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particular type of literature, the Middle English romances, texts which became witnesses of a ‘new “bourgeois-gentry” cultural formation’. 2 Literature, here defined in an all-inclusive way, rather than material for entertainment purposes, is traditionally assessed in relation to authorship, authorial intention, audience and socio-political context, and thus an investigation into the influence of

in Gentry culture in late-medieval England
Textus and oath-books

book that was used in rituals. Two such textus were employed by Hubert de Burgh (d. 1243), and link Masses with oath-rituals, leading us into the realm of courts of law and oath-books. Court records, canon and common law treatises, and Middle English literary narratives all portray the elusive nature of oath-books, which were used in complex rituals. A few surviving manuscripts, and the oaths of medieval Jews, assist in defining the nature of these books, which followed appearance and antiquity. After exploring each of these issues, the conclusion of this chapter

in Approaching the Bible in medieval England

Middle English poetry is anything but the ideal way of preparing him to understand something old and difficult and complicated; for in his eagerness to find what must be there he will very likely miss what is there.’ For instance, far from the story of the fall being the centre of the ‘Nun’s Priest’s tale’, Coghill and Tolkien argued that it was only ‘jestingly invoked’ by means

in Chaucer in context
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Society, allegory and gender

This book on Geoffrey Chaucer explores the relationship between Chaucer's poetry and the change and conflict characteristic of his day and the sorts of literary and non-literary conventions that were at his disposal for making sense of the society around him. Critics who consider the social meaning of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales fall into two main schools: those who present his social thought as an expression of the dominant spirit or ideology of his day and those who see Chaucer as possessing a more heterodox voice. Many of the present generation of Chaucer critics have been trained either as 'Robertsonians' or as 'Donaldsonians'. For D. W. Robertson, even those medieval poems which do not explicitly address religious issues were frequently intended to promote the Augustinian doctrine of charity beneath a pleasing surface; for E. Talbot Donaldson, there are 'no such poems in Middle English'. The book sets out the basics of the Augustinian doctrine of charity and of medieval allegorical theory and examines 'patristic' interpretations of Chaucer's work, particularly of the 'Nun's Priest Tale'. It looks at the humanist alternative to the patristic method and assesses the strengths and weaknesses of the patristic approach. The book also outlines some of the major medieval discourses about sexual difference which inform Chaucer's depiction of women, in particular, the tendency of medieval writers to polarise their views of women, condemning them to the pit or elevating them to the pedestal.

A conceptual history 1200–1900

This collection explores how concepts of intellectual or learning disability evolved from a range of influences, gradually developing from earlier and decidedly distinct concepts, including ‘idiocy’ and ‘folly’, which were themselves generated by very specific social and intellectual environments. With essays extending across legal, educational, literary, religious, philosophical, and psychiatric histories, this collection maintains a rigorous distinction between historical and contemporary concepts in demonstrating how intellectual disability and related notions were products of the prevailing social, cultural, and intellectual environments in which they took form, and themselves performed important functions within these environments. Focusing on British and European material from the middle ages to the late nineteenth century, this collection asks ‘How and why did these concepts form?’ ‘How did they connect with one another?’ and ‘What historical circumstances contributed to building these connections?’ While the emphasis is on conceptual history or a history of ideas, these essays also address the consequences of these defining forces for the people who found themselves enclosed by the shifting definitional field.

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Immigrant England

fourteenth century, Middle English 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. The terms

in Immigrant England, 1300–1550
Palm Sunday processions

-creating the Gospel narrative. Palm Sunday was widely depicted on church walls and lavish manuscripts; its texts reverberated in Middle English 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

in Approaching the Bible in medieval England
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Three Advent Sunday sermons

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 Middle English, 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

in Approaching the Bible in medieval England
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E.A. Jones

witness. The first of the ‘Middle English 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

in Hermits and anchorites in England, 1200–1550
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In search of pre-Reformation English spirituality

Dying . Each offers a different approach to the lay experience, seeking to provide a means whereby spirituality could be encouraged and hope confirmed, without going to extremes. The lack of extremism is important: it is too easy to place too much emphasis on the ‘Middle English mystics’, and judge others by their yardstick. 58 Yet mysticism almost by definition is a rarity: the majority had to live

in Catholic England