A Companion to Medieval Poetry
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ACompanion to Medieval Poetry presents a series of original essays from leading literary scholars that explore English poetry from the Anglo-Saxon period up to the 15th century.
  • Organised into three parts to echo the chronological and stylistic divisions between the Anglo-Saxon, Middle English and Post-Chaucerian periods, each section is introduced with contextual essays, providing a valuable introduction to the society and culture of the time
  • Combines a general discussion of genres of medieval poetry, with specific consideration of texts and authors, including Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Chaucer, Gower and Langland
  • Features original essays by eminent scholars, including Andy Orchard, Carl Schmidt, Douglas Gray, and Barry Windeatt,  who present a range of theoretical, historical, and cultural approaches to reading medieval poetry, as well as offering close analysis of individual texts and traditions


Corinne Saunders is Professor in the Department of English Studies and Director of the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at the University of Durham. A specialist in medieval literature and the history of ideas, her recent publications include Rape and Ravishment in the Literature of Medieval England (2001), A Companion to Romance (Wiley-Blackwell, 2004), Madness and Creativity in Literature and Culture (co-edited with Jane Macnaughton, 2005), Pearl (co-edited with David Fuller, 2005), A Concise Companion to Chaucer (Wiley-Blackwell, 2006), The Body and the Arts (co-edited with Ulrika Maude and Jane Macnaughton, 2009), and Magic and the Supernatural in Medieval English Romance (2010). She is the English editor of the international journal of Medieval Studies, Medium Ævum.


List of Figures x

Notes on Contributors xi

Acknowledgements xvi

Introduction 1
Corinne Saunders

Part I Old English Poetry 11

Contexts 13

1 The World of Anglo-Saxon England 15
Andy Orchard

2 The Old English Language and the Alliterative Tradition 34
Richard Dance

3 Old English Manuscripts and Readers 51
Rohini Jayatilaka

4 Old English and Latin Poetic Traditions 65
Andy Orchard

Genres and Modes 83

5 Germanic Legend and Old English Heroic Poetry 85
Hugh Magennis

6 Old English Biblical and Devotional Poetry 101
Daniel Anlezark

7 Old English Wisdom Poetry 125
David Ashurst

8 Old English Epic Poetry: Beowulf 141
Daniel Anlezark

Part II Middle English Poetry 161

Contexts 163

9 The World of Medieval England: From the Norman Conquest to the Fourteenth Century 165
Conor McCarthy

10 Middle English Language and Poetry 181
Simon Horobin

11 Middle English Manuscripts and Readers 196
Ralph Hanna

Genres and Modes 217

12 Legendary History and Chronicle: La3amon’s Brut and the Chronicle Tradition 219
Lucy Perry

13 Medieval Debate-Poetry and The Owl and the Nightingale 237
Neil Cartlidge

14 Lyrics, Sacred and Secular 258
David Fuller

15 Macaronic Poetry 277
Elizabeth Archibald

16 Popular Romance 289
Nancy Mason Bradbury

17 Arthurian and Courtly Romance 308
Rosalind Field

18 Alliterative Poetry: Religion and Morality 329
John Scattergood

19 Alliterative Poetry and Politics 349
John Scattergood

Poets and Poems 367

20 The Poet of Pearl, Cleanness and Patience 369
A. V. C. Schmidt

21 Sir Gawain and the Green Knight 385
Tony Davenport

22 Langland’s Piers Plowman 401
Lawrence Warner

23 Chaucer’s Love Visions 414
Helen Phillips

24 Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde 435
Alcuin Blamires

25 Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales 452
Corinne Saunders

26 The Poetry of John Gower 476
R. F. Yeager

Part III Post-Chaucerian and Fifteenth-Century Poetry 497

Contexts 499

27 England in the Long Fifteenth Century 501
Matthew Woodcock

28 Poetic Language in the Fifteenth Century 520
A. S. G. Edwards

29 Manuscript and Print: Books, Readers and Writers 538
Julia Boffey

Poets and Poems 555

30 Hoccleve and Lydgate 557
Daniel Wakelin

31 Women and Writing 575
C. Annette Grisé

32 Medieval Scottish Poetry 592
Douglas Gray

33 Courtiers and Courtly Poetry 608
Barry Windeatt

34 Drama: Sacred and Secular 626
Pamela King

Epilogue: Afterlives of Medieval English Poetry 647
Corinne Saunders

Index 661


“It is impossible within the confines of a review article to do justice to every – or, indeed, to any – chapter in this well-thought-out book. As a ‘companion’, it is to be revisited with enjoyment for its many new insights on familiar and well-loved material and its confident handling of new approaches to the study of medieval English poetry.”  (Parergon, 2012)

"This is, however, a minor quibble; the essays in this book provide very useful introductions to the subjects they cover, and seem well placed to become standard basic reference works on medieval English poetry". (Medium Aevum, 2011)

"This Blackwell Companion to Medieval Poetry is a very fine resource for students and teachers alike. It is particularly commendable for its wide scope, ranging from the earliest Old English texts to the poetry of late-medieval England (post-Chaucerian), as well as for its clear attention both to wider context, and to genre, modes and authors, and occasionally to individual texts, such as Chaucer's love visions, Troilus, or The Canterbury Tales (each of which receives its own chapter)." (Routledge ABES, 2011)