Medieval Literature
Dr. Debora B. Schwartz
English Department, California Polytechnic State University

Context:  W. F. Bolton, "The Conditions of Literary Composition in Medieval England." 

This reading is from The Middle Ages, vol. 1 of The Penguin History of Literature, ed. W. F. Bolton, pp. 1-27.  It is available as a .PDF file that has been placed on e-reserve through the Library Resources section of the Blackboard site for this class.  PRINT OUT THE .PDF FILE and place it in your course binder.  BRING HARD COPY OF READINGS WITH YOU TO CLASS.

Read carefully, paying particular attention to pp. xi-xvii on "The Medieval Book" and "Authorship, Anonymity and Audience."  Be sure that you understand the differences between a medieval manuscript and a printed book and can explain why manuscripts were luxury items.  Who (what class of society) was the guardian of written culture during the Middle Ages?  (Who was literate? taught reading and writing? decided which texts would be written down? copied texts and preserved them in libraries?)  Note that many medieval works are by unknown authors (particularly those in vernacular languages, the "mother tongues" spoken in everyday life, rather than in Latin, the language of written culture).  What can you deduce about medieval attitudes toward literature from this fact?

Contents of this and linked pages Copyright Debora B. Schwartz, 1999-2007

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