Latin in Medieval Britain: Part I

Part I of Latin in Medieval Britain examines aspects of the changing status and use of Latin in Britain from the sixth to the sixteenth centuries. Here are the abstracts of the four chapters in this part.

2. The Start of the Anglo-Latin Tradition
David Howlett
The chapter surveys the beginning of Insular Latinity, the Anglo-Latin tradition in the context of earlier Cambro- and Hiberno-Latin traditions, the distinctive approach to Latin among Insular peoples who spoke non-Romance vernacular languages, drastic changes with the arrival of Francophones at the Norman Conquest, and the relations between these Latin traditions and the emergence of the earliest and richest vernacular literatures, in Welsh, Irish, English, Norse, and French.
keywords: Anglo-Latin, Gildas, glossaries, Cambro-Latin, Hiberno-Latin

3. The Twelfth-Century Renaissance in Anglo-Norman England: William of Malmesbury and Joseph of Exeter
Neil Wright
How did the ‘Twelfth-Century Renaissance’ impact on Anglo-Norman authors? This chapter explores the responses of two highly accomplished writers, William of Malmesbury and Joseph of Exeter, to the literary tradition in which they worked: by alluding to and skilfully modifying Classical (particularly post-Augustan) and late-Antique models, they masterfully played on their readers’ recognition and expectations of familiar conventions of historiography, hagiography, and poetics so as to innovate and entertain, and in this way created something distinctive and fresh for their contemporary audience.
key words: epic, hagiography, historiography, intertextuality, satire

4. From Chronicles to Customs Accounts: the Uses of Latin in the Long Fourteenth Century
Wendy R. Childs
The fourteenth century continued to see a predominantly trilingual society in England, with a number of vernaculars used alongside English, French and Latin. Latin was the most widely written language and its use in the church, scholarship and administration provides an immense range of Latin sources for the medievalist, from the highly literary to the practical. This chapter focuses on chronicles and customs accounts. The chroniclers consciously used classical styles, vocabulary and quotations, while nonetheless incorporating the changes inevitably occurring in a living language. The customs collectors used plain, often formulaic Latin and introduced vernaculars, but always within an accurate Latin matrix. Together they illustrate the range of content, style, and vocabulary found in fourteenth-century Latin sources.
keywords: chronicles, customs accounts, Latin, shipping, vernaculars

5. Elephans in camera: Latin and Latinity in 15th- and Early-16th-Century England
Robert Swanson
The fifteenth and sixteenth centuries are often depicted as the death throes of Latin in England, supplanted by ‘The Rise of English’. Arguing that more English did not necessarily mean less Latin, this chapter assesses the role of Latin in England from c.1400 to c.1540, and suggests that in terms of overall cultural history, use, and the accumulated inheritance from the past, this may have been when England was at its most latinate of all. Considering the use of Latin as a spectrum of skills – reading, writing, speaking, and listening – and across a range of abilities, it offers a positive appreciation of late medieval Latin as a vital force in a multilingual society.
keywords: archives, code-switching, education, humanists, indulgences, orality, print, reading, sermons, speaking, vernacular, writing

Read the abstracts for Part II here and the abstracts for Part III here.

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