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Medieval English Literature Home University of Modern Knowledge #43   By: (1855-1923)

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First Page:

THE HOME UNIVERSITY LIBRARY OF MODERN KNOWLEDGE

43

MEDIEVAL ENGLISH LITERATURE

EDITORS OF The Home University Library of Modern Knowledge

GILBERT MURRAY, O.M., D.C.L., F.B.A. G. N. CLARK, LL.D., F.B.A. G. R. DE BEER, D.SC., F.R.S.

United States

JOHN FULTON, M.D., PH.D. HOWARD MUMFORD JONES, LITT.D. WILLIAM L. LANGER, PH.D.

Medieval English Literature

W. P. KER

Geoffrey Cumberlege OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS LONDON NEW YORK TORONTO

First published in 1912, and reprinted in 1925, 1926, 1928 ( twice ), 1932, and 1942 Reset in 1945 and reprinted in 1948

PRINTED IN GREAT BRITAIN

CONTENTS

CHAP. PAGE I INTRODUCTION 7 II THE ANGLO SAXON PERIOD 16 III THE MIDDLE ENGLISH PERIOD (1150 1500) 43 IV THE ROMANCES 76 V SONGS AND BALLADS 107 VI COMIC POETRY 124 VII ALLEGORY 137 VIII SERMONS AND HISTORIES, IN VERSE AND PROSE 150 IX CHAUCER 163 NOTE ON BOOKS 187 SUPPLEMENTARY NOTE by R. W. CHAMBERS 188 INDEX 190

CHAPTER I INTRODUCTION

Readers are drawn to medieval literature in many different ways, and it is hardly possible to describe all the attractions and all the approaches by which they enter on this ground. Students of history have to learn the languages of the nations with whose history they are concerned, and to read the chief books in those languages, if they wish to understand rightly the ideas, purposes and temper of the past ages. Sometimes the study of early literature has been instigated by religious or controversial motives, as when the Anglo Saxon homilies were taken up and edited and interpreted in support of the Reformation. Sometimes it is mere curiosity that leads to investigation of old literature a wish to find out the meaning of what looks at first difficult and mysterious. Curiosity of this sort, however, is seldom found unmixed; there are generally all sorts of vague associations and interests combining to lead the explorer on. It has often been observed that a love of Gothic architecture, or of medieval art in general, goes along with, and helps, the study of medieval poetry. Chatterton's old English reading and his imitations of old English verse were inspired by the Church of St. Mary Redcliffe at Bristol. The lives of Horace Walpole, of Thomas Warton, of Sir Walter Scott, and many others show how medieval literary studies may be nourished along with other kindred antiquarian tastes.

Sometimes, instead of beginning in historical or antiquarian interests, or in a liking for the fashions of the Middle Ages in general, it happens that a love of medieval literature has its rise in one particular author, e.g. Dante or Sir Thomas Malory. The book, the Divina Commedia or Le Morte d'Arthur , is taken up, it may be, casually, with no very distinct idea or purpose, and then it is found to be engrossing and captivating what is often rightly called 'a revelation of a new world'... Continue reading book >>




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