"From epic to romance"

Cultural Changes

The literature of the Middle English period usually makes a very different impression than Old English literature. This may be due partly to the type of OE poetry which happens to survive. But another reason, or complex of reasons, can be found in broad cultural changes which took place in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. These changes resulted in greater interest and emphasis being given to the ordinary and "mundane" aspects of life which the earlier "heroic" tradition ignored.

The celebrated essay by Southern describes this change as one "from epic to remance." And Morris' little book calls attention to the "discovery" of the individual which he thinks took place during the same period.

  • Southern, R.W. "From Epic to Romance." The Making of the Middle Ages. 1953. New Haven: Yale UP, 1961. 219-57.
  • Morris, Colin. The Discovery of the Individual. 1972. New York: Harper, 1973.

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