For Virginia Woolf, medieval literary culture is part of the fabric of “Englishness,” a space that can be contested for writers and ideas that are not part of the masculinist tradition she criticizes so strongly. By focusing on The Paston Letters and the Canterbury Tales, and in creating the character Joan Martyn, Woolf explores how the ordinary, the everyday, and the unexceptional become extraordinary and exceptional. For her, Middle English texts are full of what Ben Highmore calls “the details of life and the pulsings of affect.” In registering the importance of the everyday in these early texts, Woolf connects Middle English texts to life in the early twentieth century. In her reading of them and writing about them, she seeks to rebuild the concept of English literature, and she also manages to convey a new understanding of Chaucer’s role in literary culture.


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pp. 107-129
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