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The Idea of the Vernacular An Anthology of Middle English Literary Theory, 1280-1520 cover
  • ISBN: 9780271017587
  • ISBN10: 0271017589

The Idea of the Vernacular An Anthology of Middle English Literary Theory, 1280-1520

by Ian Johnson

  • List Price: $41.95
  • Binding: Paperback
  • Publisher: Pennsylvania State Univ Pr
  • Publish date: 12/01/1998
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This pioneering anthology of Middle English prologues & other excerpts from texts written between 1280 & 1520 is one of the largest collections of vernacular literary theory from the Middle Ages yet published & the first to focus attention on English literary theory before the sixteenth century. It edits, introduces, & glosses some sixty excerpts, all of which reflect on the problems & opportunities associated with writing in the "mother tongue" during a period of revolutionary change for the English language. The excerpts fall into three groups, illustrating the strategies used by medieval writers to establish their cultural authority, the ways they constructed audiences & readerships, & the models they offered for the process of reading. Taken together, the excerpts show how vernacular texts reflected & contributed to the formation of class, gender, professional, & national identity. They open windows onto late medieval debates on women's & popular literacy, on the use of the vernacular for religious instruction or Bible translation, on the complex metaphorical associations contained within the idea of the vernacular, & on the cultural & political role of the "courtly" writing associated with Chaucer & his successors. Besides the excerpts, the book contains five essays that propose new definitions of medieval literary theory, discuss the politics of Middle English writing, the relation of medieval book production to notions of authorship, & the status of the prologue as a genre, & compare the role of the medieval vernacular to that of postcolonial literatures. The book includes a substantial glossary that constitutes the first mapping of the language & terms of Middle English literary theory. The Idea of the Vernacular will be an invaluable asset not only to Middle English survey courses but to courses in English literary & cultural history & courses on the history of literary theory.
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