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THE OLD ENGLISH (ANGLO-SAXON) PERIOD (428-1066)

The so-called "Dark Ages" (455 CE -799 CE) occur when Rome falls and barbarian tribes move into
Europe. Franks,

Ostrogoths, Lombards, and Goths settle in the ruins of Europe and the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes
migrate to Britain, displacing native Celts into Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. Early Old English poems
such as Beowulf, The Wanderer, and The Seafarer originate sometime late in the Anglo-Saxon
period.

The Carolingian Renaissance (800- 850 CE) emerges in Europe. In central Europe, texts include early
medieval grammars, encyclopedias, etc. In northern Europe, this time period marks the setting
of Viking sagas.

II. THE MIDDLE ENGLISH PERIOD (c. 1066-1450 CE)

In 1066, Norman French armies invade and conquer England under William I. This marks the end of
the Anglo- Saxon hierarchy and the emergence of the Twelfth Century Renaissance (c. 1100-1200
CE). French chivalric romances--such as works by Chretien de Troyes--and French fables--such as the
works of Marie de France and Jeun de Meun--spread in popularity. Abelard and other humanists
produce great scholastic and theological works.

LATE OR "HIGH" MEDIEVAL PERIOD (c. 1200-1485 CE)

This often tumultuous period is marked by the Middle English writings of Geoffrey Chaucer, the
"Gawain" or "Pearl" Poet, the Wakefield Master, and William Langland. Other writers include Italian
and French authors like Boccaccio, Petrarch, Dante, and Christine de Pisan.

Travel

- Texts such as ‘Marvels of The East’


- Mainly travelled from Italy and around Europe
- Influence of Europe on religious and moral values
- Overseas trade was becoming more prevalent
- Colonisation after the Roman Empire

Among the non-European lands known to medieval people, India was probably the most important.
Europeans got most of their knowledge about the Indian subcontinent from the remnants of Greek
learning, which had eroded over the centuries since the end of the classical period but survived in
some Latin works.

Popular features of Literature

 Magical imagery – Fairytale allusions – Texts often describe and illustrates a vast range of
strange and magical people and animals. Here you will find dragons, phoenixes and other
familiar legendary creatures.
 Folk Ballads
 Stock Epithets – (words commonly used by the author to describe an object or a person)
 Plays attributed to religious devotion
Race

- people who are described as having ‘black’ skin, alongside other wonderful people who
sleep curled up in their own enormous ears.

Religion

- Latin was a primary language of the time. Chaucer translated many poems from Latin to
English in order to make them more accessible
- The Bible was in Latin
- Very low literacy rates
- Heavy focus on morality and the relationship between God and man. Usually poems tried to
convey a moral message to the reader. Chivalric code, gallantry and knighthood
- Frame stories were used (stories within stories) to help those who were illiterate to
understand the teachings of the church.
- Philosophers such as Aquinas – brought new theories concerning God and religion into wider
society.

Women

- A noble woman who’s usually unattainable


- Focus on getting them married.
- Throughout the Medieval period, women were viewed as second class citizens, and their
needs always were an afterthought
- Either held to be completely deceitful, sexual, innocent, or incompetent. Therefore, women
were mostly withheld from positions of power or speaking their voice; males made decisions
for them, and their lives were dictated by the men that ran the society.

Marriage

- Courting
- Political arrangements instead of love
- Men also were often forced into marriages that were beneficial to their families
- Emphasis on purity amongst the women in the marriage. Must be virginal.
- A medieval European literary conception of love emphasized nobility and chivalry.
- The courter/lover existed to serve his lady and love resulted in business interest or power
alliance. Adultery was the mortal sin.

Poems which align with the theory of courtly love:

 Sonnet 87 by William Shakespeare


 The secret by John Clare
 You say you love by John Keats
 Mariana by Alfred Loyd Tennyson
 Pad Pad by Stevle Smith
 La Belle Dame Sans Merci by John Keats (influenced by Medieval codes of chivalry)

Chivalric code

- Conditions - born from a noble family, strong, able to fight.


- Men were often expected to behave bravely.