A Companion to Old and Middle English Literature

By Laura Cooner Lambdin; Robert Thomas Lambdin | Go to book overview

Introduction

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

-ix-

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A Companion to Old and Middle English Literature
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction ix
  • 1 - Old English and Anglo-Norman Literature 1
  • Selected Bibliography 23
  • 2 - Religious and Allegorical Verse 26
  • 3 - Alliterative Poetry in Old and Middle English 37
  • Selected Bibliography 48
  • 4 - Balladry 50
  • Selected Bibliography 66
  • 5 - The Beast Fable 69
  • Selected Bibliography 84
  • 6 - Breton Lay 86
  • 7 - Chronicle 98
  • 8 - Debate Poetry 118
  • Selected Bibliography 152
  • 9 - Medieval English Drama 154
  • 10 - Dream Vision 178
  • Selected Bibliography 196
  • 11 - Epic and Heroic Poetry 210
  • 12 - The Epic Genre and Medieval Epics 230
  • Selected Bibliography 253
  • 13 - The Fabliau 255
  • 14 - Hagiographic, Homiletic, and Didactic Literature 277
  • Selected Bibliography 294
  • 15 - Lyric Poetry 299
  • 16 - The Middle English Parody/ Burlesque 315
  • Selected Bibliography 333
  • 17 - Riddles 336
  • 18 - Romance 352
  • Selected Bibliography 373
  • 19 - Visions of the Afterlife 376
  • Selected Bibliography 394
  • Selected Bibliography 399
  • Index 425
  • About the Editors and Contributors 431
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