Lecture 2 English Literature of Early and the Middle Ages
Nancy Wang Sep. 9, 2013
The Anglo-Saxon Period ?Epic and Beowulf ? II. The Anglo-Norman Period ? ?Romance and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight ? III. Geoffrey Chaucer ? ?The Canterbury Tales
The Anglo-Saxon Period (449—1066)
About the history(449-1066). ? 1. Ruler: Teutonic tribes ? 2. Society: primitive tribal society ? 3. Country's name: ? Angle-land→England ? 4. Language: Anglo-Saxon or Saxon?Old English
pagan/heathen Literature: ? oral sagas ? 2. Christian Literature: ? writings of monks
Greatest works: ? The Song of Beowulf
C. Beowulf: England's national epic
1. Literary term: epic ? Epics are long narrative poems that record the adventures of the hero whose exploits are important to the history of a nation. Typically they chronicle the origins of a civilization and embody its central beliefs and values. The style of epic is grand, formal, complex and serious. e.g. Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. The action is simple, but full of magnificence.
2. the Song of Beowulf
unknown scribe ? time: the early 10th century ? discovered: until 1705 ? story setting: early 6th century ? length: 3182 lines ? type: Pagan or Christian?
3. Characters & Place
King of the Danes ? Heorot—a magnificent mead hall ? Grendel—a half-human monster ? Beowulf—a prince of the Geats ? Grendel’s mother ? Moor/Mere ? Fire-breathing dragon
fight against Grendel ? (2) fight against ? Grendel’s mother ? (3) fight against the fire-breathing dragon ? (4) Beowulf’s death and funeral
5. Writing Features
a pagan poem, advanced pagan civilization, tribal society, first national epic, but not about England; ? 2. the use of alliteration, metaphors and understatements. ? e.g. The sea?the whale-road, the swan-road ? the soldiers? the shield-men ? the human body?the bone-house ? the monster?soul-destroyer
II. The Anglo-Norman Period (1066—1350)
Historical Background ? 1. the Norman Conquest: The Duke of Normandy defeated the Anglo-Saxons at the battle of Hastings in the year 1066, and William was crowned as the King of England. ? 2. Norman Conquest marks the establishment of Feudalism in England.
B. The influences of Norman Conquest
Politically, feudal system was established in England. ? 2. Religiously, Catholic Church had a stronger control over the country. ? 3. Languages: Great changes: ? the Normans ?French ? scholars and clergyman ?Latin ? native lower class ? English
Literature: which language? ? The Norman lords spoke French, while their English subjects retained their old tongue. For a long time the scholar wrote in Latin and the courtier in French. There were almost no written literature in English for a time. Chronicles and religious poems were in Latin. Romances, the prominent kind of literature in the Anglo-Norman Period, were at first all in French.
influence on customs: ? After the conquest, the body of customs and ideals known as chivalry was introduced by the Normans into England. The knightly code, the romantic interest in women, tenderness and reverence paid to Virgin Mary were reflected in the literature.
C. Prevailing literary formRomance
1. Romance (中世纪传奇): a long composition, sometimes in verse and sometimes in prose, which described the life and adventures of a noble hero, usu. a knight. ? Essential features: ? 1) It lacks general resemblance to truth or reality. ? 2) It exaggerates the vices of human nature and idealizes the virtues. ? 3) It contains perilous adventures more or less remote from ordinary life. ? 4) It lays emphasis on the supreme devotion to a fair lady.
2. The Romance Cycles
Matters of Britain? adventures of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. ? (2) Matters of France? emperor Charlemagne and his peers. ? (3) Matters of Greece and Rome? Alexander the Great and some classical heroes.
3. Knight and Chivalry
central character of romances was the knight, a man of noble birth skilled in the use of weapons. He was commonly described as riding forth to seek adventures, taking part in tournaments, or fighting for his lord in battle. He was devoted to the church and the king. The code of manners and morals of a knight is known as chivalry.
8 knightly virtues
(a) humility ? (b) honor ? (c) sacrifice ? (d) valor ? (e) compassion ? (f) spirituality ? (g) honesty ? (h) justice
4. Arthurian Romances
the most important to English Literature
its origin in Celtic legends
Gawain and the Green Knight” ? its culmination (metrical romance)
D. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight《高文爵士和绿衣骑士》
The story: 4 cantos (1) feast in the palace (2) journey for the green chapel (3) test in the castle (4) blow in the chapel
(1) Feast in the palace
Setting: New Year’s day / Camelot ? Characters: Arthur, his knights, the Green knight ? Challenger: the Green Knight ? The challenged: the bravest knight at feast ? The challenge: the Green Knight will expose his neck to a blow of his own big battle-ax if any knight will agree to abide (忍受) a blow in return ? Result: Gawain accepted the challenge, cut down the Green Knight’s head, and the Green Knight warned Gawain to be faithful to his promise.
(2) Journey for the green chapel
long journey through the wilderness on his steed; ? 2) adventures with storm and cold, beast and animals; ? 3) pray on Christmas eve: “Mary, mildest mother so dear.” ? 4) sight of a great castle ? 5) who are in the castle? ? ?An aged hero and his beautiful wife
(3) Test in the castle
the compact between the host and Sir Gawain: each man shall give the other whatever good thing attained during the day. ? 2) What did the young wife do to Gawain? ? 3) What happened on the third day? ? 4) What did the host and Gawain do in the evening?
(4) Blow in the chapel
Gawain’s being repeatedly warned ? 2) Where was the chapel and what did Gawain hear when he approached it? ? 3) What did Gawain do then? ? 4) What did the Green Knight explain to his action? ? 5) What was Gawain’s response when he knew the truth? ? 6) What is the ending of the story?
romances we see the epitome of the English society in the medieval period. The romances, as a literary genre, prospered for about 300 years(1200-1500). It was written for the upper class, so it had little to do with the common people.
2) Summary of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
? ? ? ?
(1) the culmination of the Arthurian romances. (2) theme? ? a series of tests on faith, courage, purity and human weakness for self-preservation. (3) moral lesson? ? By placing self-protection before honor, Gawain has sinned and fallen and become an image of Adam. Human excellence (美德) is marked by original sin, and the green girdle itself remains a perpetual reminder of his weakness.
III. Chaucer & the Canterbury Tales
Geoffrey Chaucer(1343—1400) ? the father of English poetry ? the father of English fiction ? The 14th century: the age of ~~
B. 3 periods of his writing career
the 1st: youth and early manhood ? ?the period of French influence ? ?Translations from French ? e.g. The Romaunt of the Rose ? b. the 2nd: Italian influence ? ? adaptations from Italian writers ? e.g. Troilus and Crisede
c. The 3rd Period: the English period
last 15 years ? The richest period ? The Canterbury Tales ? ?a picture of English society in the Middle Ages
C. The Canterbury Tales
an April day, a group of English pilgrims meet outside the Tabard Inn and are joined by the innkeeper, just outside London.
set out on a
pilgrimage from London to Canterbury to pay their respects to the tomb of Saint Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral.
group is described in detail, with
characters from all classes, upper and lower, represented.
characters, such as a prioress,
monk and a Pardoner, travel alongside a
shipman, miller, carpenter, reeve(城镇长官),
squire(乡绅), yeoman(自耕农) and a knight,
Bailly, the innkeeper,
suggests that as a game
they all tell stories to each
other along the way.
pilgrims agree to
tell four stories each, two on the way to Canterbury, and two
on the way back.
person who tells the best story, as
judged by the host, will have his supper paid for by the rest of the group.
with the knight, each
person telling a story
that reflects their
social position, and
some telling stories
which are intended to
make fun of others in
winner is chosen by
the host in the end, and
not all of the pilgrims
have told their tales by
the time the story ends.
2. Social significance of the Canterbury Tales
It draws a true-to-life picture of English feudal society of Chaucer’s day. ? Taking the stand of the rising bourgeoisie, Chaucer affirms man’s right to pursue happiness and opposes the dogma of asceticism preached by the Church. ? As one of the forerunners of humanism, he praises man’s energy, intellect, quick wit and love of life. His tales expose and satirize the social evils of his day. They criticize the degeneration of the noble, the heartlessness of the judge, and the corruption of the church.
D. Chaucer’s Contribution
1. Forerunner of Humanism ? He praised man’s energy, intellect, quick wit and love of life. ? 2.The first realistic writer ? His tales expose and satirize the evils of the time. ? 3. Father of English poetry. ? He introduced from Italy and France the rhymed stanza of various types, especially heroic couplet to English poetry, instead of the old Anglo-Saxon alliterative verse.
Literary term: heroic couplet
pair of rhymed lines of iambic pentameter. The form was introduced into English by Chaucer, and widely used subsequently, reaching a height of popularity and sophistication in the works of Dryden and Pope. ? e.g. The Canterbury Tales on p.2
4. Master of the English language ? He was the first great poet who wrote in English language (Middle English), thus establishing English as the literary language. ?He did much in making the London dialect the foundation for modern English language.
Unit 2(p. 7-16)
topic: ? William Shakespeare & Hamlet
What are the possible reasons for Hamlet’s hesitation in taking revenge?