An overview and reassessment of early Middle English writing. Romance is key to Cannon’s argument. He suggests that the concept of “English literature” is the product of the rise of the romance. Of particular relevance is chapter 6 “The Spirit of Romance: King Horn, Havelock the Dane, Floris and Blanchflour.”
Krueger, Roberta L. “Marie de France.” In The Cambridge Companion to Medieval Women’s Writing. Edited by Carolyn Dinshaw and David Wallace, 172–183. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003. DOI:
Comprises ten essays on individual romances dealing with a variety of issues including gender, religion, social class, and nationality. The “Polemical Introduction” is an engaging argument for the value and interest of popular writing.
Cowen, Janet M. “The Middle English Charlemagne Romances.” In Roland and Charlemagne in Europe: Essays on the Reception and Transformation of a Legend. Edited by Karen Pratt, 148–168. London: King’s College London Center for Late Antique and Medieval Studies, 1996.
A collection of essays organized thematically. It also explores texts such as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight that are not usually considered under this heading.
, one of four works usually attributed to the same anonymous poet surviving in British Library MS, Cotton Nero A.x., is now generally acknowledged as the finest of the Middle English Arthurian romances. Yet it is, in some ways, one of the least “canonical” texts in the Middle English canon. The fact that it survives in only a single manuscript suggests that it was not all that widely circulated; and its influence on subsequent medieval literature appears to have been minimal to nonexistent. It was not until Sir Frederick Madden edited the text in 1839 that it found a wider audience, and it only became firmly established in undergraduate courses during the mid-20th century. The poet’s virtuoso command of language and his complex plotting and keen awareness of the norms and potentialities of the romance form have been much praised by modern scholars and readers. is the only Middle English romance, apart from Malory’s and Chaucer’s romances, to have found a wide readership outside the world of academia—modern translations such as that of the poet Simon Armitage have been well received.
Arthurian romance is, unsurprisingly, a particularly large field within medieval English romance studies. Shorter Middle English romances tend to follow the fortunes of an individual knight over the course of a single quest, while longer texts deal with multiple characters and cover a broader expanse of Arthurian history. Middle English Arthurian romance has a good deal in common with French treatments of the legend and several texts are translations from French originals. However, the English Arthurian tradition also displays some distinctive characteristics; for instance, the figure of Gawain looms particularly large in English texts. Gawain’s centrality is most evident in the group of popular 14th- and 15th-century verse texts generally dubbed the “Gawain romances.” These texts have particularly close associations with northern England and with Scotland. Their concerns are varied, often centering on courtly behavior or on territorial disputes. Some have a folkloric flavor, presenting formulaic challenges and encounters with magical beings. By far the most famous text focusing on Gawain is the late-14th-century alliterative poem .
Pearsall, Derek. “Madness in Sir Orfeo.” In Romance Reading on the Book: Essays on Medieval Narrative Presented to Maldwyn Mills. Edited by Jennifer Fellows, Rosalind Field, Gillian Rogers, and Judith Weiss, 51–63. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1996.
An interdisciplinary essay collection that aims to give an overview of the forms and fortunes of this hugely popular text. Guy of Warwick of was transmitted and translated across Europe and maintained its popularity well into the modern period. The majority of chapters deal with the medieval versions and their transmission.
has been edited and translated numerous times. The classic edition is still , but the challenges presented by the poet’s dialect make , with its facing-page prose translation, a more student-friendly option. has all four texts by the poet. High-quality digital images of the sole manuscript witness to the poem, including the illustrations that accompany it, have been made freely available online in .
Study of Marie was significantly advanced by the work of Glyn Burgess in the 1980s and 1990s, particularly notable is . Marie’s importance for Middle English studies is discussed in . More recent critical trends are reflected in , which focuses on the question of her authorial persona. considers her in the context of other female writers. is a helpful companion guide for students.
No part of this website, including but not limited to course titles and descriptions, may be reproduced without the express written permission of Excelsior Classes, LLC. All course development and course content is the proprietary material of the specified teacher and is under individual copyright.