Early Fiction in England: From Geoffrey of Monmouth to Chaucer

Penguin UK
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A brilliant new anthology that shows how fiction was reinvented in the twelfth century after an absence of hundreds of years. Essential for all students of medieval literature, Early Fiction in England includes extracts by Geoffrey of Monmouth, Wace, Marie de France, Chaucer and many others, in new translations and with illuminating introductions.

Before the twelfth century, fiction had completely disappeared in Europe. In this important and provocative book, Laura Ashe shows how English writers brought it back, composing new tales about King Arthur, his knights and other heroes and heroines in Latin, French and English. Why did fiction disappear, and why did it come to life again to establish itself the dominant form of literature ever since? And what do we even mean by the term 'fiction'? Gathering extracts from the most important texts of the period by Wace, Marie de France, Chaucer and others, this volume offers an absorbing and surprising introduction to the earliest fiction in England.

The anthology includes a general introduction by Laura Ashe, introductions to each extract, explanatory notes and other useful editorial materials. All French and Latin texts have been newly translated, while Middle English texts include helpful glosses.

Laura Ashe is a University Lecturer in English and Fellow of Worcester College, Oxford. Her first book Fiction and History in England, 1066-1200 (Cambridge University Press, 2007) has been followed by numerous articles and edited collections; she is now writing the newOxford English Literary History vol. 1: 1000-1350 (Oxford University Press).

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About the author

Laura Ashe is Associate Professor of English and a Fellow of Worcester College, Oxford. Her books include Fiction and History in England, 1066-1200 and the Oxford English Literary History, vol. 1: 1000-1350. Conquest and Transformation. She has also edited Early Fiction in England: From Geoffrey of Monmouth to Chaucer for Penguin Classics. The extraordinary flowering of English literature in the reign of Richard II features in much of her work.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Penguin UK
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Published on
Sep 24, 2015
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Pages
464
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ISBN
9780141392882
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
Fiction / Classics
Literary Collections / General
Literary Criticism / Ancient & Classical
Literary Criticism / European / English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh
Literary Criticism / Medieval
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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The Oxford English Literary History is the new century's definitive account of a rich and diverse literary heritage that stretches back for a millennium and more. Each of these thirteen groundbreaking volumes offers a leading scholar's considered assessment of the authors, works, cultural traditions, events, and ideas that shaped the literary voices of their age. The series will enlighten and inspire not only everyone studying, teaching, and researching in English Literature, but all serious readers. This book describes and seeks to explain the vast cultural, literary, social, and political transformations which characterized the period 1000-1350. Change can be perceived everywhere at this time. Theology saw the focus shift from God the Father to the suffering Christ, while religious experience became ever more highly charged with emotional affectivity and physical devotion. A new philosophy of interiority turned attention inward, to the exploration of self, and the practice of confession expressed that interior reality with unprecedented importance. The old understanding of penitence as a whole and unrepeatable event, a second baptism, was replaced by a new allowance for repeated repentance and penance, and the possibility of continued purgation of sins after death. The concept of love moved centre stage: in Christ's love as a new explanation for the Passion; in the love of God as the only means of governing the self; and in the appearance of narrative fiction, where heterosexual love was suddenly represented as the goal of secular life. In this mode of writing further emerged the figure of the individual, a unique protagonist bound in social and ethical relation with others; from this came a profound recalibration of moral agency, with reference not only to God but to society. More generally, the social and ethical status of secular lives was drastically elevated by the creation and celebration of courtly and chivalric ideals. In England the ideal of kingship was forged and reforged over these centuries, in intimate relation with native ideals of counsel and consent, bound by the law. In the aftermath of Magna Carta, and as parliament grew in reach and importance, a politics of the public sphere emerged, with a literature to match. These vast transformations have long been observed and documented in their separate fields. The Oxford English Literary History: Volume 1: 1000-1350: Conquest and Transformation offers an account of these changes by which they are all connected, and explicable in terms of one another.
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