The book surveys medieval literature from both a critical and an historical standpoint. Medieval literature is increasingly seen as an area of intense specialism which is to be treated differently from other areas of English studies. The essays collected here try to overturn this perception in two ways. Firstly, there is a demonstration of the ways in which modern critical approaches and perspectives work with the medieval text. Secondly, the idea of the medieval is shown, historically, to be a discourse which has been given different symbolic values and served different social purposes. The first half of the book contains essays on feminist and structural approaches to the medieval text as well as a polemical evaluation of post-structuralist criticism and an introduction to modern approaches to manuscript studies. In the second half medievalism is analyzed through case-studies from the Renaissance, the eighteenth century and the nineteenth century.
Introduction : from medieval to medievalism / John Simons -- Manuscript studies : new directions for appreciating Middle English romance / Murray J. Evans -- Medievalists and deconstruction : an exemplum / David Aers -- Traces of romance textual poetics in the non-romance works ascribed to the 'Gawain'-poet / Barbara Kowalik -- Structure and meaning in Guy of Warwick / Maldwyn Mills -- Women and Chaucer's providence : The clerk's tale and The knight's tale / Catherine La Farge -- Popular reading tastes in Middle English religious and didactic literature / John J. Thompson -- The double-armed man : images of the medieval in early modern military idealism / Simon Barker -- Romance in the eighteenth-century chapbook / John Simons -- 'The paths of virtue and Early English' : F.J. Furnivall and Victorian medievalism / Peter Faulkner.