British Literature: Medieval History, Culture, and Literature

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What are the 3 estates in the Middle Ages?
Clergy, Nobles, Commoners
What was the Clergy?
-Latin was chiefly spoken
-purpose was to save everyone’s soul
-“those who pray”
What were the nobles?
-French was chiefly spoken
-purpose was to protect
-allow all to work in peace
-provide justice
“those who fight”
What were the commoners?
-English spoken
-purpose was to feed and clothe all above them
-“those who work”
What was feudalism?
Economic system of the middle ages (800-1100)
An example of feudalism.
The lord of a manor gave his vassals land to farm. In return vassals received protection of bandits. Yet they were still taxed and had to give some of their crops to the lord.
Why was feudalism important?
Created ties of obedience and fostered a sense of loyalty between lord and vassal.
Why was the church important?
Provided guidance through well known precepts
1. Pride
2. Greed
3. Wrath
4. Envy
5. Gluttony
6. Sloth
7. Lust
How did the “High” Middle Ages begin?
First Crusade: (1095) to reclaim Jerusalem from infidels
-open trade routes
-peasants are liberated
-cities spring up from crusade routes
-feudalism dies out
-transition to Renaissance begins
What happens to the church during the crusades?
Church becomes extremely corrupt
-Popes fight for political power
-Greed is rampant
*selling of indulgences
*crusades for money
What was the Black Death?
-spread along trade routes
-killed much of population
What was the language during this time?
Latin was the language of the Roman Catholic Church, which dominated Europe
-The church was the only source of education
Why is much of medieval literature anonymous?
Medieval authors often tended to retell and embellish stories they heard or read
What are the five characteristics of medieval literature?
-romance
-christian message
-heroism
-presentations of idealized behavior
-use of kenning
What was romance?
-A narrative in prose or verse that tells of the high adventures and heroic exploits of chivalric knights
*tells of exploits of knights
*often a supernatural element involved
What was the Christian message?
-concern with salvation and the world to come
-no interest in social change
-Geffrey Chaucer and Dante Alighieri signal new thinking
What are examples of heroism?
-Beowulf
-song of Roland
What were presentations of idealized behavior?
-literature as moral lesson
*loyalty to king
*chivalry
Use of kennings?
A figurative, usually compound expression used in place of a name or noun
What is an allegory?
figurative mode of representation conveying a meaning other than the literal
What are three things in a medieval romance?
-unprovoked fighting
-during the dark ages
-has a hero
Chivalric code and courtly love
French word: chevalier
-chivalry was a system of manners
-prudence and justice
-faith, hope, charity

-woman is in complete control

What was a quest?
hero’s journey towards a goal
-hero must return with something
-hero has a tragic flaw
Categories: Medieval