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A Companion to Medieval Poetry

ISBN: 978-1-4443-1910-1
704 pages
February 2010, Wiley-Blackwell
A Companion to Medieval Poetry (1444319108) cover image


A Companion to Medieval Poetry presents a series of original essays from leading literary scholars that explore English poetry from the Anglo-Saxon period up to the 15th century.
  • Organised into three parts to echo the chronological and stylistic divisions between the Anglo-Saxon, Middle English and Post-Chaucerian periods, each section is introduced with contextual essays, providing a valuable introduction to the society and culture of the time
  • Combines a general discussion of genres of medieval poetry, with specific consideration of texts and authors, including Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Chaucer, Gower and Langland
  • Features original essays by eminent scholars, including Andy Orchard, Carl Schmidt, Douglas Gray, and Barry Windeatt,  who present a range of theoretical, historical, and cultural approaches to reading medieval poetry, as well as offering close analysis of individual texts and traditions
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Table of Contents

List of Figures.

Notes on Contributors.


Introduction (Corinne Saunders).

Part I Old English Poetry.


1 The World of Anglo-Saxon England (Andy Orchard).

2 The Old English Language and the Alliterative Tradition (Richard Dance).

3 Old English Manuscripts and Readers (Rohini Jayatilaka).

4 Old English and Latin Poetic Traditions (Andy Orchard).

Genres and Modes.

5 Germanic Legend and Old English Heroic Poetry (Hugh Magennis).

6 Old English Biblical and Devotional Poetry (Daniel Anlezark).

7 Old English Wisdom Poetry (David Ashurst).

8 Old English Epic Poetry: Beowulf (Daniel Anlezark).

Part II Middle English Poetry.


9 The World of Medieval England: From the Norman Conquest to the Fourteenth Century (Conor McCarthy).

10 Middle English Language and Poetry (Simon Horobin).

11 Middle English Manuscripts and Readers (Ralph Hanna).

Genres and Modes.

12 Legendary History and Chronicle: La3amon’s Brut and the Chronicle Tradition (Lucy Perry).

13 Medieval Debate-Poetry and The Owl and the Nightingale (Neil Cartlidge).

14 Lyrics, Sacred and Secular (David Fuller).

15 Macaronic Poetry (Elizabeth Archibald).

16 Popular Romance (Nancy Mason Bradbury).

17 Arthurian and Courtly Romance (Rosalind Field).

18 Alliterative Poetry: Religion and Morality (John Scattergood).

19 Alliterative Poetry and Politics (John Scattergood).

Poets and Poems.

20 The Poet of Pearl, Cleanness and Patience (A. V. C. Schmidt).

21 Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Tony Davenport).

22 Langland's Piers Plowman (Lawrence Warner).

23 Chaucer's Love Visions (Helen Phillips).

24 Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde (Alcuin Blamires).

25 Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales (Corinne Saunders).

26 The Poetry of John Gower (R. F. Yeager).

Part III Post-Chaucerian and Fifteenth-Century Poetry.


27 England in the Long Fifteenth Century (Matthew Woodcock).

28 Poetic Language in the Fifteenth Century (A. S. G. Edwards).

29 Manuscript and Print: Books, Readers and Writers (Julia Boffey).

Poets and Poems.

30 Hoccleve and Lydgate (Daniel Wakelin).

31 Women and Writing (C. Annette Grisé).

32 Medieval Scottish Poetry (Douglas Gray).

33 Courtiers and Courtly Poetry (Barry Windeatt).

34 Drama: Sacred and Secular (Pamela King).

Epilogue: Afterlives of Medieval English Poetry (Corinne Saunders).


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Author Information

Corinne Saunders is Professor in the Department of English Studies and Director of the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at the University of Durham. A specialist in medieval literature and the history of ideas, her recent publications include Rape and Ravishment in the Literature of Medieval England (2001), A Companion to Romance (Wiley-Blackwell, 2004), Madness and Creativity in Literature and Culture (co-edited with Jane Macnaughton, 2005), Pearl (co-edited with David Fuller, 2005), A Concise Companion to Chaucer (Wiley-Blackwell, 2006), The Body and the Arts (co-edited with Ulrika Maude and Jane Macnaughton, 2009), and Magic and the Supernatural in Medieval English Romance (2010). She is the English editor of the international journal of Medieval Studies, Medium Ævum.
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“It is impossible within the confines of a review article to do justice to every – or, indeed, to any – chapter in this well-thought-out book. As a ‘companion’, it is to be revisited with enjoyment for its many new insights on familiar and well-loved material and its confident handling of new approaches to the study of medieval English poetry.”  (Parergon, 2012)

"This is, however, a minor quibble; the essays in this book provide very useful introductions to the subjects they cover, and seem well placed to become standard basic reference works on medieval English poetry". (Medium Aevum, 2011)

"This Blackwell Companion to Medieval Poetry is a very fine resource for students and teachers alike. It is particularly commendable for its wide scope, ranging from the earliest Old English texts to the poetry of late-medieval England (post-Chaucerian), as well as for its clear attention both to wider context, and to genre, modes and authors, and occasionally to individual texts, such as Chaucer's love visions, Troilus, or The Canterbury Tales (each of which receives its own chapter)." (Routledge ABES, 2011)

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