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Medieval Balladry and the Courtly Tradition

Literature of Revolt and Assimulation


Gwendolyn Morgan

Often ignored or given only cursory review, the medieval ballads represent the literature of the commoner, the largest population segment of the time. Far from being merely inexpert ditties, the ballads express the bleak and pragmatic world view of the peasant and laborer, and later the social aspirations of the new yeoman class. In doing so, they mount an attack against aristocratic ideologies of chivalry, courtly love, and the tripartite society on the philosophical and metaphoric levels. Gwendolyn Morgan's reading of the ballads of chivalry in this light leads to a new understanding of balladry's place in the English literary tradition and shatters the image of monolithic Golden Age of Faith.
Contents: Set in the social-historical and literary contests of its time, the book examines the ballads of chivalry as an ideological revolt of the peasantry concerning knighthood, courtly love, and yeomanry, and setting them in the British literary tradition.