An Introduction to Middle English and Arthurian  Literature

with Dr Sam Newton (Independent Scholar)
at Sutton Hoo
Saturday, 5th April 2014.

An introduction to the richness of the English language and its literature after the coming of Norman-French as the language of the establishment in 1066. We shall see how the language appears to have “moved out to the country”, where it flourished, to eventually re-emerge with all the timeless vigour of human life.

To begin with we shall look at some of the late entries in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, which was maintained in Peterborough Abbey up to 1153.

By this time a new narrative of history was being formed around a king named Arthur. We shall how his legend was shaped, with special attention to the finest and earliest of English texts of “Arthurian” literature, Layamon’s early thirteenth century epic Hystoria Brutonum, and to the majestic and mysterious Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

Provisional Programme

09.50 – 10.15: Coffee on arrival

10.15 – 11.15: Late Old & Early Middle: The Peterborough manuscript of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.

11.15 – 11.45: Coffee break

11.45 – 12.45: The Dream of Arthur: Geoffrey of Monmouth & Co.

12.45 – 14.00: Lunch break

14.00 – 15.00: The first Arthurian text in English: Layamon’s Hystoria Brutonum.

15.00 – 15.20: Tea break

15.20 – 16.20: Psychic and geographical landscapes: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

c.16.20: Thanks and Close

Some Suggestions for Optional Background Reading

Alexander, M., The First Poems in English (Penguin Classics 2008)
Allen, Rosamund (tr.), Lawman – Brut (Everyman 1992)
Allen Brown, R., Castles from the Air (Cambridge 1989)
Barber, R., King Arthur: Hero and Legend (London 1961)
Barron, W.R.J. (ed. & tr.), Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Manchester 1974)
Bennett, J.A.W., & G.V.Smithers (eds), Early Middle English Verse and Prose (Oxford 1982)
Brooke, C., The Saxon and Norman Kings (Glasgow 1963)
Davies, R.T. (ed.), Medieval English Lyrics (London 1966)
Garmonsway, G., The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (Dent 1953, 1975)
Lee, S.D., & E.Solopova, The Keys of Middle-earth: Discovering Medieval Literature through the Fiction of J.R.R.Tolkien (Palgrave Macmillan 2005)
Mason, E., Wace & Layamon – Arthurian Chronicles (London 1962)
Shippey, T.A., The Road to Middle-Earth (Allen and Unwin, 1982; rev. ed. HarperCollins, 2003)
Skeat, W.W., The Lay of Havelok the Dane, rev. K.Sisam (Oxford 1915)
Thorpe, L. (tr.), Geoffrey of Monmouth – The History of the Kings of Britain (Penguin Classics 1966)
Tolkien, J.R.R. (tr. ), Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Sir Orfeo, ed. C.Tolkien (Unwin 1975)
Wilson, R., The Lost Literature of Medieval England (Methuen 1952, 1970)

About Dr Sam Newton

samSam Newton was awarded his Ph.D at UEA in 1991 and is the author of The Origins of Beowulf and the pre-Viking Kingdom of East Anglia (1993) and The Reckoning of King Rædwald (2003). He has lectured widely around the country as an independent scholar and has contributed to many radio and television programmes, especially Time Team.. He is also a Director of Wuffing Education and an accredited NADFAS lecturer.


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