Essays on Ricardian Literature in Honour of J.A. Burrow

Essays on Ricardian Literature in Honour of J.A. Burrow

Essays on Ricardian Literature in Honour of J.A. Burrow

Essays on Ricardian Literature in Honour of J.A. Burrow

Synopsis

Essays on Ricardian Literature develops issues and themes first broached in John Burrow's ground-breaking book Ricardian Poetry and incorporates a bibliography of his published writings, which have revolutionized critical appreciation of medieval literature. The contributors to this volume, all leading scholars in the field, explore such areas as the status of Anglo-Latin and the influence of French culture on the Ricardian court, offer radical rereadings of some more familiar works, such as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl, and Patience, and demonstrate how closely the literature of the period is bound up with political and social conditions. Written in honour of John Burrow, to mark his deep and beneficial influence upon the study of medieval literature, the 15 essays in this volume combine to provide a detailed and thorough examination of medieval literature, from the Middle English romance and Italian Trecento poetics to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales and Langland's Piers Plowman.

Excerpt

The title of this collection of essays by John Burrow's friends, colleagues, and former students echoes the title of a book which he published in 1971, Ricardian Poetry. That after nearly thirty years we should be going back to this classic account of four major writers of the later fourteenth century to re-examine many of the issues it raises (and, inevitably, to append some of our own) is sufficient indication of its central position within the history of the study of medieval English literature. If we could be said to have widened its parameters, it should at once be admitted that such amplification is fully in accord with the distinctive spirit of John Burrow's criticism--a generously inclusive spirit, which while ardently championing the special achievements of English texts is fully conscious of the trilingual culture in which they were produced, the Continental genres and conventions without which they would have been unthinkable, and the intellectual contexts to which they owe so much.

John Burrow's first book was A Reading of 'Sir Gawain and the Green Knight', published in 1965 and still recommended to each new generation of students as the fundamental study of the poem. It is probably impossible for its first-time readers of today to appreciate how ground-breaking it was in its time. What a breath of fresh air it was to those of us who were students in the early 1960s, for whom medieval English studies seemed more preoccupied with the developments of æ1 and æ2 than with sensitive attention to the nuances of such an exotically crafted work. So quietly impeccable was Burrow's scholarship and his style so lucid (thanks to an art which hides art) that Sir Gawain was opened up, rendered accessible, in a way which never compromised its enticing complexity. We were stimulated to try out such reading methods on other works that had previously been seen as fit only for linguistic dissection.

Also published in 1965 was 'The Action of Langland's Second Vision', an article in which Burrow applied his formidable talents to an analysis of the work of that other great alliterative poet of the Ricardian Age. Again, this study is still essential reading for . . .

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