Early Middle English Literature

Early Middle English Literature

Early Middle English Literature

Early Middle English Literature

Excerpt

During recent years much important work has been done on various aspects of early Middle English literature, and the time seems to have come when some attempt should be made to present the general results of this research. In dealing with an early period such as this it is inevitable that what may seem a disproportionate space should be devoted to questions of authorship, provenance, etc., which are still unsettled and for which, in many cases, it is doubtful whether sufficient evidence will ever be available for a definite conclusion. It was obviously impossible to deal in detail with all the theories which have been brought forward at one time or another. Only those which have received a support so general that they may be considered established, together with the more plausible or more interesting of the remainder, could be dealt with at all fully; a brief reference is all that has been possible for the majority. Nor did this seem to be the occasion on which to bring forward any individual views of the author for the first time. In a synthesis such as this it is essential that the theories and opinions included should have been subjected elsewhere to the approval or criticism of other workers in the same field.

The period dealt with extends from 1066 to 1300. Not because either of these dates has a special significance in literary history; rather because they definitely have none. In dealing with early Middle English literature it is necessary to discuss the transition between Old and Middle English, and 1066 provides a convenient date at which to begin, since then, so far as we can tell, the traditional forms and subjects are still in indisputable possession. Since the period dealt . . .

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