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Literature in England in the Middle Ages. Social and cultural milieu High-Late Middle Ages roughly dates from 1066-1485: Norman Conquest up to the Renaissance/Early.

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Presentation on theme: "Literature in England in the Middle Ages. Social and cultural milieu High-Late Middle Ages roughly dates from 1066-1485: Norman Conquest up to the Renaissance/Early."— Presentation transcript:

1 Literature in England in the Middle Ages

2 Social and cultural milieu High-Late Middle Ages roughly dates from : Norman Conquest up to the Renaissance/Early Modern period Norman invasion led to the displacement of the Anglo- Saxons by French nobility William the Conqueror and his successors took power by establishing a feudal system (via a network of castles and surrounding towns) that suppressed local revolts and controlled the population. Normans also infiltrated the aristocracy and positions of high power within the clergy.

3 Famine and pestilence! In the 14 th century the Great Famine and the Black Death (an outbreak of plague) killed about half of England’s population. Threw the economy into chaos and undermined the old political order (for a while).

4 Social Class King and Royal Court Nobility (knights) Church leaders (bishops) and clergy (nuns and friars) Guilds, Merchants Peasants

5 Pilgrimages and Crusades Pilgrimages: the faithful would travel shorter to more sizeable distances to a church or shrine to worship (the Canterbury Tales ). Participation in the Crusades was also seen as a form of pilgrimage (Nine Crusades dating from ).

6 King Arthur and his court The man who inspired the Arthurian legend would have been a Briton, a leader of the Celtic people who had been part of the Roman Empire and had converted to Christianity after it became the official religion of Rome. At the time, the Britons were making a temporarily successful stand against the Anglo-Saxon invaders who had already occupied the southeastern corner of Britain. Arthur was never a "king"; he may well have been commander-in-chief of British resistance to the Anglo- Saxons.

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8 Not until the twelfth century, though, did Arthur achieve a quasi-historical existence as the greatest of British kings in the works of Geoffrey of Monmouth. It was in the French literature of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries that Arthur and his knights came to embody the rise, and eventual decline, of a court exemplifying an aristocratic ideal of chivalry. In the verse romances of Chrétien de Troyes, the focus shifts from the "history" of Arthur to the deeds of his knights who ride out from his court on fabulous adventures and exemplify the chivalric ethos. This would influence the Gawain poet.

9 Chivalry From the 12th century onward chivalry came to be understood as a moral, religious and social code of knightly conduct. The particulars of the code varied, but codes would emphasize the virtues of courage, honor, and service. Chivalry also came to refer to an idealization of the life and manners of the knight at home in his castle and with his court.

10 Chivalric Code Includes: Duties to countrymen and fellow Christians: this contains virtues such as mercy, courage, valor, fairness, protection of the weak and the poor, and in the servant-hood of the knight to his lord. This also brings with it the idea of being willing to give one’s life for another’s; whether he would be giving his life for a poor man or his lord.

11 Duties to God: this would contain being faithful to God, protecting the innocent, being faithful to the church, being the champion of good against evil, being generous and obeying God above the feudal lord. Duties to women: this is probably the most familiar aspect of chivalry. This would contain what is often called courtly love, the idea that the knight is to serve a lady, and after her all other ladies. Most especially in this category is a general gentleness and graciousness to all women.


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