Alliterative Poetry’s Latin Learning

[My proposal for this 2007 session]

The topic of this panel is suggested by David Lawton’s 1982 edited volume Middle English alliterative poetry and its literary background. In his introduction to this collection, Lawton called for a comprehensive study of the alliterative poetry’s “medieval Latin background.” A number of important advances have been made in the intervening years: one can point to Martin Camargo’s studies of Latin rhetorical instruction in late medieval England; and to editions of The Wars of Alexander and The Siege of Jerusalem, which have described, in intricate detail, the alliterative poets’ use of their Latin sources. This panel aims to extend these two areas of study—translation and rhetorical instruction—towards a more complete understanding of what Lawton termed alliterative poetry’s “clerkly, literate, and essentially bookish” character.

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