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EN5611 Literature of Medieval London

Instructor: Dr Alastair Bennett Department of English
Half unit, Term 1.
To be taught at Royal Holloway, Egham, on Wednesdays 3-5pm

The course invites students to read and discuss a wide range of late medieval texts in relation to the city of London.  It interrogates the way that London, its inhabitants and its institutions are represented in medieval literature, from the court at Westminster to the pulpit at St Paul’s, the ‘lewed ermytes’ of Cornhill and the inns of Southwark.  It considers London as a site of literary composition, home to poets including Langland, Gower and Chaucer, and as a locus of textual production, where many important literary manuscripts were copied and circulated.  And it also offers opportunities to think about other medieval cities, real and imagined, in their relation to London.  How and why did medieval writers imagine London as a ‘new Troy’, and how did the realities of this earthly city inform their thinking about the heavenly city, New Jerusalem?  The reading for this course includes some of the very best late medieval literature and a number of rich and interesting lesser-known texts.  Students will read selections from Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde and The Canterbury Tales, Langland’s Piers Plowman, Gower’s Vox Clamantis and Confessio Amantis, Hoccleve’s Complaint and Dialogue and Lydgate’s Siege of Thebes, amongst others.  We will read Middle English texts in glossed editions, and Latin texts in modern English translations.

Introductory Reading:

Barron, Caroline, London in the Later Middle Ages: Government and People, 1200-1500 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004)

Hanna, Ralph, London Literature, 1300-1380  (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005)

Hsy, Jonathan, ‘City’, in  A Handbook of Middle English Studies , ed. by Marion Turner (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013), pp. 315-29 

Lindenbaum, Sheila, ‘London texts and Literate Practice’, in  The Cambridge History of Medieval English Literature , ed. by David Wallace (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), pp. 284-309 

Mooney, Linne R, and Estelle Stubbs,  Scribes and the City: London Guildhall Clerks and the Dissemination of Middle English Literature, 1375-1425

 (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2013) 

Turner, Marion,  Chaucerian Conflict: Languages of Antagonism in Late Fourteenth-century London  (Oxford: Clarendon, 2007)


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