discussion of medieval popular literature, Rosemary Woolf justly described this as ‘a crude piece of work compared
with the French and German analogues’.5 Much the same could be
(and has been) said for other MiddleEnglish romances based on French
originals (King Horn, Sir Tristrem, for example), for comparisons tend
Sir Percyvell of Gales
to show that the French romances are subtler and more sophisticated.
Fortunately, it is not always conscious artistry that attracts us in
literature, and the most obvious way of
The twin demons of aristocratic
society in Sir Gowther
Sir Gowther is a 700-line narrative probably originating (in its MiddleEnglish form) about 1400 in the North Midlands. It is extant in two
mildly divergent manuscript texts, which will here be referred to as the
‘Advocates’ and ‘Royal’ versions.1 Sir Gowther is conspicuous for that
surface crankiness and drastic speed which are often found in medieval
English verse romances and which readily provoke a modern reader’s
suspicion that no very challenging contact with medieval society is
1 That tradition persisted in MiddleEnglish literature. Examples are inventoried by James Morey, Book and Verse: A Guide to MiddleEnglish Biblical Literature (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2000), see “Angel(s), fall of”, p. 396.
2 Carmen de uirginitate , pp. 316–17; trans. Lapidge and Rosier, Aldhelm: The Poetic Works , p. 163.
3 Ibid., p. 457; trans. Lapidge and Rosier, p. 67.
4 Ancrene Wisse: A Corrected Edition of the Text in
fourteenth century, MiddleEnglish usage. 28 In formal terms, an alien was understood as someone who owed no direct allegiance to the sovereign power, the king, and was thus separated off from his direct subjects. It is important to note, however, that ‘alien’ was just as applicable to visitors as it was to permanent settlers: in general, the law of alienage that emerged from the thirteenth century made no formal distinction between such sub-categories. 29 Consequently, while all immigrants were aliens, not all aliens were immigrants.
-creating the Gospel narrative. Palm Sunday was widely depicted on church walls and lavish manuscripts; its texts reverberated in MiddleEnglish literature; and its performance was re-created in civic processions. What makes the day even more significant for the study of biblical mediation is the fact that this memorable biblical story does not lend itself easily to liturgical re-enactment. Liturgical processions were made to emulate Christ’s reception at the outskirts of Second-Temple Jerusalem in the towns and villages of medieval Europe. Transforming the biblical event
anti-clericalism, games of incompleteness and imitation, and women suffering
from male desire. In short, in significant respects, he became more
In recent decades, scholarly work on
the popular romance in MiddleEnglish has been plentiful and rich, alongside
continued interest in the more ‘courtly’ works associated with major
canonical authors. 6 This
scholarship has frequently found it necessary to establish a way or ways by
which the category of romance could be
Reading, space and intimacy in Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde
Andrew James Johnston
meant to be the
Roman de Thèbes – in fact, there is not a
single piece of textual evidence to support this claim. One of the most
important arguments in favour of the traditional reading is based on the
semantics of the MiddleEnglish romaunce , usually interpreted as
‘courtly romance’ in the context of Troilus and
Criseyde. 8 This,
however, is a term with an
journey of the faithful serves as a coda to the sermon. Copies of this sermon were extant in libraries both in England and the Continent; its dissemination and popularity are attested by a late fourteenth- or early fifteenth-century rendering. Written in MiddleEnglish, possibly by an adherent of Wyclif, this version engages in dialogue with Odo’s sermon through its choice of themes and words while serving as a rare witness to the afterlife of the Latin sermon.
The second sermon dates to the late thirteenth century, and its sole copy exists in an early fourteenth
pallor is almost always a marker of some essential absence or
lack, whether of colour, feeling, reason, health, vitality or any
combination of these; its exceptionality is further compounded
by this sense of deviation from a facial ‘norm’. Rarely, if ever, do
we encounter a crowd of pale faces in MiddleEnglish literature.
It is perhaps precisely because of the atypicality of the pale
face that it insists on being interpreted and understood. Such
faces come to represent and to induce a variety of affects and
emotions in (and around) the texts in which they appear. In
witness. The first of the ‘MiddleEnglish Mystics’, Richard
Rolle, was likewise sought out as a spiritual director, and after his death
was revered as a saint. Much of his writing touches (sometimes quite
defensively) on his life as a hermit: his improvised entry into the vocation
is [ 47 ] (and see [ 21 ] for an excerpt from his writings).
And Walter Hilton (whose advice to recluses lies behind [ 25 ]) spent time as a solitary himself