Language and Piety in Middle English Romance

October 2000
280 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
ISBN: 9780859915984
Format: Hardback

Language and Piety in Middle English Romance

Roger Dalrymple

Analysis of pious formulae across a range of medieval romance, illuminating their stylistic purpose.
Middle English romances exhibit a distinctive piety, and yet were maligned by medieval moralists. Dalrymple seeks an answer to this apparent contradiction by drawing attention to the genre's myriad invocations of God and Christ, its pious formulae. Criticism to date has tended to view prayers and vows to "him that bore the crown of thorns" or to "him that bought us with his blood" as stock line-fillers drawn upon for metrical ease. Yet, based upon a catalogue of the formulae, the book argues that in romances such as the Stanzaic Morte Arthur and Guy of Warwick they encode a rich and resonant fund of devotional imagery which when harnessed to aesthetic use provoke a strong affective charge, conflating piety and blasphemy. In analysing the changing functions of pious formulae across a range of romances, the author aims to illuminate their neglected stylistic role, and to broaden understanding of the piety of the medieval English romances.

ROGER DALRYMPLE lectures at Oxford Brookes University.


The value of this book goes well beyond the generally persuasive demonstration of the meaningfulness of pious language: a lengthy appendix contains a useful catalogue of pious formulae in the Middle English romances, organised both by romance and by type. MEDIUM AEVUM

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