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The Shaping of English Poetry – Volume IV

Essays on 'The Battle of Maldon', Chrétien de Troyes, Dante, 'Sir Gawain and the Green Knight' and Chaucer

Gerald Morgan

This fourth volume of essays under the title The Shaping of English Poetry consolidates the work of the previous three volumes on the great subjects of English literature in the Medieval and Renaissance periods. The Norman Conquest of England built upon the rich foundation of Anglo-Saxon England but did not destroy it; thus the present volume begins with the commemoration of English heroism in The Battle of Maldon. In the late twelfth century we encounter in Chrétien de Troyes's seminal romance Le Chevalier de la Charrete a new kind of hero in Lancelot, abject and obedient before his mistress, although Chrétien himself is not an uncritical admirer of the sanctity of adulterous love. Hence the importance of Dante's exposition of love in Purgatorio, XVIII, which forms a background to the essays here on Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and the Parliament of Fowls. The volume concludes with essays on Chaucer's Knight's, Monk's and Nun's Priest's Tales, which form part of a long-term project to interpret the Canterbury Tales as a unified whole and not merely a series of fragments awaiting revision on Chaucer's death.

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The Shaping of English Poetry- Volume II

Essays on 'Sir Gawain and the Green Knight', Langland and Chaucer

Gerald Morgan

This second volume of essays under the title The Shaping of English Poetry continues the project set out in the Preface to the first volume, discussing the three golden poets of the Golden Age of English poetry in the second half of the fourteenth century. The first two essays address the great alliterative poems Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Piers Plowman and the remaining six essays are on Chaucer, five of them on The Canterbury Tales. There is no doubt about the sustained excellence (and often the sublimity) of these works, and it remains a hard task for readers and scholars to measure up to them.
The essays on Chaucer are predominantly concerned with the influence of Italian poetry and Aristotelian moral philosophy. These influences have long been recognised, but their depth and weight have not so readily been acknowledged. In particular, the influence of Aristotle – not merely on Chaucer’s poetry but on thirteenth- and fourteenth-century English and European culture as a whole – presents an intellectual challenge that scholars of medieval English literature have often been reluctant to confront. These essays seek to demonstrate that in engaging with Chaucer’s response to Aristotelian moral philosophy our perspective will not only be enriched but dramatically altered.
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The Shaping of English Poetry- Volume III

Essays on 'Beowulf', Dante, 'Sir Gawain and the Green Knight', Langland, Chaucer and Spenser

Gerald Morgan

This third volume of essays under the title The Shaping of English Poetry includes, as in the previous volumes, essays on Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Langland, Chaucer and Spenser; it also includes essays on Beowulf and Dante. It was never the author’s intention to exclude Old English poetry from the historical continuum of English poetry, and practical rather than ideological considerations explain the absence of Beowulf from the two previous volumes. The language of Beowulf is in all essentials the language of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Piers Plowman, in one and the same native alliterative tradition, and also the language of Chaucer, in the European tradition inherited from the great French and Italian poets. The transition from Beowulf to Dante may seem abrupt, but the poetry of Chaucer, whose assimilation of Italian influences is both formidable and remarkable, requires us to make it. Indeed, the exploration in this volume of Dante’s exposition of love in the Purgatorio takes us to the heart of the poetry that we associate with the period of Chaucer’s greatness in the 1380s and 1390s. Here we see not an anachronistic system of courtly love, imposed on medieval poems by modern critics, but distinctions of natural, sensitive and rational love that make sense (among other things) of the ending of Troilus and Criseyde as the poem’s logical and persuasive conclusion.
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Chaucer in Context

A Golden Age of English Poetry

Edited by Gerald Morgan

The study of the work of Geoffrey Chaucer – still regarded as a literary genius more than 600 years after his death – centres on the problems of detailed readings of his poetry (including in some cases the textual authority for these readings) and the historical context that gives them meaning. In some ways, the modern understanding of the shaping historical context was undermined in the second half of the twentieth century by the dogmatism of Robertsonian Augustinianism, as a basis for the interpretation of medieval literature in general and of Chaucer’s poetry in particular, and at the same time by the reactions of determined opposition provoked by this approach. Undeniably, medieval views often fail to coincide with modern ones and they are frequently uncomfortable for modern readers. Nevertheless, Chaucer’s brilliance as an observer of the human scene coexists with and irradiates these unfamiliar medieval ideas. The essays in this volume explore in detail the historical context of Chaucer’s poetry, in which orthodox Catholic ideas rather than revolutionary Wycliffite ones occupy the central position. At the same time, they offer detailed readings of his poetry and that of his famous contemporaries in an attempt to do justice to the independent and original work of these poetic masters, writing in the great royal households of England in the period 1360-1400.
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The Shaping of English Poetry

Essays on 'Sir Gawain and the Green Knight', Langland, Chaucer and Spenser

Gerald Morgan

This collection of essays is conceived not as a summary of past endeavours but as the beginning of an attempt to present a sense of the wholeness of a distinctively English literature from Beowulf to Spenser. The native alliterative tradition of England is represented by its final flowering in two essays on Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and three on Piers Plowman. The renewal of English letters in the fourteenth century, inspired by continental models in French and Italian, is represented by four essays on Chaucer. The poetic achievement of these three medieval masters remains unmatched until Spenser announces himself in a third great age in the history of English poetry and this is represented by three essays on the first three books of The Faerie Queene. Spenser’s indebtedness to Langland and Chaucer, and his philosophical conservatism in drawing on the thought of Aristotle and the tradition of medieval commentary surrounding the works of Aristotle, ensure that the tradition of English poetry in the Renaissance is securely rooted in its medieval inheritance.
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Edited by Gerald Morgan and Gavin Hughes

This collection of essays sets out to correct an injustice to citizens of the Irish Free State, or Twenty-Six Counties, whose contribution to the victory against Nazi Germany in the Second World War has thus far been obscured. The historical facts reveal a divided island of Ireland, in which the volunteers from the South were obliged to fight in a foreign (that is, British) army, navy and air force. Recent research has now placed this contribution on a secure basis of historical and statistical fact for the first time, showing that the total number of Irish dead (more than nine thousand) was divided more or less equally between the two parts of Ireland.
The writers in this volume establish that the contribution by Ireland to the eventual liberation of France was not only during the fighting at Dunkirk in 1940 and in Normandy in 1944, but throughout the conflict, as revealed by the list of the dead of Trinity College Dublin, which is examined in one chapter. Respect for human values in the midst of war is shown to have been alive in Ireland, with chapters examining the treatment of shipwreck casualties on Irish shores and the Irish hospital at Saint Lô in France. Other essays in the volume place these events within the complex diplomatic network of a neutral Irish Free State and examine the nature and necessity of memorial in the context of a divided Ireland.
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'Truthe is the beste'

A Festschrift in Honour of A.V.C. Schmidt

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Edited by Nicolas Jacobs and Gerald Morgan

The thirteen essays in this book, presented in honour of Dr A.V.C. (Carl) Schmidt, are designed to reflect the range of his interests. Dr Schmidt, who was a Fellow at Balliol College, Oxford from 1972 until his retirement in 2011, is best known for his comprehensive four-text edition of Piers Plowman, the fruit of a lifetime’s work on that text. He has also made a major contribution to the study of Chaucer and the medieval English contemplatives, and these authors also find a place in this collection. The essays presented here are intended to build upon the legacy of Carl Schmidt’s exemplary scholarship.