Literature: for over two centuries literature produced under courtly or aristocratic patronage was French in tone and language. New developments: lyric (the expression of feelings, emotions and states of mind), romance (narrative poem dealing with the adventures of the knight), fabliau (comic narrative dealing with the lower classes), dream allegory (a story with double levels of meaning, told in the frame of a dream)
There were two great developments in the second part of the 14th century: the Alliterative Revival and the work of Geoffrey Chaucer.
Alliterative Revival: a revival of the old tradition of alliterative verse with some new developments, in the western and northern parts of England. The Gawain-poet: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight; William Langland: Piers Plowman.
Geoffrey Chaucer (ca. 1342-1400)
Chaucer: ‘The father of English poetry’; the father of the English language (the London dialect became the literary standard as a result of his work), the culmination of Middle English literature. He was a universal genius – characterised by technical brilliance, knowledge, a wide range of experience and largeness of sympathy. He is the first Humanist in English literature – he brought Humanism to England two centuries earlier than the English Renaissance
Life: he was born into an English-speaking merchant family and was trained in courtly life. He had a diplomatic career, visited France and Italy on government service → direct contact with French and Italian literature. Influences: French models at first (dream allegory tradition, Roman de la Rose), later Italian literature had an influence on him – Humanism. He had a very wide range of reading: the Bible, classical works (Antique world), medieval scientific, religious and popular works