C HAPT ER
2 Middle English Literature:
The new writing
Handwriting and printing The impact of French Scribal practice Dialect and language change Literary consciousness New fashions: French and Latin Epic and romance Courtly literature Medieval institutions Authority Lyrics English prose
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Literature in England in this period was not just in English and Latin but in French as well, and developed in directions set largely in France. Epic and elegy gave way to Romance and lyric. English writing revived fully in English after 1360, and ﬂowered in the reign of Richard II (1372–99). It gained a literary standard in London English after 1425, and developed modern forms of verse, of prose and of drama.
The fourteenth century
Spiritual writing Julian of Norwich Secular prose Ricardian poetry Piers Plowman Sir Gawain and the Green Knight John Gower Geoffrey Chaucer The Parlement of Fowls Troilus and Criseyde The Canterbury Tales
The new writing
Handwriting and printing
Medieval writing was done by hand. For the scribes, the period began and ended with the unwelcome arrivals of two conquerors: Normans in 1066, and the printing press in 1476. English literature survived the ﬁrst conquest with difﬁculty. The record is patchy, but the few surviving manuscripts show that it was some generations before native literature recovered. Three centuries after 1066 it recovered completely, flowering in different dialects under Richard II. One generation later, London English offered a more stable literary medium. Historians of English and of England agree that a period ends with the 15th century. When the ﬁrst printed English book appeared in 1476, the phase of Middle English (ME) was virtually over: the language had assumed its modern form, except in spelling. Soon afterwards, the Wars of the Roses, a long dynastic struggle...