Unit 43 Orality in Medieval Literature: The

August 10, 2018 | Author: pakiski | Category: King Arthur, Geoffrey Chaucer, Anglo Saxons, The Canterbury Tales, Medieval Literature
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UNIT 43 ORALITY IN MEDIEVAL LITERATURE: THE ARTHURIAN LEGEND. GEOFFREY CHAUCER: THE CANTERBURY TALES. OUTLINE 1. INTRODUCTION. 1.1. Aims of the unit. 1.2. Notes on bibliography. 2. A HISTORICAL BACKGROUND FOR THE MIDDLE ENGLISH PERIOD: ORAL TRADITION IN OLD ENGLISH LITERATURE. LITERATURE. 2.1. Earlier times: religious sources and oral tradition. 2.2. Main Old English works. 2.2.1. Britain, Britannia, England. 2.2.2. Christian literature literature in Anglo-Saxon England. 2.2.3. Beowulf, elegies and battle poetry. 3. MEDIEVAL LITERATURE: FROM THE ARTHURIAN LEGEND TO THE CANTERBURY TALES. 3.1. The eleventh century: century: epic and elegy. 3.2. The twelfth century: romance and lyric. 3.2.1. Geoffrey Monmouth and the Arthurian Arthurian legend. 3.2.2. Courtly literature. 3.3. The thirteenth century: lyrics and prose. 3.3.1. Historical background. 3.3.2. Medieval institutions institutions and authorit y. 3.3.3. Lyrics and English prose. 3.4. The fourteenth century. 3.4.1. Historical background. 3.4.2. Spiritual writing vs. secular prose. 3.4.3. Ricardian poetry. 3.4.4. Geoffrey Chaucer (c.1343-1400). Life. Works. The Canterbury Tales (1388-1400). 3.5. The fifteenth century. 3.5.1. Historical background. 3.5.2. Literary works.




1.1. Aims of the unit.

The present unit, Unit 43 , aims to provide a detailed account of the relevance of  orality in medieval literature so as to link this oral tradition with the two highest literary productions in Middle

English, that is, the Arthurian legend  and Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales . In order to analyse analyse these the se two literary works (among others), we shall sh all present presen t the social, historic h istorical, al, cultural and an d linguistic background of the British Isles during the Middle English period (1066-1500). Then, we will start by offering the most relevant bibliography in this field as a reference for the reader, and by presenting our study study in five main chapters, which will set up the context con text for the analysis of these two literary productions within four centuries.

Chapter 2 introduces a historical background for the Middle English period, namely by reviewing

the relevance of oral tradition in Old English Literature so as to know to which extent this orality influenced the development of English literature in the following years (1066-1500). So, we shall start by approaching (1) earlier times regarding religious religiou s sources and oral tradition; and (2) main Old English works that took place in (a) Britain (under the influence of Celtic people), Britannia (under the rule of the Roman Empire) and England (Anglo-Saxon England); (b) Christian literature in Anglo-Saxon England and (c) Beowulf, elegies and battle poetry as works which represent the end of the Old English period.

Chapter 3 shall analyse medieval literature from the Arthurian legend to The Canterbury Tales by

analysing the main events and literary works in first, (1) the eleventh century which is characterized by epic and elegy; (2) the twelfth century, which is characterized by romance and lyric, and where we examine more closely (a) the relationship between Geoffrey Monmouth and the Arthurian legend and (b) courtly literature; (3) the thirteenth century, namely characterized by lyrics and prose, is set up in context through (a) a historical background, (b) medieval institutions and authority in that period, and (c) English lyrics and prose; (4) the fourteenth century is approached first by (a) a historical background, (b) spiritual writing vs. secular prose, (c) the main characteristics of Ricardian poetry, and (d) the figure of Geoffrey Chaucer, regarding (i) his life and career, (ii) main works and (iii) his masterpiece, The Canterbury Tales ; finall finally y , we shall briefly review (5) the fifteenth century, regarding its (a) main events and (b) literary works.


Chapter 4 will be devoted to the main educational implications in language teaching regarding the

introduction of this issue in the classroom classroom settin g. Chapter 5 will offer a conclusion to broadly overview our present study, and Chapter 6 will include all the bibliographical references used to develop this account of discourse analysis strategies.

1.2. Notes on bibliography.

An influential introduction to the historical background of the Middle English period regarding the oral tradition in Old English literature literature is based on relevant works works of Baugh & Cable, Cable,  A History of  the English Language (1993); Asimov,   La formación de Inglaterra (1990); Crystal,  Linguistics

(1985); Asimov,   La formación de Inglaterra (1990); Crystal,  Linguistics (1985); and the contributions of Goytisolo on the oral tradition of languages, in his Proclamation of Masterpieces of  the Oral and Intangible heritage of Humanity (2001).

Classic works on medieval literature, particularly from the Arthurian legend to The Canterbury Tales , include Rogers, The Oxford Illustrated History of English Literature (1987); Cooper, The Canterbury Tales. (1989); Sanders, The Short Oxford History of English Literature (1996); and

Alexander, A History of English Literature (2000).

The background for educational implications is based on the theory of communicative competence and communicative approaches to language teaching are provided by Canale, From Communicative Competence to Communicative Language Pedagogy (1983); Hymes, On communicative competence (1972); Tricia Hedge, Teaching and Learning in the Language Classroom (2000); and

Rivers, Teaching Foreign-Language Foreign-Language Skills (1981). In addition, the most complete record of current publications within the educational framework is provided by the guidelines in B.O.E. (2002); and the Council of Europe,  Modern Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment. A Common European Framework of reference (1998).



Chapter 2 introduces a historical background for the Middle English period, namely by reviewing

the relevance of oral tradition in Old English Literature so as to know to which extent this orality influenced the development of English literature in the following years (1066-1500). So, we shall start by approaching (1) earlier times regarding religious sources and oral tradition; and (2) earlier works that took place in (a) Britain (under the influence of Celtic people), Britannia (under the rule of the Roman Empire) and England (Anglo-Saxon England); (b) Christian Christian literature literature in Anglo -Saxon England and (c) Beowulf, elegies and battle poetry as works which represent the end of the Old English period.

2.1. Earlier times: religious sources and oral tradition.

We may say that literature holds timeless universal human truths which can be read or listened to without regard to historical context of its production, and without regard to particular historical moment in which we read, listen and make meaning of it. For Malinowsky, a relevant anthropology figure, language had only two main purposes: pragmatic and ritual. The former refers to the practical use of language, either active (by means of speech) or narrative (by means of written texts) and the latter is concerned with the use of language associated to ceremonies, and also referred to as magic. As seen, we can already mark a distinction here between ordinary and literary language since both had different purposes.

As we may perceive, language pervades social life since it is the principal vehicle for the transmission of cultural knowledge, and the primary means by which we gain access to the contents of others’ minds. Hence language is involved in most of the phenomena that lie at the core of social psychology (i.e. attitude change, social perception, personal identity, social interaction, stereotyping) stereotyp ing) as well as at the t he core of social socia l life which constitute con stitute an intrinsic i ntrinsic part part or the way language is used. How people define the social situation, their perceptions perceptions of what others know, think and believe, and the claims they make about their own and others’ identities will affect the form and content or their acts of speaking. So, this means that social behaviour determines the way they use language.


As Juan Goytisolo (2001) stated in his speech at the Proclamation Proclamation of Masterpieces Masterpieces of the Oral and   Intangible heritage of Humanity, we must first examine our historical knowledge of both oral and

written cultures so as to provide ourselves a cultural identity in society. Since ancient times, tribal chiefs, chamans, bards and story-tellers have been in charge of preserving and memorising for the future the narratives of the past and Goytisolo mentions a growing disequilibrium when observing that only seventy-eight of the three thousand languages now spoken in the world possess a living literature based on one of the hundred and six alphabets created throughout history. In other words, hundreds and hundreds of languages used today on our planet have no written form and their communication is exclusively oral.

Goytisolo further points out that acquiring knowledge of this primary orality is an anthropological task in the field of literature and oral narrative. If all cultures are based on language, that is, a combination of spoken and heard sounds, this oral communication which involves numerous kinetic and corporal elements, has undergone over the centuries a series of changes as the existence of  writing and awareness of the latter have gradually changed the mentality of bards, chamans, tribal chiefs and narrators.The narrators.The usual forms of popular and traditional expression were oral literature, music, dance , games, mythology, rituals, marketpla ces, festivals and even architecture.

2.2. Main Old English works.

2.2.1. Britain, Britannia, England.

Then when examining earlier works that took place in Britain Britain (under the influence of Celtic Celtic peopl peoplee ), Britannia (under the rule of the Roman Empire) Empi re) and and England (Anglo-Saxon (Anglo -Saxon England), Engl and), we realise that literature is written language since human settlement preceded recorded history by some millennia, and Old English works (namely epic epic and lyric lyric)) prece p reced ded writing by some generations.

Thus, the earlier inhabitants inhabitants of the island, the Celts (also known kno wn as Britons) passed on no written literacy to their conquerors since they had an oral literary tradition; later on, the Romans brought about to the island the art of writing through their historical literary accounts, for instance, Tacitus’s Germania (AD 98) or St Jerome’s vulgate edition of the Bible (AD 384). Later on, the Germanic

tribes (the Angles, the Saxons and the Jutes) were illiterate so their orally-composed verses were not written unless they formed part of runic inscriptions. When the Roman empire faded, the Saxons


did not have to exchange their Germanic tongue for Latin although Latin was the language of those who taught them to read and write. write. So, the English learned learned to write only after they had been converted to Christ (the process of Christianization) by missionaries sent from Rome in AD 597.

In fact, there is no evidence of Old English writing that is not Christian, since the only literates were clerics. Linguistically and historically, the English poems composed by Caedmon after 670 and Bede Bed e (AD 676-735) 676-735) are the earliest we know of. Hence, Hen ce, oral oral poetry (epic) was w as an art which had evolved over generations and was considered to be an art of memorable speech. It dealt with a set of  heroic and narrative themes in a common metrical form, and had evolved to a point where its audience appreciated a richly varied style and storytelling technique (Alexander, 2000).

Just as the orally-composed poetry of the Anglo-Saxons was an established art, the Roman missionaires were highly literate. Bede’s work makes it clear that the evangelists sent by Pope Gregory in AD 597 to bring the gospel to the Angles were an élite group, for instance, St Augustine and his most influential successor, the Syrian Greek Theodore of of Tarus (Archbishop of Canterbury, 669-90). According to Alexander (2000), this hybrid culture found literary expression in an unmixed language, in which the English took few words from the languages of Roman Britain (except for Celtic names of rivers and the Roman words ‘wall’ and ‘street’).

2.2.2. Christian literature in Anglo-Saxon England.

Christian literature in Anglo-Saxon England is represented by different types of literary productions, such as verse paraphrases of Old Testament stories (Caedmon’s Genesis and  Exodus,  Daniel and  Judith , 657-80), lives of saints (Andrew or Helena), historical lives of contemporaries

(St Guthlac, Cuthbert of Lindisfarne), sermons, wisdom literature or, finally, doctrinal, penitential and devotional works, such as The Dream of the Rood , a substantial English verse carved in c. 700 in the Vercelli Book found in Northumbria.

Yet, the figure of Alfred, the fourth son of the King of Wessex from 871, proves highly relevant in the developm dev elopment ent of literacy iteracy in Anglo-Saxon Eng land, not only o nly because he defended his reign against the Danes who had overrun all all the English kingdoms kingdo ms except his own, but also because he translated wisdom books into English. Alfred may cast an interesting light on literacy as well as on literature since he reported that “when he came to the throne he could not think of a single priest


south of the Thames who could understand a letter in Latin or translate one into English” (Alexander, 2000). Looking backwards at the great learning that had been in Roman Britain, the king tried to improve and increase the number of literature works under his reign by means of  translating Latin works into English ones.

Alfred had some needful wise authors to carry out this task, for instance, Augustine (354-430), Orosius (earlyl fifth century), Boethius (c. 480-524), and Gregory (c. 540-604). Since Old English verse was namely namely oral to record written laws, Alfred established English as a literary language in in authorising versions of essential ess ential books from Latin into in to English prose. Hence we find such s uch works (AD 878) as Bede’s   Eclesiastical History, Orosius Orosius’’  Histories , Gregory’s Pastoral Care and  Dialogues, Augustine’s Soliloquies and Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy .

According to Alexander (2000:27), “Alfred’s educational programme for the laity did not succeed at first but bore fruit later in the Wessex of this grandson Edgar, who ruled 959-76. After the Ages of Bede and Alfred, this is the third clearly-defined Age of Anglo-Saxon literature, the Benedictine Revival, under Dunstan, Archbishop of Canterbury 960-88, himself a skilled artist. Bishop Aethelworld made Winchester a centre of manuscript illumination. In its profusion of manuscripts the Wessex of Dunstan, Aethelwold and Aelfric is better represented today than the more remarkable early Norhumbria of Bede. In this period English prose became the instrument for a flourishing civilisation, with scientific, political and historical as well as religious interests. It was in this second Benedictine age, towards AD 1000, that the four poetry manuscripts were made: the Vercelli Book, the Junius Book, the Exeter Book and the  Beowulf manuscript”.

2.2.3. Beowulf, elegies and battle poetry.

These three works represent represent the starting point towards the end of the Old English period. First, First, the 1

epic poem of  Beowulf   Beowulf  (c. 909), a poem of historic scope telling of heroes and of the world (human and non-human), is considered to be the first great work of English literature and like other epics, it has a style made for oral composition, rich ch in formulas. It shows the English the world world of their ancestors, the heroic world of the north, a world both glorious and heathen since the audience for this kind of poetry was the lord of the hall and the men of this retinue.


Yet, the most striking early English poems are the Elegies of the Exeter Book, which are divided into heroic elegies (i.e. ‘The Wanderer’ and ‘The Seafarer’) and love elegies (i.e. ‘The Husband’s Message’, ‘The Wife’s Complaint). This type of poems are dramatic monologues whose speaker is unnamed and whose soliloquy moves mov es from his own sufferings to a general lament. Finally, battle poetry is relevant in this period because German warriors were said to recite poetry before battle, according to the Roman historian Tacitus.

So, as we can see, Alfred’s translation programmed had developed into a body of discursive native th

prose as it has been reflected in the works mentioned above. This was extended in the 10 century and this prose gave way to impressive political and legal writings which provided the laity with the religious and civil materials long available to the clergy in Latin. Then, by 1000 the humane Latin culture which developed between the renaissance of learning at the court of Charlemagne and the th

12 century renaissance, had found substantial expression in English.

There were changes in the nature of the language, notably the use of articles, pronouns and prepositions instead of final inflections, which made verse composition more difficult. The millenium was a period of cultural growth but of political decline. The reign of Ethelred II (9781016) saw an artistic revival rev ival, but there were disunity and Danish invasions (The Viking Age). The conquest of England by Vikings and then by Norman kings disrupted cultural activity, and changed the language of the rulers. Yet, Latin remained the language of the church, but the hierarchy was largely replaced by Normans, and English uses were done away with. But how did the Norman Conquest affect medieval literature?


As stated above, the Norman Conquest (1066) was a starting point for the island and its inhabitants since it had several consequences, among which we shall focus on political, social, economic, cultural, linguistic and, in particular, literary ones. Literature in England in this period was not just


The poem Beowulf was found in a manuscript of the late 10th century, but was probable composed two centurias earli er, er, and it is set in a world more more than two centuries earlier still, on the coasts of the Baltic, the nort h-west h-west Germanic world from which the English had come to Britain (Alexander, 2000).


in English and Latin but in French as well, and developed in directions set largely in France. Epic and elegy gave way to Romance and lyric and, in addition, English writing revived fully in English after 1360, and flowered in the reign of Richard II (1372-99). Moreover, it gained a literary standard in London English after 1425, and developed modern forms of verse, of prose and of  drama. Old scribes affirmed that the Middle English period began with the arrivals of Normans in 1066 and ended with the unexpected arrival of another conqueror, the printing press in 1476. It is a fact that literature in this period survived in three languages: Latin, which lived alongside alongside Norman French and a kind of ‘English’ which was a mix of dialects, spoken rather than written. English writing was local, with too few authors and dates for positive literary history. Yet, after 1360 things changeed and English won parity with French as a literary medium. The re-establishment of English meant that it was impinged with French in language and culture. So, in the Middle Ages, the English language evolved its modern nature and structure and its literature found modern forms, such as drama as early as the twelfth century (note that drama had been popular for ten generations before Shakespeare), verse (in Chaucer) in the fourteenth century, and pros e (in Julian of Norwich Norwich and Malory) in the fifteenth century. So, in this chapter, ch apter, we shall examine this context of medieval literature from the Arthurian legend, that is, medieval literature literature of oral transmission, to The Canterbury Tales so as to get an overall view of the development of literature literature during the Middle English period (1066-1500). (1066-150 0). Then, in order to th


provide an organized organ ized presentation, we shall review each century (from 11 1 1 century to 15 century) in the so-called Middle Ages so as to present an organized timeline of the most relevant literary contributions in this period. Hence, we shall analyse (1) the eleventh century which is characterized by epic and elegy; (2) the twelfth twelft h century, centu ry, which is characterized by romance and lyric , and where we examine more closely (a) the relationship between Geoffrey Monmouth and the Arthurian legend and (b) courtly literature; (3) the thirteenth century, namely characterized by lyrics and prose, is set up in context through (a) a historical background, (b) medieval institutions and authority in that period, and (c) English lyrics and prose; (4) the fourteenth century is approached first by (a) a historical background, (b) spiritual writing vs. secular prose, (c) the main characteristics of Ricardian poetry, and (d) the figure of Geoffrey Chaucer, regarding (i) his life and career, career, (ii) main works and (iii) his masterpiece, The Canterbury Tales; finally, we shall shall briefly review review (5) the fifteenth century, regarding its (a) main events and (b) literary works.


3.1. The eleventh century: epic and elegy.

As stated above, the eleventh elev enth century was characterized chara cterized by the use of epic and elegy within literary works. Yet, the Norman Conquest (1066) meant the establishment establishment of a new social soc ial,, political, political, economic, cultural, linguistic and even literary situation in which the type of works were to be changes as well into romance and lyric. Therefore, the language of the new rulers, French, displaced English as the medium of literature and also influenced the way of writing. There is evidence that William the Conqueror tried to learnt English, but he gave up. On the other hand, Saxons dealing with him had to learn French, and French became the language of the court and the law for three centuries in such as way that the Normans spoke Norman French, which was commonly known in England as Anglo-Norman. Anglo-Norman. In fact, the linguistic situation during the eleventh century and early twelfth centuries is described as a relationship of ‘vertical bilingualism’ (or sometimes called trilingualism, if we consider the role of  Latin). This situation describes the coexistence of two (or three) languages, which were not wholly mixed up. Possibly, this mix appeared in mercantile centres or perhaps as a desire to look socially sophisticated. This promotion of French was impinged by several historical factors, such as the existence of a close connection between the Norman nobility in England and Normandy; the expansion of the Dukedom of Normandy when King Henry II married Eleanor of Aquitaine (AD 1152) and gained the state of Brittany, and therefore, the King of England controlled two thirds of France; and the development of courtly literature in French by wish of Eleanor, among others. So, educated men for the next three centuries were trilingual, and many homes bilingual. Literature in English suffered then a severe severe disruption in 1066 since the classical Old English verse died out,  just to revive later on in a very different form, romance, whereas prose continued in the form of  sermons within the clergy.

3.2. The twelfth century: romance and lyric.

As stated above, when the classical Old English verse die d out, it revived in a very different form, romance , and the prose developed in a lyric form. When this new writing appeared, it was in an

English which had become very different from that of the eleventh century. The reasons for this

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include the lack of any written standard to discourage dialectal variety, scribal practice, linguistic change and, above all, a new literary consciousness. This is the background for the first of our works to comment on, the Arthurian Arthur ian legend under oral tradition. According to Alexander (2000), “the change in literary sensibility after 1100 is often characterized as a change from epic to romance”, where ‘romance’ is defined as “a kind of medieval story, originally from stories written in romauns, or vernacular French”. Actually, it was such a novelty that William I’s minstrel Taillefer is said to have led the Normans ashore at the battle of Hastings declaiming the ‘Chanson de Roland’, which is i s a ‘chanson de geste’ (song of deeds). Also, in c. 1200 a Norman from Jersey called Layamon dedicated an Old English heroic poem (‘Brut’) to Eleanor of Aquitaine. This poem was based on the French ‘Roman de Brut’ (1155) (1155) by Wace, a canon of Bayeux, who in turn based his work on Geoffrey of Monmouth’s   Historia Regum  Britanniae.

3.2.1. Geoffrey Monmouth and the Arthurian legend. It was this latter author, Geoffrey of Monmouth who, in AD 1135 (c.1130-6), wrote ‘Historia Regum Re gum Britanniae’ and, unconciously, unconciously , create cre ated d the Arthurian legend by means of a wonderful historical romance, in which the Arthur of literature belongs to the age of chivalry and the Crusades after 1100. Yet, according to to the historian Gildas and his work ‘Excidio Britanniae’ (c.550), there was a Romanized Celtic chieftain chie ftain called Ambrosius Ambro sius Aureliano, Aurelian o, who became a Celtic (British) hero hero agains the Saxon invasion in west part of Britain. Later on, another British British author, called Nennius (c.800) reported reported about this chieftain, and said that he became a servant of Vortigern (under the influence of a spell) to defeat the Saxons. Then, in the same report it is said that a man called Arthur led his warriors to victory in twelve successful battles against the Saxons, the latter taking place at Mons Badonicus in today’s Wales (Asimov, 1990:47). So, later oral legends created King King Arthur, his Kni K nights ghts of the Round Table , and even Camelot was set up as the legendary capital of Arthurian reign in Cadbury Hill (Wales). It was in northern France that the legends of Arthur, his Round Table and the Quest for the Grail improved before they re-crossed the Channel to the northern half of the Norman kingdom. Note that although the Normans conquered southern Scotland, Wales and Ireland, they did not include in the

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Arthurian story2 . Geoffrey’s work was quite a popular story until the Renaissance, and a popular legend afterwards. Note that the character of Merlin in this story has Celtic origins, since he is an enigmatic figure related to ancient druids. Geoffrey’s legendary history of the island of Britain was put into English by Layamon, a parish priest at Arle y Regis in Worcestershire, an area where old verse traditions lasted. lasted. His work work was written in 14,000 lines and makes no distinction between the British and the English, thus allowing the English to regard Arthur, their British enemy, as English. Although his talent was for narrative, he employed old formulas with less economy when describing Arthur’s death. In his metre, Arthur is wafted by elf-ladies to Avalon to be healed, and to return. This promise is repeated in Malory’s Morte Darthur (c.1470), who also tried to compile the main body of Arthurian legends into narrative. So, during the eleventh and thirteenth centuries there was a change from ‘gestes’ (songs of res gestae, Lat. ‘things done’) to romances of chivalry as part of the rise of feudalism. feudalism. Henc e, a knight’s duty was to serve God and the King with a religious orientation and a legal force, which was not  just an honour-code in literature. So, the concept of chivalry was considered to be historical as well as literary and its cultural prestige was spread through Romance.

3.2.2. Courtly literature. As we can see, ‘Romances’ were tales of adventurous and honourable deeds, such as at first were deeds of war and later on, to defend ladies or to fight for them. Soon they developed into courtly literature and began as a courtly genre, a leisure pursuit, like feasting, hunting, reading, playing

chess, or love itself. The warrior gave way to the knight, and when the knight got off his horse he wooed the lady. In other words, in literature the pursuit of love grew ever more refined (Alexander, 2000:40).


The plot is based on the fact that “the kings of Britain descend from Brutus, the original conqueror of the island of Albion, then infested by giants. This Brutus is the grandson ofAeneas the Trojan, from whom Virgil traced the kings of Rome. Brutus calls Albion ‘Britain’, after his own name, whose capital is New Troy, later called London. The Romans conquer Britain, but the Britons, under Lucius, reconquer Rome. They fight bravely under king Arthur against the Saxon invader, but Arthur, poised to conquer Europe, has to turn back  at the Alps to put down the revolt of his nephew Mordred. Fatally wounded at the battle of Camlann, Arthur is taken to the island of Avalon, whence, according to the wizard Merlin’s prophecies, he shall one day return. Geoffrey stops in the sixth century at King Cadwallader, after whom the degenerate Britons succumbed to the Saxons” (Alexander, 2000:39).

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The French rulers enjoyed romances of antiquity, about Thebes, Aeneas, Troy and Alexander and, actually, Benoît de Sainte-Maure produced a 30,000-line ‘Roman de Troie’ (1165) at the court of  Eleanor of Aquitai Aq uitaine. ne. Such popular stories made reference to classical themes full of marvels (Rome), but Arthurian romance was even more popular with French ladies and hence, the first developments of Geoffrey’s Arthurian legend material were in French. As we will see, the romance is a lasting legacy of the Middle Ages, not only to works of fantasy in later centuries (such as Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queene or the Gothic novel but also to such marvellous marvellous but pseudo-realist pseudo-realist works as Daniel Defoe’s  Robinson Crusoe and Samuel Richardson’s Pamela ).

3.3. The thirteenth century: lyrics and prose.

The thirteenth century was just about to bring changes at all levels when, shortly after AD 1200, England lost an important part of her possessions abroad. The Loss of Normandy would have, for our purposes, linguistic consequences, such as the loss of prestige of Norman-French and AngloNorman. Consequently, the maintenance of French into some kind of artificial language had an influence on the literary productions in that period, namely on lyrics and prose.

3.3.1. Historical background.

Historically speaking, since 1180 the Dukes of Normandy had been at war with France. This fact was partly responsible for the separation of England and Normandy in the year 1204, when Normandy was confiscated to King John (1199-1216) by King Phillip II of France. This event had far reaching social and linguistic consequences, among which the most outstanding is that the properties in French soil of the barons living in England would be confiscated (Decree of Rouen, 1204).

This implied that the nobility gradually relinquised their continental states and a feeling of rivalry developed between the two countries, accompanied by an anti-foreign movement in England and culminating in the Hundred Years’ War. During the century and a half following the Norman Conquest, French had been not only natural but more or less necessary to the English upper class (Baugh & Cable, 1993).

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So, those having properties on both sides of the Channel had to decide which one to choose. As a result, the loss of Normandy gave the English nobility a new collective feeling of their insular identity, and soon considered themselves as English. This event established a community of  interests with the English speaking lower classes which later may result in a reaction against the continental Norman-French. Norman-French.

Yet, this nationalistic feeling did not extend to the King and courtly nobility. Henry III (1207-1272) married Eleanor of Provence, who brought with her to England a host of French relatives so as to be surrounded by French nobles and prelates. Therefore, French knights in charge of castleries oppressed the barons of Norman-English origin. This gap between the aristocracy (nobility at court) and the barons (rural nobility) was the reason for the Barons’ War (1258-1265), in which the barons rebelled so as to claim a greater participation in and supervision of royal government. This claim was kept in the ‘Provisions of Oxford’ (1259), a document written in English, French and Latin.

Secondly, linguistically speaking, the loss of prestige of Norman French and Anglo-Norman reinforced the functional use of English. Both Norman French and Anglo-Norman predominated in the upper classes, but gradually the influence of English developed into something different from the known continental French dialects. This condition contrasted with the prestige associated to Central French (Paris’ dialect). Also, other factors contributed the loss of prestige of AngloNorman: the use of Latin as the official language for records and the adoption of Norman French by native English speakers who tended to tinge it with native phonological and grammatical features.

3.3.2. Medieval institutions and authority.

Having seen some of the effects of the submersion of English by French, and before approaching the second work in this study, The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer in the analysis of the fourteenth century, we shall look at institutions and mental habits which shaped this new English literature. Nowadays, modern literature is mostly concerned with secular life and lay people, but for over a thousand years, thought, culture and art in Europe were promoted by the Church. The clergy were the source of education at that time as well as of arts and literature.

Those bishops and priests who lived in the secular world brought the Word and the sacraments to the people, and higher education was namely provided by religious monks, nuns and, later, friars.

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This education was to be taught in schools which were set up in monastic cathedrals in cities, such as Winchester, Canterbury or Westminster, not far from London. From the twelfth century, intellectual initiative began to pass from these schools to universities (Paris, (Paris, Oxford –founded c.1167) and therefore, the teachings of the Church were to be modified by new learning.

Yet, intellectual activity in the new universities was led less by secular clergy than by friars, who were members of the new orders founded by St Dominic and St Francis to evangelise the growing cities. Then, the systemactic thinking of Aristotle was reintroduced and that thought came into Europe via Spain, and retranslated from Arabic. So, literacy came through the Church, since the men who held the pen were monks who copied Latin works for more than three hundred years after the Norman Conquest. (Alexander, 2000:43).

English texts were, though, less worth preserving since, when Middle English was found in manuscripts before 1350, it was was usually devotional. Yet in a Christian world all type of writing gained a Christian Christian function and and soon, much of the best English writing was wholly religious, such as that of the mystic Julian of Norwich, or William Langland’s Piers Plowman. Hence, medieval drama and much medieval lyric was created to spread the gospel to the laity.

All kind of writers, whether religious or secular, Latin or vernacular, invoked earlier authors since their names were still powerful and could mean more than their books (i.e. Chaucer=Franceys Petrak, the lauriat poete and Daunte, the wyse poete of Ytaille). Another aspect of medieval literary thought is allegory, that is, the making out of deeper meaning below the surface of literature of life, meanings of a moral or spiritual sort. In fact, allegory developed from the Hebrew and Christian use of biblical prophecy as the key to events.

3.3.3. Lyrics and English prose.

Then, these new academic attitudes inspired clerical literature, such as The Owl and the Nightingale th


(early 13 century), which became the bird of love in Provençal lyrics of the early 12 century. The refinement and abundance of Provençal song-literature is unmatched in North French and English lyric. Hundreds of medieval lyrics remain in manuscripts which can be roughly dated, but composition and authors are usually unknown. In addition, rhyme is first found in Church hymns, but late religious lyrics appear with the fifteenth century literature.

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Regarding English prose in this period, we must say that the impulse to spiritual perfection was not confined to the th e religious, since sin ce much devotional writing writing is for the laity. Actually, Actually, since the Fourth Lateran Council of the Church (1215) decreed personal confession at least once a year, confession and conscience abound in Ricardian poetry, and it was namely in church that unlettered people heard hea rd speech composed with art.

3.4. The fourteenth fourteenth century.


Historical background.

During the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries new historical events, such as the Hundred Years’ War, the Black Death and the Peasants’ Revolt, reinforced the national feeling which had ensued the loss of Normandy and led the inhabitants of the island to a general adoption of English

On the one hand, the Hundred Years’ War (1337-1453) came up due to the question of succession to the French crown (claimed by King Edward III of England) against the house of Valois (Philip VI, who was appointed King of France). This war turned people’s attention to the continent and made people realize that French was the language of the enemy court and that it was one of the causes contributing to the disuse of French. The outcomes of this war were the development of  national consciousness among the English and a general feeling of hatred against France, French customs and the French language.

On the other hand, the bubonic and pneumonic plague which ravaged Europe in the mid fourteenth century reached England in 1348. As a result, about one-third of Europe’s population and almost half of the inhabitants of Britain died. The effects of the Black Death were felt at all levels, particularly the social and economic ones since the drastic reduction of the amount of land under cultivation became the ruin of many landowners. Therefore, the shortage of labour implied a general rise in wages for peasants and, consequently, provided new fluidity to the stratification of  society and afforded a new status to the middle and lower social classes, whose native language was English.

Finally, these classes (middle and low) rebelled against the imposition of a poll tax and, particularly, against the Statute of Labourers, which tried to fix maximum wages during the labour

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shortage following the plague. The Peasants’ Revolt, as this rebellion is known, also contributed to increase the social relevance of the labouring classes and indirectly conferred importance on their native tongue, that is, English.

Linguistically speaking, the consequences of these events were to be felt in a general adoption of  English Engli sh in the late fourteenth century. Already in the late thirteenth century, the Englis h language was virtually understood and actively used by everyone, but it was not recognized in official, legal, governmental or administrative affairs. Hence, among the historical events of the fourteenth century which led to a gradual use of English in these high domains, we may highlight the use of English in a will, instead of Latin, for the first time (1383) and later on, in an official petition to Parliament (petition of the London Mercers’ Guild, 1386). It is in this environment where we shall examine Geoffrey Chaucer’s life and works.


Spiritual writing vs. secular prose.

As the century developed, “the English nobility, unlike their continental equivalents, equiv alents, increasingly proved to be unwilling to define themselves as a closed, separate, and uniquely priviledged order. England did not hereafter lack a distinct and relatively responsive to social and ideological change ” (Sanders, 1996:49). This shift in thought was to be felt in the way of writing. We can namely distinguish spiritual writing, which seeks a disciplicine of the spirit to become closer to God, and secular prose, which was used for practical matters in general terms.

Spiritual writing is represented by Richard Rolle (c.1300-49), who included in his English writings (Song of Songs, Form of Living, Ego Dormio ) allegorical commentaries, poems and prose marked by a musical rhetoric, and also Walter Hilton (d.1379) who also addressed the spiritual life in his writings (The The Scale of Perfection ). On the other hand, secular prose appeared when reformers started to translate the Bible into English since they had to produce an English Vulgate so literal as to be almost unreadable.

In fact, according to Alexander (2000:48), “since the end of the Pete rborough Chronicle in 1154, English secular prose –non-religious prose- had been used for practical matters, but in Richard II’s reign English came into general use. John Trevisa translated a French encyclopedia and a Latin world history; adding that, as grammar-school teaching was now (1385) in English rather than in

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French, French, children know no more French than does their left heel”. Other prose writers of interest were Sir John Mandeville and Margery Kemp who, after a religious conversion, wrote her confessional testament in The Book of Margery Kempe (revised in 1436). Similarly, The Paston th

 Letters were the correspondence of a 15 -century Norfolk family which was subject to study years



Ricardian poetry.

The reign of Richard II (1372-98) saw the flowering of a mature English poetry in Middle English. Besides lyric and religious prose of the highest quality, Arthurian verse romances were spirited in the Stanzaic Stanzaic ‘Morte’ (c.1390) (c.1390) and the Alliterative ‘Morte’ (c.1400). (c.1400). The revival of English alliterative verse produced at least two crucial poems, ‘Piers Plowman’ (c.1377) by William Langland and ‘Sir Gawain and the Green Knight’, which was found with three other fine poems (Patience, Cleanness and Pearl ) in the ‘Gawain’ manuscript (c.1390). Each poem is strikingly original and intelligent, but ‘Gawain’ must stand here for all. On the other hand, verse verse drama was th

also popular, although surviving texts are 15 century (Alexander, 2000).

Yet, according to Rogers (1987:39), the most important contributions to the literature development in this century were made by two ‘courtly makers’, that is, Chaucer and Gower. On the one hand, John Gower (1330-1408) contributed with the appearance appearance of an assured syllabic syllabic verse in his long poems and, on the other hand, Geoffrey Chaucer contributed with the establishment in English of  the decasyllabic verse of France and Italy: in the ‘Troilus’ stanza (c.1382-5) which coincided with the Peasants’ Revolt (1381), and the couplets of the ‘Canterbury Tales’ (c.1387).

Following Alexander (2000), Chaucer’s relevance is not merely historical but also literary. He states Chaucer was “as humane as any English non-dramatic poet, with a versatility and narrative skill never exceeded” , even though though Gower wrote in three languages and Chaucer in English only. Yet, this linguistic tool gave a richer tone and a deeper social reach than French or Latin at that age. Chaucer is said to be “a bright star in a sky with many bright stars” since his relevance was recognized at his death.

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Geoffrey Chaucer (c.1343-1400).

Geoffrey Chaucer’s life is much better documented than other writers in that period, so the known facts of Chaucer’s life are fragmentary and are based almost entirely on official records. In this section we shall examine (a) his life and career and (b) his main works in order to get to one of his most relevant works, (c) The Canterbury Tales. Life.

He was born probably in 1343 or 1344 in the Vintry, the vintners’ street in London’s walled City, with nearby Westminster. He was the son of John Chaucer, a prosperous vintner (wine merchant) of  London. He only had one sister, who was a nun. In 1357 he became a king’s man, that is, a professional royal servant in the household of Prince Lionel, later duke of Clarence, whom he served for many years holding a series os posts, which included Collector of Customs in the Port of  London (from 1374 to 1386) and Clerk of the King’s Works Works (from 1389 to 1391). During the years, Chaucer was frequently employed on diplomatic missions to the Continent, visiting France, Spain and Italy in 1372–73 and in 1378.

As he was also a diplomat and travelled on the king’s business, his name occurs four hundred times in the records but not as a poet. He lived in London and Kent, surviving the Black Death, the French wars, the Peasants’ Revolt, the Lords Appellants’ challenge to Richard II, and Richard’s deposition by Henry Hen ry IV. Yet, in 1359– 1359– 60 he was with the army of Edward III in France, where he was captured by the French but ransomed.

His mother mot her married marri ed three thre e times, and a nd by 1366 he married Philippa Roet, daughter daught er of a Flemish Flemis h knight, who was a lady-in-waiting to Edward III’s queen. She was probably the sister of John of  Gaunt’s third third wife. wife . The official date of Chaucer’s death is October 25, 1400. 1400. Historians agree that there is nothing in his career to suggest that Chaucer was anything other than a moderately successful London gentleman. Hence, when he was buried in Westminster Abbey, it was evident that there was no more than a common privilege for courtiers and royal officials.

19/ 19/ 28 Works.

However, his writing reveals nothing of these, nor of his personal life. His career as a king’s man was not unusual, but he was unusually good at his other calling, writing English verse. Chaucer’s literary activity is often often divided into three periods : his early works, the IItalian talian period and his mature works. 1. The first period includes his early works (to 1370), which are based largely on French models of dream visions In fact, ‘The Book of the Duchess’ (1368-72), an allegorical lament written on the death of Blanche, wife of John of Gaunt, and ‘The Romaunt of  the Rose’ (before 1372), a partial translation of the  Roman de la Rose, are based on Guillaume de Machaut. 2. The second period (up to c. 1387) is called his  Italian period  because during this time his works were modeled primarily on Dante and Boccaccio. Major works of the second period include The House of Fame (1378-83) ,  , recounting the adventures of Aeneas after the fall of Troy; The Parliament of Fowls (1380-2), which tells tel ls of the th e mating of fowls on St. Valentine’s Day and is thought to celebrate the betrothal of Richard II to Anne of  Bohemia; and a prose translation of Boethius’ De consolatione philosophiae.

Also among the works of this period are the unfinished   Legend of Good Women (c.1387), a poem telling of nine classical heroines, which introduced the heroic couplet (two rhyming lines of iambic pentameter) into English verse and Chaucer’s last lovevision, written in the first decasyllabic couplets in English; the prose fragment The Treatise on the Astrolabe, written for his son Lewis; and Troilus and Criseyde (1382-6) ,  ,

based on Boccaccio's Filostrato, one of the great love poems in the English language. In Troilus and Criseyde, Chaucer Chauce r perfected the th e seven-line stanza later called rhyme royal. 3. Chaucer’s mature and last work, The Canterbury Tales, is today his most popular. Its opening ‘When that April with his shoures soote’ is the first line of English verse that is widely known. This opening, a welcome to April showers and to the classical god of the West Wind, is often taken as a starting point for English poetry, already seven centuries old, which “had successfully domesticated new European literary traditions” (Alexander, 2000:59).

20/ 20/ 28 The Cantebury Tales (1388-1400).

To Chaucer's final period, in which he achieved his fullest artistic power, belongs his masterpiece, The Canterbury Tales. Written sometime in the 1380s, the idea of a frame story, that is, a story

within a story, comes from a long tradition: The Arabian Nights and The Decameron , since Chaucer read The Decameron when he visited Italy. Originally, he proposed 124 stories, but he actually wrote 24. Regarding structure, the ‘tales’ are found in around eighty manuscripts, in separate sections or ‘Fragments’. The best manuscripts have ten Fragments, each with one or more tales and, where some fragments are incomplete, the ‘tales’ have a conclusion.

This unfinished poem, about 17,000 lines, is one of the most brilliant works in all literature. The poem introduces a group of pilgrims journeying from London to the shrine of St. Thomas Becket at Canterbury, who was killed by agents of Henry II in 1170 at the altar of his cathedral. To help pass the time on the two-day ride to the shrine, the thirty pilgrims decide to tell two tales each on the way and two on the way back. Together, the pilgrims represent a wide cross section of 14th-century English life.

The pilgrims’ tales include a variety of medieval genres from the humorous fabliau to the serious homily, and they vividly indicate medieval attitudes and customs in such areas as love, marriage, and religion. Through Chaucer’s superb powers of characterization the pilgrims, such as the earthy wife of Bath, the gentle knight, the worldly prioress, the evil summoner, come intensely alive. Chaucer was a master storyteller and craftsman, but because of a change in the language after 1400, his metrical technique was not fully appreciated until the 18th cent. Only in Scotland in the 15th and 16th centuries did his imitators understand his versification.

The Canterbury Tales is set in fourteenth-century London, which is considered to be one of the

medieval period’s period’s great grea t centers of commerce and culture. As seen s een above, in in England at this time, society was still very strictly ordered, with the King and nobles having all power in things political and the Catholic Church having all authority in spiritual matters. However, trade and commerce with other nations had expanded dramatically in this century, giving rise to a new and highly vocal middle class comprised of o f merchants, traders, shopkeepers, and skille skille d craftsmen (Cooper, 1989). 1989).

Their newly acquired wealth, their concentration in centers of commerce, and their organization into guilds gave this newly emerging class increasing power and influence. However, the

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population of England remained for the most part agrarian, poor peasants working hard for a meager living farming on rented land, completely at the mercy of the landowner, mired in ignorance and superstition, and generally devoid of any opportunity to have access to learning or literary works.

Ye t, Chaucer approaches the world of literature to the lower classes by different means. First, by by using the language of M iddle English, English, which which is closer to Old English, the language of the AngloSaxons, and Norman French, Frenc h, and the language langu age of William the Conqueror Conquero r (1066); (1066); secondly, by showing a cross section of medieval society (feudal, ecclesiastical, urban); and third, by showing interest in middle class characters, such as a cook, carpenter, miller, priest, prioress, pardoner, lawyer, merchant, clerk, physician, physic ian, which which reflects the rise of the middle class in the 14th century.

Literature is moving away from the questions of the genre, romance, to a more personal vision, a domestic vision. So, Chaucer is interested in individuals, their foibles and individual differences; interested in realism; interested in middle class people, the merchant class, peasants, among others, who reflect the rise of the middle class in the fourteenth century. In fact, the subject matter of  The The greed, jealousy, native cunning (tricksters), the credulousness of the Canterbury Tales is sex, lust, greed, stupid, marital problems, infidelity, and corruption of the church, among others.

We must note that pilgrim tales were proverbially known as ‘Canterbury tales’ which were so close to lower classes. The pilgrims are types familiar from medieval social satire, but Chaucer makes them speak to him and through him to us: their voices animate their sparkling two-dimensional portraits: vice and moral. Medieval satirists reproved obstinate vice, but the pilgrim Chaucer praises his creatures, letting us see the imperfections to which they are blind.

Chaucer is an author who makes fun of authority. His tales are a parody of popular tail-thyme romance, full of silly conventions, empty phrases and bad rhymes. Chaucer tells ‘a litel thyng in prose’, the lengthy moral fable of Melibeus and Prudence. This view does not lead to social realism nor to steady moral viewpoint. Chaucer’s Gothic switches of genre and tone are allowed by his comprehensive conception of life, physical, social, moral and metaphysical, shown from a variety of viewpoints. As Alexander (2000) states, “his final Retractions show, Chaucer’s humanity has a theological dimension.”

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3.5. The fifteenth century.


Historical background.

Historically speaking, by the fifteenth century, during the reign of Henry V (1413-1422), the English language was officially used at both the oral and written levels in most fields, except legal records (still written in Latin), the Statutes of Parliament (written in French until 1489) and in ceremonial formulae (still French). Yet, for our purposes, we shall focus on the literary productions which reinforced the national feeling which had ensued the loss of Normandy and led the inhabitants of the island to a general adoption of English


Literary works.

After Chaucer and Gower were buried outside the City of London, in the churches in Westminster and Southwark next to which each had lived, there was good English writing in the fifteenth century, particularly in lyric and drama and prose, but no major poet. Yet, Thomas Hoccleve (13691426), who called Chaucer his ‘father’, scratched his living as a copyist at Westminster, lacking his master’s skill and his diplomacy. His job was reported to be ‘boring’.

Another Another author who is worth mentioning is John Lydgate (1370-1449). (1370-1449). He was a monk of Bury St Edmunds, and did well out of English verse. Among his main works, we mention ‘Troy Book’, written for Henry Henry V; his version of ‘The Pilgrimage of the Life Life of Man’ for the Earl of Salisbury; his ‘Fall of Princes’ for Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester. His works had a decorated style without Chaucer’s rhythm, verve and intelligence. th

So, we can affirm that the decasyllable lost its music in the 15 century, as words altered in accent and inflection. As English topped up with prestige words from Latin and French and doubled its resources, its eloquence took the form of reduplication, pairing English and Romance synonyms. New literary streams streams and events were entering entering this century, century, for in stance, drama (mystery and morality plays), religious lyric, Scottish poetry and the most important event, the arrival of printing, with which ‘quality’ marketing had begun. That meant that chivalry and romance were dying, but manners could be learned.

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Literature, and therefore, literary language is one of the most salient aspect of educational activity. In classrooms all kinds of literary language, either spoken or written, is going on for most of the time. Yet, handling literary text types is not an end in itself, but a means of achieving the goals of  the larger activities that constitute the object of education, especially if we are dealing with oral tradition in literature. Together with talking, writing and reading, participants should master these elements to achieve and develop the goals of the activity in which they are engaged: to write a letter, a short story, a historical account of their city, and so on.

Currently, action research groups attempt to bring about change in classroom learning and teaching through a focus on literary production under two premises. First, because they believe learning is an integral aspect of any form of activity and second, because education at all levels must be conceived in terms of literature. The basis for these assumptions is to be found in an attempt, through the use of various modes of literary text types and genres, to develop understanding of students’ shared but diverse social and physical environment.

Learning involves a process of transformation of participation itself which has far reaching implications on the role of the teacher in the teaching-learning relationship. This means that literary genres are an analytic tool and that teachers need to identify the potential contributions and potential limitations of them before we can make good use of the genre analysis techniques. We must bear in mind that most students will continue their studies at university and there, they will have to handle successfully successfully all kind of genres, especially the non-fiction ones such as objective reports, language for specific purposes (humanistic studies, scientific, technological, etc).

But how do medieval literature tie in with the new curriculum? curriculum? Medieval literature may be approa approached ched in linguistic terms, regarding form and function function (morphology, lexis, lexis, structure, form) and also from fr om a cross-curricular cross- curricular perspective (Sociology, History, History, English, French and Spanish Language). Spanish students are expected to know about the British culture and its influence in Europe since students are required to know about the culture and history of its own language. So, medieval literature is easily approached by means of the subjects of History and Language, since literary productions in the Middle Ages have parallel developments.

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In addition, one of the objectives of teaching the English language is to provide good models of  almost any kind of lite literary rary productions for future studies. Following Fo llowing van Ek & Trim (2001), ‘the learners can perform, within the limits of the resources available to them, those writing (and oral) tasks which adult citizens in general may wish, or be called upon, to carry out in their private capacity or as members of the general public’ when dealing with their future regarding personal and professional life.

Moreover, nowadays new technologies may provide a new direction to language teaching as they set more appropriate context for students to experience the target culture. Present-day approaches deal with a communicative competence model in which first, there is an emphasis on significance over form, and secondly, motivation and involvement are enhanced by means of new technologies. Literary language and a wide range of genres prove frequent and relevant relevant within the students environment (oral tradition: romances, poetry, lyric).

The success partly lies in the way the language becomes real to the users, feeling themselves really in the language. Some of this motivational force is brought about by intervening in authentic communicative events. Otherwise, we have to recreate as much as possible the whole cultural environment in the classroom. This is to be achieved within the framework of the European Council (1998) and, in particular, the Spanish Educational System which establishes a common reference framework for the teaching of foreign languages where students are intended to carry out several communication tasks with specific communicative goals within specific contexts and registers (i.e. write a letter to a friend, office, office, business enterprise asking for job, etc). Thus, foreign language activities are provided within the framework of social interaction, personal, professional and educational fields.

Literary language and the production of literary genres are mentioned as one of the aims of our current educational system (B.O.E. 2002) and in particular, for students of E.S.O. and Bachillerato about how to produce a literary text (oral or written): writing a poem, acting out as in a romance, etc). Actually, students are asked to use literary textual features (lexical choice between formal and informal syntactic structures) when writing fiction and non-fictional texts, as in The Canterbury Tales.

It is stated that students will make use of this competence in a natural and systematic way in order to achieve the effectiveness of communication through the different communication skills, thus,

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productive (oral and written communication), receptive (oral and written comprehension within verbal and non-verbal codes), and interactional role of a foreign language as a multilingual and multicultural identity.

Analytic interpretation of texts in all genres should become part of every literary student’s basic competence (B.O.E., 2002). There are hidden influences at work beneath the textual surface: these may be sociocultural, inter and intratextual, or ecological. The literary student has to discover these, and wherever necessary apply them in further examination. The main aims that our currently educational system focuses on are mostly sociocultural, to facilitate the study of cultural themes, as our students must be aware of their current social reality within the European framework.



This study has has looked at the relevance of  orality in medieval literature so as to link this oral tradition with the two highest literary productions in Middle English, that is, the Arthurian legend  and Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales . So, as we have seen, Chapter 2 introduced the historical background for the Middle English period, where, historically speaking, we have presented the social, historical, cultural and linguistic background of the British Isles during the Mid Mid dle English period (1066-1500) in order to analyse analyse these two relevant literary literary works works .

So, we have approached this issue by reviewing the main events in earlier times regarding religious sources and oral tradition; tradition ; and also the main Old English English works that took place place in the British Isles under different cultures. Thus, Britain, under the influence of Celtic people, Britannia, under unde r the rule of the Roman Empire, and England, under the rule of the Anglo-Saxons. Moreover, it was relevant to review how Christian literature in Anglo-Saxon England developed and how it represented the end of the Old English period in works such as  Beowulf , elegies and battle poetry.

Yet, the core of our study has been developed in Chapter 3 we we have have analysed medieval literature in the period which covers from the Arthurian Arthurian legend to The Canterbury Tales by analysing the main events and literary works. So, we have examined the eleventh century and its relationship to epic and elegy; elegy; the twelfth century, which is characterized characterized by romance and lyric, and where wher e we have examined more closely, first, the relationship between Geoffrey Monmouth and the Arthurian

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legend and, secondly, courtly literature; then, then, the thirteenth century, namely characterized by lyrics l yrics and prose, which is set up in context through first, a historical background; second, medieval institutions and authority in that period, and finally, some considerations on English lyrics and prose; the fourteenth century is approached again by a historical background which has led us to the difference between spiritual writing vs. secular prose, the main characteristics of Ricardian poetry, and the figure of Geoffrey Chaucer.

It is in the figure of Chaucer that we have developed the analysis on the second work by reviewing his life and career, his main works and finally, his masterpiece, The Canterbury Tales . Finally, we have briefly reviewed the fifteenth century, regarding its main events and literary works to put an end to our presentation. So far, we have have attempted in this this conclusion to provide the reader with with a linguistic, historical and cultural background on the oral transmission in medieval literature and its further developments up to the fifteenth century.

Language learners, even 2nd year Bachillerato students, do not automatically establish similiarities between British and Spanish medieval literary works, which seem obvious to teachers; on the contrary, learners need to have these associations brought to their attention in cross-curricular settings. As we have seen, understanding how oral literature literature developed into written one is important to students, students, who are expected to t o be aware of the richness richness of English literature, due to the mingling of English, French and Latin elements in Europe during the Middle Ages.

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Alexander, M. 2000. A History of English Literature . Macmillan Press. London.

Asimov, Isaac. 1990. La formación de Inglaterra . Historia Universal, Alianza Editorial.

Baugh, A. & Cable, T. 1993.  A History of the English Language . Prentice-Hall Editions.

B.O.E. 2002. Consejería de Educación y Cultura. Decreto N.º 112/2002, de 13 de septiembre. Currículo de la Educación Secundaria Obligatoria en la Comunidad Autónoma de la Región de Murcia.

B.O.E. 2002. Consejería de Educación y Cultura. Decreto N.º 113/2002, de 13 de septiembre. Currículo de Bachillerato Bachillerato en la Comunidad Autónoma de la Región de Murcia .

Canale, M. 1983. From Communicative Competence to Communicative Language Pedagogy , in J. Richards and R. Schmidt (eds.). Language and Communication. London, Longman.

Cooper, H. 1989. The Canterbury Tales. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Council of Europe (1998)   Modern Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment. A Common  European Framework of reference.

Crystal, D. 1985. Linguistics. Harmondsworth, England. Penguin Books.

Goytisolo, J. 2001. Proclamation of Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible I ntangible heritage her itage of Humanity Humanity 18 May 2001. Speech delivered at the opening of the meeting of the Jury (15 May 2001).

Hymes, D. 1972. On communicative competence. Harmondsworth: Penguin.

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Sanders, A. 1996. The Short Oxford History of English Literature. Oxford University Press.

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