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.
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.