part 3 question 5

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part 3 question 5

Post  maxlevpower on Tue Mar 29, 2011 9:38 pm

5) Describe the literary and literacy situation at the beginning of the Middle English period. What are some of the classics from this period and what impact did it have on national literatures.

Literacy situation

Long Story
There was an unparalleled linguistic and social shift when William the Conqueror came in England (Norman Conquest) because he brought a non-Germanic language to power and as the official langu8age of administration in England. French became the language of power and of prestige and was associated with wealth. English was the language of the conquered masses. This is why the end of the Old English period is set in 1100, just after the Norman conquest. Middle English would emerge as a substantially different form of the language: a variety of English awash in French borrowings. Since the upper classes were the literate classes and the upper classes were now French-speaking, English literature, which had not been highly developed to start with, was relegated to a position of inferiority with respect to French literature. When the ties between England and Normandy were broken (when King John of England lost control of Normandy after finding himself drawn into a war against France), the prestige of French began to decline.

Literary situation

Oxford
The two most important literary works in the Middle English Period are the Cantabury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight by an anonymous author.
An example of the latter is Sir Gawain and the Green Knight which was written in the late fourteenth century in the dialect of the east Cheshire area. There is also a surge in the volume of writing in English more generally, both in the composition of new works (including those of Chaucer) and in the copying of English texts.

http://www.librarius.com/cantales.htm
Geoffrey Chaucer wrote The Canterbury Tales, a collection of stories in a frame story, between 1387 and 1400. It is the story of a group of thirty people who travel as pilgrims to Canterbury (England). The pilgrims, who come from all layers of society, tell stories to each other to kill time while they travel to Canterbury.

If we trust the General Prologue, Chaucer intended that each pilgrim should tell two tales on the way to Canterbury and two tales on the way back. He never finished his enormous project and even the completed tales were not finally revised. Scholars are uncertain about the order of the tales. As the printing press had yet to be invented when Chaucer wrote his works, The Canterbury Tales has been passed down in several handwritten manuscripts.

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Re: part 3 question 5

Post  MARCO on Thu Mar 31, 2011 12:57 pm

Long Story:

The literary production of the Middle English period is a fairly accurate
reflection of the various political changes which occurred in England. When
the Normans came to power at the beginning of the Middle English period
they did almost all administrative writing in French or Latin. The only texts
written in English were church-related documents aimed at those classes
which were unilingual English. The only blooms in the English literary
desert of this time period were an epic poem called Brut that a man by the
name of Layamon translated and adapted from French and a rather
humorous reflection on life called The Owl and the Nightingale.
In the second half of the Middle English period, English literature began to
blossom, largely because English began to gain in prestige at this time.
William Langland wrote Piers Plowman, a comment on English society. John
Wycliffe translated the Bible into English. John Gower wrote A Lover's
Confession. An anonymous writer penned Sir Gawain and the Green Knight,
a great tale about the court of King Arthur and the knights of the Round
Table. Finally, the most famous Middle English author of them all, Geoffrey
Chaucer (1340-1400), wrote a number of poems, his most famous being a
collection known as The Canterbury Tales, a wonderfully funny account of a
strange group of pilgrims making their way to Canterbury Cathedral.

Oxford (online):

P.111

After the middle of the fourteenth century, the number of surviving texts written
in northern English increases, as does the number in North- and North-
West-Midland dialects. An example of the latter is Sir Gawain and the Green
Knight which waswritten, like the other works Pearl, Patience, and Cleanness which
are contained in the sole remaining manuscript of the poem, in the late fourteenth
century in the dialect of the east Cheshire area. There is also a surge in the volume
of writing in English more generally, both in the composition of new works
(including those of Chaucer) and in the copying of English texts. Fifty-Wve
98 marilyn corrie
manuscripts of TheCanterburyTales, for instance, survive fromthe Wfteenth century,
and there are Wfty-Wve extant copies of another of the great works of the later
fourteenth century, Piers Plowman (which seems originally to have been written in
a South-West Midland dialect). The number of documents written in English,
however, remains small until the second quarter of the fifteenth century.

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Re: part 3 question 5

Post  MARCO on Mon Apr 04, 2011 12:16 pm

Literacy: literacy varied from social conditions related to the wealth or otherwise of the area in question. In some parts of the country such as the North and the far South-West, where land quality (the basis of medieval wealth) was poorer, vernacular literacy seems to have disappeared for much of the EME period. On the other hand, wealthier areas, such as East Anglia, the South-East or the South-West Midlands, sustained local literacy in the vernacular long after the conquest.

http://books.google.ca/books?id=J4HX2QA6W18C&printsec=frontcover&dq=middle+english&hl=fr&ei=4geaTdyqFoPZgAfah4mZBg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CCoQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=literacy&f=false

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Re: part 3 question 5

Post  MARCO on Mon Apr 04, 2011 1:18 pm

Literacy: literacy varied from social conditions related to the wealth or otherwise of the area in question. In some parts of the country such as the North and the far South-West, where land quality (the basis of medieval wealth) was poorer, vernacular literacy seems to have disappeared for much of the EME period. On the other hand, wealthier areas, such as East Anglia, the South-East or the South-West Midlands, sustained local literacy in the vernacular long after the conquest.

http://books.google.ca/books?id=J4HX2QA6W18C&printsec=frontcover&dq=middle+english&hl=fr&ei=4geaTdyqFoPZgAfah4mZBg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CCoQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=literacy&f=false

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