Publication Year: 2011
Alliterative Revivals is the first full-length study of the sophisticated historical consciousness of late medieval alliterative romance. Drawing from historicism, feminism, performance studies, and postcolonial theory, Christine Chism argues that these poems animate British history by reviving and acknowledging potentially threatening figures from the medieval past—pagan judges, primeval giants, Greek knights, Jewish forefathers, Egyptian sorcerers, and dead ancestors. In addressing the ways alliterative poems centralize history—the dangerous but profitable commerce of the present with the past—Chism's book shifts the emphasis from the philological questions that have preoccupied studies of alliterative romance and offers a new argument about the uses of alliterative poetry, how it appealed to its original producers and audiences, and why it deserves attention now.
Alliterative Revivals examines eight poems: St. Erkenwald, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, The Wars of Alexander, The Siege of Jerusalem, the alliterative Morte Arthure, De Tribus Regibus Mortuis, The Awntyrs off Arthure, and Somer Sunday. Chism both historicizes these texts and argues that they are themselves obsessed with history, dramatizing encounters between the ancient past and the medieval present as a way for fourteenth-century contemporaries to examine and rethink a range of ideologies.
These poems project contemporary conflicts into vivid, vast, and spectacular historical theaters in order to reimagine the complex relations between monarchy and nobility, ecclesiastical authority and lay piety, courtly and provincial culture, western Christendom and its easterly others, and the living and their dead progenitors. In this, alliterative romance joins hands with other late fourteenth-century literary texts that make trouble at the borders of aristocratic culture.
Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press
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...drama of historical revival. It proposes that death grants ghosts an inter rogative force, imbuing the impossible, unceasing communication between the dead and the living, the past and the present with fearful intimacy. For ghosts never return alone. They drag along on their mantles lost memo ries that compel their audiences to confront their foundational evasions, ...
1 Alliterative Romance: Improvising Tradition
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AT THE BEGINNING OF St. Erkenwald an Anglo-Saxon construction crew digging the foundations of a new Christian cathedral unearths an ancient Pere besiet hom aboute no3t to bryng hom in wordes. (Erkenwald, 47-56) [It was entirely made of thick stone gracefully hewn, garnished about with gar goyles all of grey marble. The fastening of the tomb that sealed it on top was ...
2 St. Erkenwald and the Body in Question
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A ROMANCE OF BRITISH CHRISTIAN foundation, St. Erkenwald is startl ingly willing to capitalize on that foundation's belatedness, its innovative status as ''New Werke" (38) in a land far older than itsel£ 1 And that ''werke" is energized by its specific location: St. Paul's Cathedral in London. The poem tells the story of the original construction of the cathedral that will ...
3 Heady Diversions: Court and Province in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
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THE PAST WE ENCOUNTER IN St. Erkenwald is, however inconclusively, already colonized. The ancient foundations have been breached, the pagan temples converted, and the old gods thrown out.1 But what would hap pen if it were one of these gods that the bishop unearthed in St. Paul's churchyard? Imagine a British aborigine, divorced from the classical tradi ...
4 Geography and Genealogy in The Wars of Alexander
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BoTH St. Erkenwald AND Sir Gawain and the Green Knight stage confront ations with mysterious figures interpolated into insular history. 1 The poems revive them to work toward historic transitions: the conversion of Britain into a Christian polity united under the bishop's merciful order or the pos sible coming of age of Arthur's youthful court, its transformation from a ...
5 Profiting from Precursors in The Siege of Jerusalem
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...ten in a modest monastic establishment, Bolton Priory, in a remote and infertile area of the West Riding of Yorkshire.1 The scope of the poem, however, is neither modest nor provincial; it essays nothing less than a foundation for Christian imperialism. The alliterative Siege of Jerusalem tells the tale of the conquest of Jerusalem by recently converted provincial ...
6 King Takes Knight: Signifying War in the Alliterative Morte Arthure
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WAR, SHUNTED ASIDE IN Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and suffused with imperial longings in both The Wars of Alexander and The Siege of Jerusalem, is pushed to further extremes in the alliterative Morte Arthure.1 In the poem's battles, war becomes a chivalric sacrament where surpassing violence intersects with the structured materials of knightly display: insig ...
7 Grave Misgivings in De Tribus Regibus Mortuis, The Awntyrs off Arthure, and Somer Sunday
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WHILE ALL OF THE ALLITERATIVE ROMANCES treated in this book explore and exploit the disjunctions between past and present, few alliterative poems face the dark backward and abysm of time with the directness of De Tribus Regibus Mortuis and TheAwntyrs off Arthure. These didactic allit erative poems isolate, crystallize, and drive to extremes defining features ...
8 Conclusion: The Body in Question–Again
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On the third day of which Month [September] it was, that the great and dreadful Fire of London began in a narrow Lane amongst old rotten Buildings, near to the lower end of Gracechurch Street, which in a short time, notwithstanding all the Help that could be, consumed the greatest Part of the City; in which not only the Parochial Churches were destroyed, but also this ancient Cathedral: The Roof ...
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It is a pleasure to thank my teachers, colleagues, and friends for their strin gent criticisms and enormous generosities during the bliss and blunder of this book. Lee Patterson has broadened the terrains of medieval literature and culture more ways than I can tell; with care, kindness, and staunch criticism he helped immeasurably in giving the argument whatever coher ...
Page Count: 336
Publication Year: 2011
Series Title: The Middle Ages Series