PART 13: SECULAR PROSE: MALORY AND CAXTON.- Translation and the Development of Prose for Practical Purposes.- Malory's Le Morte Darthur.- Caxton.- PART 14: The Re-making of English.- The Demotion of English.- The Continuity of English.- 'Old', 'Middle' and 'Modern' English.
What People are Saying About This
He is excellent on the style of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight ... and conveys well the relationship of Middle English Literature to Old English and to the Renaissance.' – S.S. Hussey, The Times Higher Education Supplement