March 15: Morals, Transformation and Alternate Realms in Sir Orfeo

In Sir Orfeo there are two worlds: the real world of Sir Orfeo’s court where Herodis is originally threatened by the Faerie King and the realm of the faeries where she is taken. Orfeo is able to handle his real world conflict in the faerie world through his tact and musical skill rather than through combat.

In what ways are these two worlds similar and how are they different (is one world more “alive” than the other)? How does the introduction of an alternate realm manipulate or transform Sir Orfeo and his morals?

Making Connections: Scribal dialect, spoken dialect, written word.

Strangely enough, like Sienna noted, it didn’t really occur to me that Langland, and all Middle English manuscripts creators existed in a world of multi-media – written and spoken word. In their time, even more than modern time, spoken narratives and verse were incredibly popular. This post links the concept of multi-media to what Thomas posted about spoken dialect. There is a good amount of influence between the way that different dialects influence the technique of creative writing, specifically Langland’s alliterative verse. A way to answer this question that the reading provides is to study the manuscript much like an archeologist studies a fossil. When you examine the details of scribal hand technique you get another form of media, the “dialect” of the hand of the scribe. Even with this form of what the OUMEM calls “paleographical dating” there are questions and discrepancies, however. “one can be fooled by…an older scribe who has not kept up to date with changes in script, or a young scribe trained by an older one in some remote area, or a scribe who is simply albiet awkwardly imitating an older hand”. This does allow another media to synthesize information through and to study as it converses with itself and evolves over time.
In regards to dialect and words, the evolution of alliterative verse as a technique that marries written and spoken word shows “evidence …of a still comfortably, playfully trilingual world.” The use of certain phrases and idioms for the sake of alliterative verse shows the vocabulary pool that the copyist or scribe of the time had to choose from. Often, scribes would rewrite some poems to fit the alliterative style of the entire anthology or put two poems side by side which marry somehow through stylistic technique, content or context. The first chapter of OUMEM addresses this phenomenon when they are discussing the Harley scribe and compiler on page 46.
The choices of stylistic technique and ordering of anthologies that scribes and compilers made can provide evidence about the constantly evolving influence that dialect, language, and scribal technique had on the world of readers and vice-versa; these choices can also provide evidence of the attitude of the scribe themselves.

Piers Plowman – Passus 5 – Experimental Modes

In class, we talked about how the mode in which Piers Plowman is written is experimental. It is written in three seperate revisions which gives the story a complex material life, the tale is not instanced once but revised and instanced in three different ways at the same time. Piers Plowman is also experimental because it is written as the retelling of a dream. Rather than the story existing in a dream world with no explanation behind its absurdities, the story exists within the wild and unconscious mind of the idle dreamer, living in the present as a Worcestershire plowman. Readers may have found that this perspective allowed the allegorical tales to resonate more deeply within the human psyche because this is where they are taking place in the story.

It would have been engaging to an audience exposed to all three parts in one sitting because the three revisions could be seen as three different dreams.  The dream world of a man would, in reality,  change, clarify or even become more cynical as they aged and wizened. This process of revelation could have been helpful to ease an audience deeper into the clarified spirituality that the author experienced over time.

Passus 5, The Confession of Sin certainly reminded me a lot of Everyman. The characters in this passus are Reason and the seven deadly sins, specifically Envy, Wrath and Gluttony. The author emphasizes some confessions by allowing the characters to be body-less (although they are described as moving physically and wearing clothing while they speak…physically) and confess how they have influenced people to act in a certain way (for example, the stew and gossip scene that Wrath describes). Of course, the tone of the passus would allow the reader to re-interpret this scene in many different ways, it could easily be placed in a “realm” suspended from the reality of the reader. A setting which exists in a suspended reality that contains constant connections to an incredibly familiar reality allows the reader very free interpretation.