About This Chapter
Literature of the Middle Ages - Chapter Summary
Literature from the Middle Ages was written in English, but the language was spoken differently than today. Fortunately, this chapter can help you learn how to read this tricky text. Top instructors provide brief overviews of The Knight's Tale, The Miller's Tale, Beowulf and other literary works, while also exploring their characters, forms of English and more. Review this chapter at your leisure from your computer, smartphone or tablet. Once completed, you will have a good grasp of the following:
- Historical context of medieval literature
- Legacy of Beowulf
- Life and work of Chaucer
- General Prologue and stories within The Canterbury Tales
- Definition of a chivalric romance
- Growth of literature and Dante's Divine Comedy
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 The 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. Dante's Divine Comedy and the Growth of Literature in the Middle Ages
Dante Alighieri was a poet and philosopher from Florence during a time of political unrest. This article explores one of his most well-known poems and its impact on literature and Italian society.
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Other chapters within the Humanities 101: Intro to the Humanities course
- Literary Analysis and Movements
- Humanities in the Ancient World
- Oral Tradition
- Humanities in Rome and Late Antiquity (250 CE-550 CE)
- The Medieval Period in Music
- Art and Architecture of the Middle Ages
- Literature of the Renaissance
- Renaissance Music
- Art & Architecture of the Renaissance & Reformation
- Literature of the Enlightenment
- The Baroque Era in Music
- The Classical Era in Music
- The Romantic Period in Literature
- The Romantic Era in Music
- Literature of the Victorian Era
- Modern Thought and Expression (1800-Present)
- Literary Modernism in the 19th & 20th Centuries
- Modern Music
- World Music
- Prominent American Novelists
- Studying for Humanities 101