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Sanctity as literature in late medieval Britain explores how sanctity and questions of literariness are intertwined across a range of medieval genres. “Sanctity” as a theme and concept figures as a prominent indicator of the developments in the period, in which authors began to challenge the predominant medieval dichotomy of either relying on the authority of previous authors when writing, or on experience. These developments are marked also by a rethinking of the intended and perceived effects of writings. Instead of looking for clues in religious practices in order to explain these changes, the literary practices themselves need to be scrutinised in detail, which provide evidence for a reinterpretation of both the writers’ and their topics’ traditional roles and purposes. The essays in the collection are based on a representative choice of texts from the fourteenth to the early sixteenth centuries, covering penitential literature, hagiographical compilations and individual legends as well as romance, debates, and mystical literature from medieval and early modern England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. For researchers and advanced students of medieval literature and culture, the collection offers new insights into one of the central concepts of the late medieval period by considering sanctity first and foremost from the perspective of its literariness and literary potential.

The changing medieval canon

Bestsellers and masterpieces: the changing medieval canon addresses the strange fact that, in both European and Middle Eastern medieval studies, those texts that we now study and teach as the most canonical representations of their era were in fact not popular or even widely read in their day. On the other hand, those texts that were popular, as evidenced by the extant manuscript record, are taught and studied with far less frequency. The most dramatic demonstration of this disparity can be found in the surprising number of medieval texts now regarded as ‘masterpieces’ that have survived in but a single copy, an unicum manuscript. On the European side this list includes Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, The Book of Margery Kempe, the Oxford Song of Roland, Hildebrandslied and El Poema de mio Cid. On the Arabo-Mediterranean side examples include Ibn Hazm’s Ṭawq al-ḥamāma (The Neck-Ring of the Dove), Usāma ibn Munqidh’s Kitāb al-I‘tibār (Memoirs of Usama ibn Munqidh) and ‘Abd Allāh Ibn Buluggīn’s Kitab al-Tibyan (Autobiography of Ibn Buluggin), works that enjoy a canonical status in the study of Arabic literature comparable to that of the European examples cited above in the West. Bestsellers and masterpieces provides cross-cultural insight into both the literary tastes of the medieval period and the literary and political forces behind the creation of the ‘modern canon’ of medieval literature.

Embodiment, materiality and performance

Medieval literary voices explores voice as both a textual remnant and an enlivening communicative presence within medieval texts. Its impressive line-up of essays deepens our understanding of medieval literature by revealing the many ways in which textual voices, far from simply being effects of literariness, are forceful presences that evoke the elusive voices lurking behind and beyond the literary text; they capture the absent authorial voice, the traces of scribal voices and the aural soundscape of the uttered text. The volume considers medieval literary voices across a broad range of texts, from the classical and biblical heritage to post-medieval literary representations. It explores multiple dimensions of medieval voice and vocalisations, also paying attention to the interactions between literary voices and their authorial, scribal and socio-political settings, particularly late medieval English literary production. It contends that, through seeking the voice of the absent or long-gone author, the literary voices contained within the text, and the imaginary and actual voices that shape medieval texts’ receptions, we can begin to understand the ways that medieval voices mediate or proclaim an embodied selfhood or material presence, how they dictate or contest moral conventions and how they create and sustain narrative soundscapes.

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Faith, folly, and ‘The Faerie Queene’

Once a byword for Protestant sobriety and moral idealism, Spenser is now better known for his irony and elusiveness. Yet his sense of humour is still underestimated and misunderstood. Challenging the bias behind this neglect, this study shows that humour, far from being peripheral or superficial, goes to the heart of Spenser’s moral and doctrinal preoccupations. It explores rifts between The Faerie Queene’s ambitious and idealising postures and its Protestant vision of corruptible human nature. Figures to be comically ‘undone’ include the hero, the chivalric lover, the virgin, and the ideal monarch – as well as Spenser’s own epic-poet persona. Yet bathos has a positive significance in Christian theology, and Spenserian humour proves to be an expression of tolerance and faith as well as an instrument of satire. On this basis, Comic Spenser contends that the alliance of humour and allegory in The Faerie Queene affirms the value of the creative and ‘errant’ imagination.

Dan Geffrey with the New Poete

This is a much-needed volume that brings together established and early career scholars to provide new critical approaches to the relationship between Geoffrey Chaucer and Edmund Spenser. By reading one of the greatest poets of the Middle Ages alongside one of the greatest poets of the English Renaissance, this collection poses questions about poetic authority, influence and the nature of intertextual relations in a more wide-ranging manner than ever before. With its dual focus on authors from periods often conceived as radically separate, the collection also responds to current interests in periodisation. This approach will engage academics, researchers and students of medieval and early modern culture.

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Medieval Britain, medieval roads
Editors: and

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.

Thomas A. Prendergast
Stephanie Trigg

social contrast between the medieval world and the rapidly changing industrialised West was experienced as particularly acute, when the scholarly study of medieval literature was also flourishing. Older forms of medievalism in the Gothic eighteenth century might have constructed fake medieval or gothic follies, 13 and Renaissance and Restoration collectors might have treasured real survivals from the medieval past, as we will

in Affective medievalism
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The narrator in the Scottish Legendary
Eva von Contzen

, the narrating voice and the narrative of the saints go hand in hand; narratorial interruptions serve the audience in that they guide the reception process, secure understanding through explanations, or anticipate audience response in their commentary. Indebted to patterns of oral storytelling, the narrator and his narratives form a collaborative unity in which the story level relies on the narratorial comments. This, in turn, may help to explain why metanarrative is so frequent in medieval literature, but seldom singled out as an especially noteworthy narrative

in The Scottish Legendary
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Calendar time in balade form
Catherine Sanok

by the poem’s contemporary readers. It coordinates the remote past of Ursula’s martyrdom and an open-ended present-future time in which the audience is addressed and taught how to say 11,000 Pater nosters in a calendar year. Bokenham’s stanza is not alone in suggesting that literary form operates as a structure that can accommodate or place into relation different kinds of time; we can identify it as an important capability of form across a broad swath of medieval literature. Secular love lyric, for example, uses its brevity to put in close relation quotidian

in Sanctity as literature in late medieval Britain
Jo George

especially telling, as Boorman shares Jarman’s fascination with the Middle Ages and medieval literature. Indeed, with the exception of Excalibur , Boorman, like Jarman, has engaged with medieval sources in subtle, subtextual ways in films that are set in the present. For instance, Hoyle has noted that three of Boorman’s first four features contain strong parallels with the Arthurian legends. On the surface, Catch Us if You Can (1965) is a comic road movie featuring the Dave Clark Five, and Point Blank (1967) is a revenge thriller that marries the conventions of the

in British art cinema