Religious poetry: by the 8th century techniques of AS heroic poetry were applied to purely Christian themes, consequently much of it is cast in the heroic mood – Anglo-Saxons adapting themselves to the ideals of Christianity and adapting Christianity to their own heroic ideal. (e.g. Christ as a ‘young hero’/The Dream of the Rood/, God as ‘mankind’s Guardian’ /Caedmon’s Hymn/, St Helena as ‘battle-queen’/Elene/.)
Anglo-Saxon prose: Latin and English works; King Alfred: the ‘father of English prose’
Middle English Literature
1066: Norman Conquest. Profound changes – the development of feudalism quickened, the Anglo-Saxon nobility was replaced by a French-speaking Norman aristocracy. Three languages were used in England: Latin – in the Church, French as the language of the ruling class, English as the language of the lower classes – it was deprived of a written standard, quickening the natural process of simplification (inflections, declensions lost), borrowing words from French (and Latin).
It was the period of French cultural dominance in Europe – the Conquest brought a more immediate and active relationship with it. The 14th century brought a major change: English gainedg ground again (due to the Hundred’ War and the Black Death). From around 1350: Middle English. (1362: English first used at Parliament)
TheEuropean context: the twelfth-century renaissance (1050 – 1300) – new ways of experiencing the world (love superseding fear, emphasis on the humanity of Christ, the imagery of human passion). Books had increasing significance, the study of Latin and rhetoric became more important, contact was made with the Arab world (Greek philosophy). Chivalry – the code of knight (partly a religious and partly a military institution). Courtly love(fine amour): an important element of literature (a relationship outside marriage, the man is a social equal of the woman but at her service; a well-bred man’s abasement before his lady; her attitude: cold indifference, at best conferring grace on her unworthy supplicant (i.e. a smile or at most, a kiss), yet receiving pledges of his undying service.)