A Companion to Old and Middle English Literature

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

7

Chronicle

Emma B. Hawkins

According to The Oxford English Dictionary, the word chronicle derives directly from Latin chronica (ultimately from Greek

) by way of Old French and originally referred to “ ‘things– or ‘matters of time.– ” Thus chronicles are records of facts or events, in order of date. But so, too, are annals. The distinction between the two depends upon how developed the historical entries are. Chronicles are more “rhetorically polished” than annals, which are “a mere succinct listing of events in the order in which they occurred” (Kennedy, Chronicles 2598). The typical Old or Middle English chronicle was primarily historical and utilitarian rather than literary in intent, was restricted in space for the sake of maintenance and preservation, and required some degree of regular and timely upkeep. Nevertheless, as a genre it still permitted moderate variation. Events from the past and the present, of both great and small importance, and with either a significant connection or none at all were included. The scope of coverage ranged from universal to local. Items of interest were rendered in prose and poetry. Although accurate and objective reporting was vital, emotionally charged personal judgments as well as mythical and legendary elements were included.

In England the concept of the chronicle probably originated with the keeping of Easter tables wherein clerics would make a list of successive years, calculate the day upon which Easter would fall in each year, and then record the year and the Easter calculation, one per line. This single line, along with the margins, provided space sufficient for brief notations of a historical nature. Even so, Charles Plummer is convinced that the purpose of the early chronicles was not to serve merely as “a device for arranging a store of events,” or as a means for “reducing the accumulations of history to literary order,” or as “a method, a system of registration” for placing events in their corresponding chronological

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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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