Medieval Literature and Social Politics brings together seventeen articles by literary historian Stephen Knight.
The book primarily focuses on the social and political meaning of medieval literature, in the past and the present. It provides an account of how early heroic texts relate to the issues surrounding leadership and conflict in Wales, France and England, and how the myth of the Grail and the French reworking of Celtic stories relate to contemporary society and its concerns. Further chapters examine Chaucer’s readings of his social world, the medieval reworkings of the Arthur and Merlin myths, and the popular social statements in ballads and other literary forms. The concluding chapters examine the Anglo-nationalist `Arctic Arthur’, and the ways in which Arthur, Merlin and Robin Hood can be treated in terms of modern studies of the history of emotions and the environment.
This book will be of interest to scholars and students of medieval Europe, as well as those interested in social and political history, medieval literature and modern medievalism.
Table of Contents
Part 1: Early classic texts and their contexts
1 `From Jerusalem to Camelot: King Arthur and the Crusades’
2. `Satire in Piers Plowman’
3. `Chaucer and the sociology of literature'
4. `Ideology in "The Franklin’s Tale"’
5. `The social function of the Middle English romances’
Part 2: Mythic and popular materials and their contexts
6. `Arthurian authorities: ideology in the legend of King Arthur’
7. `Why was "Lady Isabel and the Elf-Knight" the most popular ballad in Europe?’
8. `Rabbie Hood: the development of the English Outlaw myth in Scotland'
9. `Robin Hood and the royal restoration’
10. `Robin Hood and the Crusades: when and why did the longbowman of the people mount up like a lord’
11. `The Arctic Arthur: patriotic medievalism’
Part 3: Modern approaches to medieval materials
12. `Resemblance and menace: a post-colonial reading of Peredur’
13. `"Love’s altar is the forest glade": Chaucer in the light of Dafydd ap Gwilym’
14. `Chaucer’s fabliaux and late medieval structures of feeling’
15. `Medievalist comic relief: trashing the medieval in the eighteenth century’
16. `The social integration of emotion in early Arthurian romance’
17 `"Artful Thunder": Merlin, wisdom and the environment’
Stephen Knight is Honorary Research Professor at the University of Melbourne, Australia. He has previously worked at the University of Sydney, De Montfort University and Cardiff University. He has published over twenty books.