Teaching Tolkien’s Translations of Medieval Literature: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Sir Orfeo and Pearl

Gawain and the Green Knight tolkien

J.R.R. Tolkien, the medievalist who became the father of modern fantasy literature, translated many poems out of Old English, Old Norse and Middle English into carefully versified modern English

How to Speak Middle English

Speaking medieval - photo by Kit / Flickr

This four-part series of videos created by Youtuber Thatoneguyinlitclass gives a quick guide to speaking in Middle English.

Horticultural Landscapes in Middle English Romance

British Library MS Cotton Nero A.x.

Gardens played a significant role in the lives of European peoples living in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.

Monstrous Women in Middle English Romance

Detail of a miniature of Medea seated, uttering a spell; Jason on horseback, and the slaughter either of Absyrtus or of one of Medea's children.

I analyze Middle English narratives including the early sixteenth‐century translation of the prose Melusine, the Constance tale as adapted by Chaucer and Gower, and appearances of Medea in the works of Chaucer, Gower, and Caxton’s translation of the History of Jason to discover the ways these narratives use female monstrosity—in literal and figurative form—to dramatize the anxieties arising in a patriarchal society that defines the female as a slightly aberrant category of human

Guilt and Creativity in the Works of Geoffrey Chaucer


I argue that as Chaucer develops his own expansive, questioning poetics in The House of Fame and The Canterbury Tales, he problematises the principle of allegory on which the legitimacy of literary discourse was primarily based in medieval culture and the final fragments of The Canterbury Tales see Chaucer struggling, increasingly, to reconcile the boldness and independence of his poetic vision with the demands of his faith.

Amending the Ascetic: Community and Character in the Old English Life of St. Mary of Egypt

Saint Mary of Egypt - British library

Among the most eligible saints for such treatment, Mary of Egypt deserves particular consideration: her popularity is evidenced by over a hundred extant Greek manuscripts of her Life and her uniquely prominent position in the Lenten liturgical cycle in the Eastern Church.

Medieval Misogyny and Gawain’s Outburst against Women in “‘Sir Gawain and the Green Knight’

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight - from original manuscript, date unknown.

The view has been gaining ground of late that the Gawain of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, a knight renowned as ‘Pat fyne fader of nurture’ (1. 919) and as ‘so cortays and coynt’ of his ‘hetes’ (1. I525), degenerates at the moment of leave-taking from the Green Knight, his erstwhile host, to the level of a churl capable of abusing the ladies of that knight’s household (11.2411 -28).

A Kiss Is Just a Kiss: Heterosexuality and Its Consolations in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight - Tolkien

The famous line from that modern romance- “A kiss is just a kiss”- is the message the Gawain-poet gave his listeners six centuries ago.

Sumer is Icumen In!

Sumer is Icumen In

One of the most famous pieces of music that has survived is a Middle English song about summer

Theories of the Nonsense Word in Medieval England

house of fame

The goos the cokkow and the doke also
So cryede kek kek kokkow quek quek hye

British Library purchases the Catholicon Anglicum

The Catholicon Anglicum, a 15th-century English-Latin dictionary (c) British Library Board

The British Library has paid £92,500 in order to keep a 500-year old dictionary from leaving the United Kingdom. They announced earlier this week that they had completed the purchase of the Catholicon Anglicum, a 15th-century English-Latin dictionary.

Writing conquest: traditions of Anglo-Saxon invasion and resistance in the twelfth century

Norman Conquest

Writing Conquest examines the ways in which Latin, Old English, and Middle English twelfth-century historical and pseudo-historical texts remembered and reconstructed three formative moments of Anglo-Saxon invasion and resistance…

When Urine is like Snot – Middle English Uroscopy Texts

Detail of the lower part of the folio showing urine glasses with different bands of colour and floating particles at various levels, with the colours marked in Greek: 'kyanos' (blue), on the left, and 'inopos' (wine-coloured) on the right.

People in late medieval England were concerned about their health, and like their modern-day counterparts they might turn to self-help guides. One of the most popular ways to do this in the Late Middle Ages would be to analyze your own urine.

Worldly Unease in Late Medieval European Travel Reports

Full-page portrait of Sir John Mandeville. Created 1459.

Comparing the Book of John Mandeville with Jean de Jeanville’s Vie Saint Louis and William of Rubruck’s Journey, this chapter argues that cosmopolitan perspectives in these texts seem to emerge in spite of rather than because of their contacts with other cultures.

Towards A Poetics of Marvellous Spaces in Old and Middle English Narrative

Middle English

I argue that the heart of this poetics of marvellous spaces is displacement. Their wonder and dread comes from boundaries that these places blur and cross, from the resistance of these places to being known or mapped, and from the deliberate distancing between these places and the home of their texts.

Chaucer’s reading list: Sir Thopas, Auchinleck, and Middle English romances in translation

Geneviève Receiving King Mark’s Letter, by the Master of the Vienna Mamerot. Romance of Tristan; France, Bourges? dated 1468. Pierpont Morgan Library, MS M.41, f. 24v (detail).

One frustration of engaging in any branch of European medieval studies as an academic pursuit is that few claim expertise about the ancient or Roman worlds, but seemingly everyone on an internet discussion forum believes him or herself knowledgeable about the medieval period, usually based on patently false beliefs.

On Omissions and Substitutions in the Medieval English Translations of the Gospel

Wessex Gospels/West-Saxon Gospels

In view of this we carried out research on two English medieval translations of John’s Gospel, believing that their comparison would not only reveal differences in the perception and experience of biblical concepts (expressed through language), but also those in culture, society and cognition that occurred in the period between their occurrence.

A Word About Our Words

old english riddles

This may be a little hard to believe, considering the conspicuous lack of “thee” and “thou” in modern writing, but the forms of English that came before are even more foreign.

Gower’s “Confessio” and the “Nova statuta Angliae”: royal lessons in English law

Confession Amantis - John Gower

In the following discussion, I will explore some hitherto unexamined links between the Confessio Amantis and one of these legal texts, the Nova Statuta Angliae or New Statutes of England, which circulated among professional and non-professional readers in the 1380s and 1390s and which Richard II received in a manuscript now in Cambridge: St. John’s College MS A.7.

Seasonal Setting and the Human Domain in Early English and Early Scandinavian Literature

King Haraldr hárfagri receives the kingdom out of his father's hands. From the 14th century Icelandic manuscript Flateyjarbók, now in the care of the Árni Magnússon Institute in Iceland.

Seasonal Setting and the Human Domain in Early English and Early Scandinavian Literature Paul Sander Langeslag University of Toronto: Doctor of Philosophy, Centre for Medieval Studies (2012) Abstract The contrast between the familiar social space and the world beyond has been widely recognised as an organising principle in medieval literature, in which the natural and the […]

Literature, Logic and Mathematics in the Fourteenth Century

An illustration depicting the ‘wolf, goat, cabbage’ puzzle, in the Ormesby Psalter (Oxford,  Bodleian Library MS Douce 366, fol. 89r ).

This thesis assesses the extent to which fourteenth-century Middle English poets were interested in, and influenced by, traditions of thinking about logic and mathematics.

Impregnable friendship : locating desire in the middle English ‘Amis and Amiloun’


Scholarship on Amis and Amiloun has generally been divided into two critical schools. The majority of critics have read the work as an exemplar of perfect friendship, overlooking (or ignoring) any trace of homoeroticism, citing the possibility itself as anachronistic, or explaining away its presence by offering historical or theoretical justification for intimacy among medieval men.

Listening for the Vikings: Some Evidence from Etymology

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

The Vikings left behind several kinds of evidence during their stay in Anglo-Saxon England. Richard Dance notes that ‘one crucial aspect is the etymological.’

‘Fromm thennes faste he gan avyse/This litel spot of erthe’: GIS and the General Prologue

Canterbury Tales - Chaucer

This paper was given at the Canada Chaucer Seminar on April 27, 2013.

Pleasurable Forms and Forms of Pleasure in the Pages of the Pearl – manuscript

Pleasurable Forms and Forms of Pleasure in the Pages of the Pearl

Bahr discussed the poem, Pearl, jokingly termed, ‘a formalists wet dream’, and focused on its implied relationship between pleasure and form and how it explored the relationship between desire and fruitfulness.

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