Religious figures such as Archbishop Arundel were very concerned that translating texts could change the meaning of them. Do a close reading of the first 18 lines of the General Prologue in Middle English and then read the same lines translated into modern English. (https://sites.fas.harvard.edu/~chaucer/teachslf/gp-par.htm provides a line by line comparison)
Read the lines aloud and notice how the words sound and flow. Do you notice any differences? Do you think any meaning or literary impact is lost in the modern translation? Which version do you think sounds better out loud? Is it dangerous to translate such influential texts?
Piers Plowman from Passus 5, The Confession of the Sins reminded me a lot of Everyman, both in form and message. In Passus 5, the narrator introduces multiple characters that represent the seven deadly sins, such as Glutton and Wrath. Similarly, the morality play Everyman, written about 200 years after Piers Plowman, introduces characters such as Good Deeds and Fellowship that represent themes/ideas in order to get across a message. Everyman seems to be heavily influenced by Piers Plowman, Passus 5, and both tales aim to enforce Christian values in their readers.
I really enjoyed the description of Glutton in Passus 5 because its rare to read something comical in a text as old as this one. Additionally, his description gets pretty crude and would fall into today’s category of crude humor. For example, Langland wrote, “He pissed a half-gallon in the time it takes to say “Our Father,” And blew his round trumpet at his backbone’s end, And all who heard that horn held their nose afterwards.” I understand this description was meant to show how belligerent Glutton got and the negative side effects of drinking too much, but I found this hysterical. You don’t really associate humor with medieval manuscripts, so this was a nice surprise. I also thought it was interesting that Glutton was the only deadly sin to cry while confessing/repenting, showing that under his gluttonous behavior he really was a person who was ashamed of his actions. Then Langland wrote, “And [Glutton] vowed firmly, “Neither for hunger nor for thirst Will ever fish on Friday dissolve in my stomach.” Personally, I thought Glutton’s confession was the most sincere. The contrast that the author provides between Glutton’s drunk actions and his sorrowful remorse remind me of a quote that circulated the internet after Robin William’s death: “I think the saddest people always try their hardest to make people happy because they know what it’s like to feel absolutely worthless and they don’t want anyone else to feel like that.” Glutton was surrounded by many people who are described as laughing and having a good time with him, but in the end he is regretful of his actions and how he is living his life. The author probably wasn’t trying to create this contrast with Glutton, but it really struck me that he cried while confessing, and I couldn’t shake this idea that Glutton had some depth/ inner turmoil to him — or maybe I was just trying to make the story more dramatic/entertaining in my own head.
(First of all, I want to start by saying that this reading from the OUMEM described that in medieval times, many Christians found it blasphemous to have images in literature, and ultimately banned them. This totally gave me an all-dancing-is-banned Footloose vibe, once again showing that religion takes a while to warm up to creativity, for some reason).
In today’s reading from the OUMEM I learned that intertextuality can not only refer to the contents of a text, but the images paired with a text as well. I want to specifically focus on the miniature that precedes The King of Tars romance in the Auchinleck manuscript. I liked how the authors of the OUMEM decided to include that this manuscript has been seen as a “women’s manuscript” (158). The authors state that Denise Depres has observed that, “the illustration may have been influenced by images of the ‘child-as-Host’ motif in manuscript illustrations and vernacular literature” (160). The image that the book provides as an example of the “child-as-Host” motif shares many similarities to the miniature in The King of Tars. All the people depicted in both images have their hands raised towards the sky in prayer and are either standing/kneeling in front of an altar with similiarly draped fabric over it. Both images feature a child as well, and the miniature in The King of Tars story is wearing a crown, even though he is a sultan, indicating the very likely influence from the second image, in which King Edward is present and wearing a crown. I notice that the people in both images are even facing the same direction, and both images are outlined by a square border.
I agree with John of Damascus (basically Kevin Bacon) who supported the use of religious images and rebelled against ideas like iconoclasm, arguing that, “because Christ became man, images of him were permissible” (154). I know manuscripts, especially colored and illustrated ones such as the Auchinleck, were mostly only for those of high status or the clergy (those who were literate) but one could argue that images helped illiterate Christians understand their religion better and, therefore, become closer to their faith. Going off of this, I believe iconoclasm (726-80) can be viewed as an equivalent to the Dark Ages for those who could not read manuscripts. I think the banning of images and icons probably delayed the growth and full understanding of Christianity for a period of time, and reserved the religion for those of higher classes who could afford manuscripts and had the ability to read them. Perhaps nobles wanted to separate themselves from those of lower social status and banned icons so that they would be the only ones capable of learning and understanding Christian stories. Probable or not, it’s an interesting speculation nonetheless.
I only have the Broadview book at the moment, so my blog post will be about the aspects of that reading that I found most interesting. First off, I was interested in how the book points out specific instances in which different manuscripts paint moments in history quite differently. On page XLVII, a writing done by a scribe in Peterborough that accounts King Harold’s murder at the hands of William during the Norman conquest is quoted. The scribe briefly mentions King Harold’s death, simply stating that William killed him along with Earl Tostig in one sentence. Later in the same paragraph, the scribe goes on to say, “Leofric, Abbot of Peterborough, was at the campaign and fell ill there, and came home and died soon after…God have mercy on his soul. In his days there was every happiness and every good at Peterborough, and he was beloved by everyone…” Here, the book makes a point to suggest that the effects of the Norman Conquest and Battle of Hastings may not have been immediately felt by the people of Britain or, furthermore, seen as significant to the culture as we have come to view it today. Going off on this same idea, the book quotes a scribe in Winchester who wrote of the same events. Similarly to the previously mentioned scribe, William’s conquest and Harold’s death are mentioned briefly in one sentenced and, subsequently, followed by a noting of the building of a church and a sighting of a comet. These manuscripts show that our conceptions of history can be altered by different authors and time itself. Events in history, such as the Norman Conquest, that we see today as holding historical significance could very well have been regarded with less importance to the people of the time period, and major effects of the events may have occurred so much later after the events themselves that the scribes of the time never noticed a change to record in their life times.