London Literature, 1300-1380

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English literary culture in the fourteenth century was vibrant and expanding. Its focus, however, was still strongly local, not national. This study examines in detail the literary production from the capital before, during, and after the time of the Black Death. In this major contribution to the field, Ralph Hanna charts the development and the generic and linguistic features particular to London writing. He uncovers the interactions between texts and authors across a range of languages and genres: not just Middle English, but Anglo-Norman and Latin; not just romance, but also law, history, and biblical commentary. Hanna emphasises the uneasy boundaries legal thought and discourse shared with historical and 'romance' thinking, and shows how the technique of romance, Latin writing associated with administrative culture, and biblical interests underwrote the great pre-Chaucerian London poem, William Langland's Piers Plowman.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Hanna posits a myriad of localized literatures, certainly capable of interplay with one another, but primarily responsive to local conditions, pressures and requirements. Any reader with even a passing interest in fourteenth century English writings is likely to find much of value here."
-Ben Parsons, University of Sheffield, Sixteenth Century Journal

"Ralph Hanna continually particularizes our understanding of later medieval English literary and textual culture through investigation of many of its varied material witnesses. Arraying a body of carefully accumulated details behind a forceful thesis in this book, he inaugurates a major shift in how readers will view the development of Middle-English literature."
-Miceal F. Vaughan, University of Washington, Journal of Medieval Studies

"Hanna's work demonstrates convincingly that books produced in London answered the professional and pious needs of intelligent and socially responsible Londoners in diverse and resourceful ways. [...] Hanna's account of fourteenth-century London book history offers much that is significant in both content and method."
-Julia Boffey, Queen Mary University of London, Journal of English and Germanic Philology

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Ralph Hanna is Professor of Palaeography at the University of Oxford.
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Table of Contents

In Thrall; 1. English vernacular culture in London before 1380: the evidence; 2. The 'old' law; 3. Reading romance in London: the Auchinleck manuscript and Laud misc. 622; 4. Pepys 2498: Anglo-Norman audiences and London biblical texts; 5. Anglo-Norman's imagined end; 6. 'Ledeth hire to London ther lawe is ischewed': Piers Plowman B, London, 1377; The end of early London literature; Bibliography.
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