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  • Series: Manchester Medieval Literature and Culture x
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The church as sacred space places the reader at the heart of medieval religious life, standing inside the church with the medieval laity in order to ask what the church meant to them and why. It examines the church as a building, idea, and community, and explores the ways in which the sanctity of the church was crucial to its place at the centre of lay devotion and parish life. At a time when the parish church was facing competition for lay attention, and dissenting movements such as Lollardy were challenging the relevance of the material church, the book examines what was at stake in discussions of sanctity and its manifestations. Exploring a range of Middle English literature alongside liturgy, architecture, and material culture, the book explores the ways in which the sanctity of the church was constructed and maintained for the edification of the laity. Drawing on a wide range of contemporary theoretical approaches, the book offers a reading of the church as continually produced and negotiated by the rituals, performances, and practices of its lay communities, who were constantly being asked to attend to its material form, visual decorations, and significance. The meaning of the church was a dominant question in late-medieval religious culture and this book provides an invaluable context for students and academics working on lay religious experience and canonical Middle English texts.

Troilus and Criseyde and Troilus and Cressida

For the last three decades or so, literary studies, especially those dealing with premodern texts, have been dominated by the New Historicist paradigm. This book is a collection of essays explores medieval and early modern Troilus-texts from Chaucer to Shakespeare. The contributions show how medieval and early modern fictions of Troy use love and other emotions as a means of approaching the problem of tradition. The book argues that by emphasizing Troilus's and Cressida's hopes and fears, Shakespeare sets in motion a triangle of narrative, emotion and temporality. It is a spectacle of which tells something about the play but also about the relation between anticipatory emotion and temporality. The sense of multiple literary futures is shaped by Shakespeare's Chaucer, and in particular by Troilus and Criseyde. The book argues that the play's attempted violence upon a prototypical form of historical time is in part an attack on the literary narratives. Criseyde's beauty is described many times. The characters' predilection for sententiousness unfolds gradually. Through Criseyde, Chaucer's Poet displaces authorial humility as arrogance. The Troilus and Criseyde/Cressida saga begins with Boccaccio, who isolates and expands the love affair between Troiolo and Criseida to vent his sexual frustration. The poem appears to be linking an awareness of history and its continuing influence and impact on the present to hermeneutical acts conspicuously gendered female. The main late medieval Troy tradition does two things: it represents ferocious military combat, and also practises ferocious literary combat against other, competing traditions of Troy.

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Medieval Britain, medieval roads
Editors: Valerie Allen and Ruth Evans

This collection of essays on roads in Britain in the Middle Ages addresses the topic from a cultural, anthropological and literary point of view, as well as a historical and archaeological one. Taking up Jacques Derrida's proposal that 'the history of writing and the history of the road' be 'meditated upon' together, it considers how roads ‘write’ landscapes. The anthology sets Britain’s thoroughfares against the backdrop of the extant Roman road system and argues for a technique of road construction and care that is distinctively medieval. As well as synthesizing information on medieval road terminology, roads as rights of passage and the road as an idea as much as a physical entity, individual essays look afresh at sources for the study of the medieval English road system, legal definitions of the highway, road-breaking and road-mending, wayfinding, the architecture of the street and its role in popular urban government, English hermits and the road as spiritual metaphor, royal itineraries, pilgrimage roads, roads in medieval English romances, English river transport, roads in medieval Wales, and roads in the Anglo-Scottish border zone.

Reorienting the narrative of digital media studies to incorporate the medieval, Participatory reading in late-medieval England traces affinities between digital and medieval media to explore how participation defined reading practices and shaped relations between writers and readers in England’s literary culture from the late-fourteenth to early sixteenth centuries. Traditionally, print operates as the comparative touchstone of both medieval and digital media, but Participatory reading argues that the latter share more in common with each other than either does with print. Working on the borders of digital humanities, medieval cultural studies, and the history of the book, Participatory reading draws on well-known and little-studied works ranging from Chaucer to banqueting poems and wall-texts to demonstrate how medieval writers and readers engaged with practices familiar in digital media today, from crowd-sourced editing to nonlinear apprehension to mobility, temporality, and forensic materiality illuminate. Writers turned to these practices in order to both elicit and control readers’ engagement with their works in ways that would benefit the writers’ reputations along with the transmission and interpretation of their texts, while readers pursued their own agendas—which could conflict with or set aside writers’ attempts to frame readers’ work. The interactions that gather around participatory reading practices reflect concerns about authority, literacy, and media formats, before and after the introduction of print. Participatory reading is of interest to students and scholars of medieval literature, book, and reading history, in addition to those interested in the long history of media studies.

Essays for Stephanie Trigg

For 700 years, Geoffrey Chaucer has spoken to scholars and amateurs alike. How does his work speak to us in the twenty-first century? This volume provides a unique vantage point for responding to this question, furnished by the pioneering scholar of medieval literary studies, Stephanie Trigg: the symptomatic long history. While Trigg's signature methodological framework acts as a springboard for the vibrant conversation that characterises this collection, each chapter offers an inspiring extension of her scholarly insights. The varied perspectives of the outstanding contributors attest to the vibrancy and the advancement of debates in Chaucer studies: thus, formerly rigid demarcations surrounding medieval literary studies, particularly those concerned with Chaucer, yield in these essays to a fluid interplay between Chaucer within his medieval context; medievalism and ‘reception’; the rigours of scholarly research and the recognition of amateur engagement with the past; the significance of the history of emotions; and the relationship of textuality with subjectivity according to their social and ecological context. Each chapter produces a distinctive and often startling interpretation of Chaucer that broadens our understanding of the dynamic relationship between the medieval past and its ongoing re-evaluation. The inventive strategies and methodologies employed in this volume by leading thinkers in medieval literary criticism will stimulate exciting and timely insights for researchers and students of Chaucer, medievalism, medieval studies, and the history of emotions, especially those interested in the relationship between medieval literature, the intervening centuries and contemporary cultural change.

What happens when Chaucer turns up where we don’t expect him to be? Transporting Chaucer draws on the work of the British sculptor Antony Gormley alongside more traditional literary scholarship to show that Chaucer’s play with textual history and chronological time prefigures how his poetry becomes incorporate with later (and earlier) texts. The shuttling of bodies, names, and sounds in and amongst works that Chaucer did write anticipates Chaucerian presences in later (and earlier) works that he did not. Chaucer’s characters, including ‘himself’ refuse to stay put in one place and time. This book bypasses the chronological borders of literary succession to read The Canterbury Tales and Chaucer’s Dream Vision poetry in present company with Chaucerian ‘apocrypha’, and works by Shakespeare, Davenant and Dryden. Conventional models of source and analogue study are re-energised to reveal unexpected (and sometimes unsettling) literary cohabitations and re-placements. Transporting Chaucer presents innovative readings of relationships between medieval texts and early modern drama, and between literary texts and material culture. Associations between medieval architecture, pilgrim practice, manuscript illustration, and the soundscapes of dramatic performance reposition how we read Chaucer’s oeuvre and what gets made of it. Written for scholars and students (undergraduate and graduate) who work in medieval English literary studies and early modern drama, Transporting Chaucer offers a new approach to how we encounter texts through time.

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Space and sovereignty in Anglo-Saxon England

Over six hundred years before John Milton’s Paradise Lost, Anglo-Saxon authors told their own version of the fall of the angels. This book brings together various cultural moments, literary genres, and relevant comparanda to recover that story, from the legal and social world to the realm of popular spiritual ritual and belief. The story of the fall of the angels in Anglo-Saxon England is the story of a successfully transmitted exegetical teaching turned rich literary tradition that can be traced through a diverse range of genres: sermons, saints’ lives, royal charters, riddles, as well as devotional and biblical poetry, each genre offering a distinct window into the ancient myth’s place within the Anglo-Saxon literary and cultural imagination.

Anglo-Saxon ‘things’ could talk. Nonhuman voices leap out from the Exeter Book Riddles, telling us how they were made or how they behave. In The Husband’s Message, runic letters are borne and a first-person speech is delivered by some kind of wooden artefact. Readers of The Dream of the Rood will come across a tree possessing the voice of a dreaming human in order to talk about its own history as a gallows and a rood. The Franks Casket is a box of bone that alludes to its former fate as a whale that swam aground onto the shingle, and the Ruthwell monument is a stone column that speaks as if it were living wood, or a wounded body.

This book uncovers the voice and agency that these nonhuman things have across Anglo-Saxon literature and material culture. It makes a new contribution to ‘thing theory’ and rethinks conventional divisions between animate human subjects and inanimate nonhuman objects in the early Middle Ages. Anglo-Saxon writers and craftsmen describe artefacts and animals through riddling forms or enigmatic language, balancing an attempt to speak and listen to things with an understanding that these nonhumans often elude, defy and withdraw from us. The active role that things have in the early medieval world is also linked to the Germanic origins of the word, where a þing is a kind of assembly, with the ability to draw together other elements, creating assemblages in which human and nonhuman forces combine. Anglo-Saxon things teach us to rethink the concept of voice as a quality that is not simply imposed upon nonhumans but which inheres in their ways of existing and being in the world; they teach us to rethink the concept of agency as arising from within groupings of diverse elements, rather than always emerging from human actors alone.

Fiction, theology, and social practice

The politics of Middle English parables examines the dynamic intersection of fiction, theology, and social practice in translated Gospel stories. Parables occupy a prominent place in Middle English literature, appearing in dream visions and story collections as well as in lives of Christ and devotional treatises. While most scholarship approaches these scriptural stories as stable vehicles of Christian teachings, this book characterises Gospel parables as ambiguous, riddling stories that invited audience interpretation and inspired the construction of new, culturally inflected narratives. In parables related to labour, social inequality, charity, and penance, the book locates a creative theological discourse through which writers reconstructed scriptural stories and, in doing so, attempted to shape Christian belief and practice. Analysis of these diverse retellings reveals not what a given parable meant in a definitive sense but rather how Middle English parables inscribe the ideologies, power structures, and cultural debates of late medieval Christianity.

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Ecocritical readings of late medieval English literature

Humankind has always been fascinated by the world in which it finds itself, and puzzled by its relations to it. Today that fascination is often expressed in what is now called ‘green’ terms, reflecting concerns about the non-human natural world, puzzlement about how we relate to it, and anxiety about what we, as humans, are doing to it. So-called green or eco-criticism acknowledges this concern. This book reaches back and offers new readings of English texts, both known and unfamiliar, informed by eco-criticism. After considering general issues pertaining to green criticism, it moves on to a series of individual chapters arranged by theme (earth, trees, wilds, sea, gardens and fields) that provide individual close readings of selections from such familiar texts as Malory's Morte D'Arthur, Chaucer's Knight's and Franklin's Tales, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Langland's Piers Plowman. These discussions are contextualized by considering them alongside hitherto marginalized texts such as lyrics, Patience and the romance Sir Orfeo. The result is a study that reinvigorates our customary reading of late Middle English literary texts while also allowing us to reflect upon the vibrant new school of eco-criticism itself.