About This Chapter
It's fairly difficult to understand the style of Middle English and it's pretty much near impossible to decipher the language of Old English. But fear not! Our engaging video lessons cover the works, genres and styles of Old and Middle English literature. Tune in and approach these English literature subjects with ease!
Starting off, you'll be introduced to 'Beowulf,' one of the oldest epic poems of Old English. You'll study the plot of the work, become familiar with its alliterative language and come to understand its historical significance to English literature.
Next, you'll get an overview of one of the fathers of modern literature, Geoffrey Chaucer. Highly accomplished and famous during his lifetime in the Middle Ages, Chaucer was one of the first writers to write in the 'vernacular,' a writing style that moved away from traditional Old English and was written in a manner closer to the way people spoke. Don't worry about not being able to understand Middle English though; we offer several tips on how to interpret and make sense of the language style.
Among Chaucer's most famous works is 'The Canterbury Tales,' consisting of many stories told by a group of pilgrims. While covering 'The Canterbury Tales,' you'll not only study the plots and characters, but you'll also see how Chaucer used frame narrative, which essentially means that there are several stories told within a story.
Next, you'll study the different story types common during the literature of Middle English. 'The Knight's Tale' (not to be confused with the movie) will familiarize you with the chivalric romance genre. You'll encounter a raunchy comedy in the form of a fabliau during your study of 'The Miller's Tale.' Finally, 'The Nun's Priest Tale' will expose you to the talking-animal genre ('beast fable') that is still popular today; you'll become familiar with the characters of Chaunticleer and Pertelote and see how these animal characters are anthropomorphized, displaying human characteristics. Get ready to explore the fascinating world of Old and English literature!
1. Introduction to Medieval Literature: Old English, Middle English, and Historical Context
We'll go over some quick medieval history to situate some of the major literary works of the time period. We're going from Caedmon and Beowulf, writing in Old English, all the way up to Sir Thomas Malory's collections of the Arthur myths in late Middle English.
2. Beowulf: Story, Characters, and Old English
In this lesson, we'll take a look at the Old English epic, Beowulf. We'll explore what happens, how it's written and why it has such a lasting legacy.
3. Introduction to Chaucer: Middle English and the Canterbury Tales
In this lesson, we'll introduce medieval writer Geoffrey Chaucer. We'll take a look at his life, his most famous works, including 'The Canterbury Tales,' and we'll spend some time learning how to read Middle English.
4. The Canterbury Tales General Prologue: Style, Structure, and Characters
In this lesson, we'll go over the General Prologue to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. We'll take a look at some of the most interesting pilgrims and establish the frame narrative for the rest of the work.
5. The Knight's Tale and the Wife of Bath's Tale: Two Approaches to Chivalric Romance
In this lesson, we'll outline some of the key features of the medieval genre of chivalric romance. Then we'll talk about two very different tales that are examples of this genre: The Knight's Tale and the Wife of Bath's Tale.
6. The Miller's Tale: Chaucer's Fabulous Fabliau
In this lesson we'll talk about the medieval genre of fabliau, which is full of wonderfully low-brow humor. We'll also discuss the plot of the Miller's Tale, a fabliau about a carpenter and his straying wife.
7. The Nun's Priest's Tale: The Beast Fable of the Canterbury Tales
In this lesson, we'll go over the medieval beast fable genre and take a look at the Nun's Priest's Tale, one of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales that is illustrative of the genre.
8. The Prioress's Tale and the Pardoner's Tale: Chaucer's Two Religious Fables
In this lesson, we'll take a look at The Prioress's Tale and The Pardoner's Tale to get a better sense of the types of tales told by religious members of the pilgrimage party.
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Other chapters within the English 101: English Literature course
- Introduction to English Literature
- Literary Terms and Analysis
- The Renaissance in English Literature
- 17th and 18th Century English Literature
- Romantic Prose in English Literature
- Romantic Poetry in English Literature
- Victorian Literature
- Turn-of-the-Century Literature
- Modernism in English Literature
- Nonfiction in English Literature
- Analyzing English Literature
- Studying for English 101