A Companion to Old and Middle English Literature

A Companion to Old and Middle English Literature

A Companion to Old and Middle English Literature

A Companion to Old and Middle English Literature

Synopsis

This reference is a comprehensive overview of Old and Middle English literature with chapters focusing on particular genres, such as: Allegorical Verse; Balladry; Beast Fable; Chronicle; Debate Poetry; Epic and Heroic; Lyric; Middle English Parody/Burlesque; Religious and Allegorical Verse; and Romance. Expert contributors define the primary characteristics of each genre and discuss relevant literary works. Chapters provide extensive reviews of scholarship and close with detailed bibliographies. A more thorough bibliography of major scholarly studies closes the book.

Excerpt

A Companion to Old and Middle English Literature is an essential reference guide for period scholarship because it examines English medieval literature comprehensively by genres. Written by academics who recognized this critical need, the text classifies early British literature by time and type using genres in an effort to significantly increase our understanding of textual meaning and historical context. Using structure as an evaluative critical tool of judgment, genres allow us to more fully know a piece of literature by what it is and what it is not. Previously, no book existed that defined, classified, and critically studied the bulk of Old and Middle English writings, so the scope and depth of this text fills a gap in literary studies. Thus this volume is not only for scholars, but also for any reader of the era–s literature.

This volume is intended to guide readers by encouraging and relishing categorical interpretations of extant, primarily canonized, medieval works through comparison with other literary pieces of the period that share a similar organization, style, or theme and have, therefore, previously been classified by literary critics as also belonging to that particular genre. With a grateful nod to Marxist criticism in particular, we note that culture, history, and prevailing ideologies shaped medieval writers– purposes in ways now largely unfathomable but still completely undeniable. Undoubtedly, literature is ultimately a social act, allowing new interpretations and evaluations with each historical era and each reader. Reproducing the spirit and vitality of the medieval period is, despite the anachronistic current attempts made by various groups at festivals, impossible; however, we can best recapture a glimpse of early England through the comprehensive approach of classifying and categorizing its literature into genres and then contemplating audience and purpose.

We must assume that a medieval author knew the artistic conventions and

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