March 17: Romancing Sir Orfeo

In today’s reading, Olson delves into the possible themes that governed the Auchinleck’s compilatio, one of which involves the English “hero” narrative as an establishment of Anglo-Norman ancestry, owing validity to Norman authority.

In what ways would Sir Orfeo reflect a possible synthesis between different groups in the Auchinleck?

March 17: Why did English have such a large Impact?

In the second chapter of OEMUM, Romancing the Book, the author spends a lot of time discussing the probable owners of the Aucinleck manuscript. One idea that she throws into the mix of possibilities is the idea that this manuscript was meant for lower class citizens, contrary to the usual high class ownership of manscripts in the Middle Ages. One of her major reasons for this idea is the use of English in the manuscript, which was different than the usual latin or french.

What information does this give you about the English language in the Medieval Period? How did the public look at English compared to French or Latin? Talk about the benefits of English to this time period and why it may have been preferred to the public over French or Latin.

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?

March 15: Sir Orfeo vs. his mythological counterpart, Orpheus

Sir Orfeo is a retelling of the classic Greek myth Orpheus.  If that story is unfamiliar to you, here is a link of a synopsis:

The similarities between the two are clear; yet our Middle English version makes some distinct changes to the classic story (particularly the ending).  What are the differences between Sir Orfeo and the classic Orpheus and what can this tell us about Medieval English culture/literature?

March 3: Sir Degrevant Part 2

Melidor’s maid tries to convince Melidor to love Sir Degrevant by listing his strengths: he is handsome, wealthy, and generous. Although Sir Degrevant sounds like a great guy to me, Melidor shuns his advances until he proves his battle prowess by winning the joust and duel against the Duke of Gerle.

What does this say about Melidor’s idea of love specifically? What does it say about the reasons to fall love in the early 15th century vs modern reasons to fall in love?

Feb 25: Sir Launfal

First, don’t be confused if you have a memory of Marie de France’s Lanval: this Middle English romance is a version of that story (from a couple of centuries earlier), though as we’ll discuss in class, with some significant differences. But then, you knew most of that from reading the introduction to the poem. Today’s blog question:

What, throughout the poem, accounts for Launfal’s success? What accounts for his losses, his failures? 

Why is Social Authorship not still a thing?

While studying for the midterm, I was re-reading the notes from last week on the way that manuscripts go through rolling revisions. The idea of this really intrigues me because now a days, authors are very hesitant to share their ideas and more importantly, the credit for their work with anybody. If a book is being published, it is very rare to see more than two author names on the cover. Its just the way that culture has become, people do not like sharing especially when it comes to fame. This idea is partly why the concept of a rolling revision and social authorship is crazy to me. Authors of these manuscripts wrote these manuscripts without any want of fame and fortune. They knew going into the manuscript that others were going to take their work and re-write it, make changes, make edits, and in some cases, just turn it into their own work.

I look up to these authors and scribes. This shows that these people were not interested in the glory of the final product, but they genuinely wanted their stories to be shared and read. In most cases, when a manuscript was being re-written by a different scribe this meant that the manuscript was getting a longer lasting life. This to them was way more important than getting fame for maybe a year and then being forgotten. To me, this really put into perspective the way times have changed since the middle ages. Priorities have changed drastically, and maybe this isn’t such a good thing. Rolling revision may not allow one person to get all of the credit, but it would allow the work to get better and be epitomized over years and years to come. Just think about how much more amazing literature would be if this was still the way things were written.

Ease of Articulation

When reading texts like Piers Plowman and Sir Gawain and the Green Night in their original language, I can’t help but get frustrated when trying to decipher what the modern English word would be. It honestly amazes me how much English has changed over time. The differences between Old English and modern English are so diverse that it is hard to believe that they are the same language.

I took English 309 (English Language-Grammar and History) last semester, and thank God I did, because it really helped me learn the Old English alphabet. However, it makes me wonder what our English language will become in the next 100 years. If English changes so much from 1300 to now, how different will it be in 2116. Will English consist of abbreviations? Will English engulf another language like it did with French and Latin?

As humans, we innately choose the easiest and most efficient way of doing something. The same is true for language. According to the Ease of Articulation Principle, humanity always finds a way to change the sound of a word in  a way that is easier to pronounce. This is why Old English and Modern English are so aesthetically different. Why Old English started out in such a complicated way, no one knows. What we do know is that language can never truly be standardized, because it is constantly changing. Soon enough our English language could be a combination of LOLs and LYLASs in order to communicate!

The Necessity of Revision

This semester I am also taking the Walt Whitman Seminar class, and one of the things that we’ve discussed is Whitman’s additions and revisions to Leaves of Grass. He released several editions of the text throughout his lifetime, adding in new work each time. Each new work was a response the changing world and ideologies around Whitman and in America. In this way, Whitman’s work was able to maintain a sense of relevancy and timeliness (though he rarely cites specific worldly events or things in his work). I really like his philosophy when it comes to revision; one of the theories that I’ve drawn from his work is that humanity is in constant revision. We will never reach a point of perfection because there is a consistency to progression and regression based on the cyclical nature of life. By being faced with struggles and regressions he’d encountered before, Whitman believed it to be a way to formulate a more clear identity of ourselves. We can’t not be who we were yesterday, and thus our identity comes from a formulation of who we were yesterday in conjunction with who we are today. Together, these two separate moments create a pathway for what our future will be.

I really like this philosophy in the context of Piers Plowman, which was also revised several times throughout its life as a manuscript. Each new revision was a response to the changing world and ideologies surrounding the manuscript. For example, the C manuscript (before 1385) is responsive to the Peasants Revolt. The text was able to survive and maintain a relevancy in Medieval culture because like Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, it was responsive and timely. I think the copious amounts of different manuscripts and its long, active life during its time speaks to the necessity of revision overall. For the necessary advancement of culture and ideology, it is wise and at some points necessary to look back and revise what has already existed. By evaluating who we were and who we are now are necessary to create a new pathway for the future.