Study Material

Piers Plowman by William Langland

I. About the Author: conjectures based on an ambiguous passage in C text Probably an educated man intending to enter the Church. II. About the Text: 1. A dream vision: a story under the guise that the narrator has dreamed it. 2. An Allegory: a form suspected to be innate to dreams. An extended metaphor in which characters, actions, scenes ...

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The Canterbury Tales

  I. Original Plan: 120 stories within it Two stories told on the way to Canterbury and two more told on the way back for thirty pilgrims, but only twenty two are actually written, with two fragments. II. Inspiration: 1. Witnessing the pilgrimage to the shrine of Thomas à Becket at Canterbury and pilgrims as notorious story tellers. 2. Medieval ...

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Geoffrey Chaucer

I. Historical Background:the breakdown of three “estates” and the rise of the middle class  A complex, interrelated unstable system of strata where birth was no longer the only factor deciding the interaction. II. Life and Civil Career: 1. The son of a wine merchant: fluent in French and educated in Latin. 2. Serving as a page in a powerful noble ...

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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

  I. Textual History: 1. The best Arthurian romance in English: Gawain as the best knight in the English tradition vs. Lancelot in the French tradition. 2. Written by the Pearl Poet: the romance, along with three religious poems, is found in a manuscript, very probably written by the same poet. 3. Originated in a cultural center outside London, in ...

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Marie de France’s Lanval

  I. Biography: 1. Origin not known, probably a French aristocratic woman living in the Norman court set up in England. 2. Writing twelve so-called “Breton lays”: short narrative verses sung originally by minstrels from either French Brittany or the Celtic parts of England. 3. Also writing some Fables, which was claimed to be translation of an English version, which ...

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Beowulf

  I. About the Text: 1. The oldest of the long poems in English Literature, composed around the 8th century, though the story had probably been orally transmitted, by scop, for some hundred years before it was recorded or rewritten by a Christian poet 2. Probably the only survivor of a cluster of Old English long epics, harking back to ...

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Anglo-Norman Period

I. Origin and Development: 1. The Normans (i.e., Norsemen): Germanic descendants who had settled in northern France, conquering England in 1066 under William the Conqueror 2. The Powerful Reign of the Plantagenet: owning large territory in the south of France II. Linguistic and Cultural Exchanges: 1. Four languages co-existing: Latin (scholarly and international), French (courtly), the Middle English, Celtic 2. ...

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The Anglo-Saxon Period

I. Origin and Development: 1. Anglo-Saxon invaders from the North Europe to the southeastern part of England around 450 A.D. (including the Angles, the Saxons, the Jutes) 2. From the 9th century on, the invasion of the Danes and the career of Alfred. II. Re-introduction of Christianity in the 7th century: 1. Two Routes: from South: St Augustine of Canterbury, ...

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