Essay on Literature and the Middle Ages

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Literature and the Middle Ages

The Renaissance invented the Middle Ages in order to define itself; the Enlightenment perpetuated them in order to admire itself; and the Romantics revived them in order to escape from themselves. In their widest ramifications 'the Middle Ages' thus constitute one of the most prevalent cultural myths of the modern world.

-- Brian Stock, Listening for the Text.

The Middle Ages is a time of hypothesis wherein one of the most hypothetical concepts is time. The present essay addresses time as a conceptual and historical problem, in literary, religious, and practical terms. The interested student will find here valuable information on the origins of French literature, how the Middle Ages got its
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No more than forty years later, the Sequence of Saint Eulalia was composed, providing us with another fragmentary example of the state of the French vernacular at its very beginnings. By the eleventh century, "romana lingua" had become the language of great literary works such as the Song of Roland and the Life of Saint Alexis which now serve as the basis for the canon of French literature.

The Middle Ages of French literature begin, then, in the middle of those 1000 years or so which precede the Renaissance. Beginning in the middle, of course, is an anachronism only our modern perspective allows. In this respect, the very expression "the Middle Ages" is anachronistic. As Nathan Edelman has pointed out, "of old expressions like 'the middle ages' and 'le moyen �ge' there remains only the form. Their original meaning is no longer appropriate, for we cannot view the medieval period as an enormous intermediate gap, abruptly severing modern times from Antiquity" (58). The Middle Ages, it seems, is the hypothesis of a post-Renaissance, that is to say modern, society. Indeed, the expression "media tempesta" does not appear in written form until 1469 when it is found in a letter from the…