Literature and Theatre

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The poet and his times

This conclusion presents some closing thoughts on the four poems discussed in this book. It indicates how often they convey a sense of urgency in the speeches, a sense of drama in the situations. Pearl is the test case. Of the four poems it is stylistically the most ornate, metrically the most complex, the one in which 'art' is most in evidence. Pearl combines a language of great expressive potential with a demanding poetic form. The language of Cleanness conveys an intense reaction against filth, in which physical and metaphysical notions of filth are inextricably mixed. The message of God's love is present in Pearl, Cleanness, and Patience too, but the poet shows no confidence that people can grasp it. With Gawain too it is possible that the public and the personal intermingle to shake his faith in chivalry and the feudal model of social order.

in Language and imagination in the Gawain-poems
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The wages of sin

Cleanness combines discussion of a religious virtue with retelling of stories from the Bible. Its three main stories are from the Old Testament, and they centre on Noah, Sodom and Gomorrah, and Belshazzar's feast. All three have a number of episodes. The overarching structure of the poem is based on the pattern of alternating passages of discussion and narrative. The discussions not only link the narratives to each other and reiterate the importance of cleanness; each also draws attention to a particular aspect of cleanness which the story it introduces highlights. Cleanness offers only an abstract discussion of penance, and a shadowy instance of it in action, showing it not as forestalling God's punishment but following it. It uses its considerable length not to develop its opening message, examine it, or move on from it, but to drive it home.

in Language and imagination in the Gawain-poems
Mandeville and the Book of Genesis

According to Mandeville's Travels, a spring in the very centre of the Garden of Paradise gives rise to four great rivers from which all the fresh water in the world ultimately comes. This chapter contextualises Mandevillian geography within the still- authoritative, though increasingly problematic, geography of scripture. Even the most intrepid of readers would thus be discouraged from setting out to find the source of any of the four rivers of Paradise, since they would be no more likely to succeed in the attempt than the author himself was. Before turning to the Bible to examine the origin of the belief in an Earthly Paradise, the chapter makes another remark about the English text of Mandeville's Travels. The Book of Genesis, with its image of the Earthly Paradise and the four rivers, is clearly a major source of inspiration for the same i.e. in the Book of Sir John Mandeville.

in A knight’s legacy
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The four poems of MS Cotton Nero A.x, Art. 3, are untitled in the manuscript, but titled by modern editors, in manuscript order Pearl, Cleanness, Patience, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The poems testify that he was cultivated, with an appreciation of the finer points of chivalric life, and also deeply religious - a cleric, no doubt, given the poet's biblical knowledge, his interest in Christian doctrine, and his understanding of sermon style. This chapter considers these poems, taking account of relevant literary and intellectual contexts where the poems signpost them, especially the Bible. Between them they see God, implicitly, in terms of the traditional opposition between his justice and his mercy, an opposition often expressed in literature by the motif of the debate of the four daughters of God, which has the personified Justice and Truth arguing for divine justice, Mercy and Peace for divine mercy.

in Language and imagination in the Gawain-poems
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This chapter presents the concepts discussed in this book, which is a collection of scholarly essays related to John Mandeville's Travels by scholars in England and France who produce a complex and sometimes contradictory view of the book as an important object of early modern attention, as well as a feature of early modern literary context. The first part of the book provides accounts of the fifteenth- and sixteenth-century travels of the Travels' variable text in its English or 'Insular' versions, along with some account of the epistemological considerations that accompanied its travel to the more pragmatic economic and colonial concerns of the Tudor and Jacobean periods. The second examines the historical discourse on the Turks and Islam in early modern England, Mandevillian geography, and the importance of medieval culture to the understanding of a European Renaissance. The last section is concerned with the invented medium of the commercial theatre.

in A knight’s legacy
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Mandeville and Mandevillian Lore in Early Modern England
Editor: Ladan Niayesh

It is surprising, at this point in the story of the rich and strange rediscovery of a text so important to French and English literary and social history, that no collection of scholarly essays related to Mandeville's Travels yet exists in English or French. This book is a collection of essays by scholars in England and France, who produce a complex and sometimes contradictory view of Mandeville's book as an important object of early modern attention, as well as a feature of early modern literary context. The chapters range in emphasis from textual and bibliographic studies of Mandeville's late medieval and early modern Nachleben to studies of 'Mandevillian ideologies', to readings of romances and especially theatrical productions, illuminated by understandings of the new life in print of the Travels and its excerpted account of the Levant. Part I of the book makes clear that there were profound changes in motives for publication, anthologisation and readerly reception of the text(s) from the time of the incunabula, through its use by explorers Columbus, Frobisher and Ralegh, to its appearance as a children's book in the Enlightenment. These changes underscore alterations of economies and geographical experience in the mostly post-medieval 'Age of Discovery'. Part II is on Mandevillian ideologies and examines the Nachleben of the Travels through a historical discourse on the Turks and Islam in early modern England, development and geography of scripture. Part III is on Mandevillian and focuses on the drama of the newly invented medium of the commercial theatre.

This book is an open-ended critical account of the Gawain-poems. The four poems of MS Cotton Nero A.x, Art. 3 are untitled in the manuscript, but titled by modern editors, in manuscript order: Pearl, Cleanness (or Purity), Patience, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The poems testify that he was cultivated, with an appreciation of the finer points of chivalric life, and also deeply religious - a cleric, no doubt, given his biblical knowledge, his interest in Christian doctrine, and his understanding of sermon style. Pearl is a religious dream-vision in which the dream is largely taken up by dialogue between the narrator or dreamer, as a figure in his dream, and a woman who is a fount of divine wisdom. Cleanness combines discussion of a religious virtue with retelling of stories from the Bible. Its three main stories are from the Old Testament, and they centre on Noah, Sodom and Gomorrah, and Belshazzar's feast. Patience is a poem that combines discussion of a moral quality with biblical narrative, in the case of Patience, one narrative only, the story of Jonah.Sir Gawain is a record of, and tribute to, the beauties and pleasures of chivalric life. Pearl, Cleanness, and Patience suggest that for the poet national events may have merged with events in his own life to challenge his faith. With Gawain too it is possible that the public and the personal intermingle to shake his faith in chivalry and the feudal model of social order.

The early years

Evidence suggests that Mandeville's Travels was written between 1351 (the date of completion of Jean Le Long's translations) and March 1357 (the date of the signing of the treaty between England and France after the battle of Poitiers). This chapter presents a summary of the evidence concerning the dissemination and readership of Mandeville's Travels in England before the appearance of Pynson's print c. 1496. Mandeville's Travels, written while hostilities still plagued the countryside, was sent to Paris, the major book-producing centre of Europe, possibly by the author anonymously very early on, and by c 1360 was part of the staple of the Parisian stationers. Three other Latin manuscripts of Travels are recorded in the book- lists of the Cluniac priory of Monks Bretton, Yorkshire, the Premonstratensian house at Titchfield, Hampshire, and the Augustinian abbey at Leicester. The chapter shows that Travels was known and read by gentry and clergy alike.

in A knight’s legacy
Texts, contexts and influence

In the search for Sir John Mandeville that occupies Giles Milton's The Riddle and the Knight (1996), Milton identifies a range of connections and differences between the 'religions of the book' (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) with the intention of indicating Christian legitimacy in opposition to misguided Islam and demonised Judaism. Regardless of the nature of Mandeville's reflections, there is no doubt that his presentation of Islam was hugely influential. Milton chooses not to refer to Mandeville's depiction of the Prophet Muhammad; this is the focus of this chapter. The chapter considers the source for a small part of The Travels. It is concerned with the uneven character of Mandeville's conception of Islam and Muhammad. The portrayal of Islam in Mandeville's Travels appears ambivalent - the emphasis upon religious common ground between Islam and Christianity does not demonise with the same polemic found in many contemporary texts.

in A knight’s legacy
Early modern travel tales

This chapter presents two main objectives: to show that texts modelled upon the Mandevillian mode were not only published and read in early modern England, and they were fascinatingly excluded from the collections of travellers' tales. Balanced against those are two perhaps equally intriguing silences: about the motivations that spurred writers as well as publishers, and about whether or not readers could make distinctions between volumes of the kind categorised as 'Mandevillian' and those based upon actual travels. While early modern tellers of tales might be excused because they could not distinguish between camel meat and beef, no such qualification can be made for those recent and current critics, because attempts at separating travels from 'travel lies' simply highlight the questionable ideological mainstays that underpin their literary and critical foundations. People should celebrate the intellectual skills of the forgers of these texts that continue to have a Mandevillian afterlife.

in A knight’s legacy