European and Other


Medieval literature is a broad subject, encompassing essentially all written works available in Europe and beyond during the Middle Ages (encompassing the one thousand years from the fall of the Western Roman Empire ca. AD 500 to the beginning of the Florentine Renaissance in the late 15th century). The literature of this time was composed of religious writings as well as secular works. Just as in modern literature, it is a complex and rich field of study, from the utterly sacred to the exuberantly profane, touching all points in-between. Because of the wide range of time and place it is difficult to speak in general terms without oversimplification, and thus the literature is best characterized by its place of origin and/or language, as well as its genre.


Go to this link for details on the following aspects of medieval literature:

1 Languages
2 Anonymity
3 Types of writing

    3.1 Religious
    3.2 Secular
    3.3 Women's literature
    3.4 Allegory

4 Notable literature of the period
5 Specific articles

    5.1 By region or language
    5.2 By genre
    5.3 By period

6 References
7 External links


Part 1:

Below is a list of literature, texts and authors, dating from the 6th to 9th centuries, a period corresponding roughly to the Early Middle Ages. The grouping by century is somewhat arbitrary, as many texts of this period cannot be dated to a specific century with any certainty. The list is chronological, and does not include epigraphy or poetry. For poetry, see: 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th century in poetry. For early epigraphy, see the list of languages by first written accounts. During this period, a number of classical languages inherited from earlier epochs remained in active use; for example, Chinese, Sanskrit, Latin, Greek, Persian, and Hebrew. The same period also sees the rise of newly written vernaculars, partly replacing earlier literary languages; for example, Old Hindi, Old French, Arabic, Germanic, Celtic, Turkic, inter alia. For a more detailed picture go to:

All of the following sub-headings fall under the category of "early medieval literature"; for example: (i) The Matter of Rome. According to the medieval poet Jean Bodel, The Matter of Rome was the literary cycle made up of Greek and Roman mythology, together with episodes from the history of classical antiquity, focusing on military heroes like Alexander the Greatand Julius Caesar. Bodel divided all the literary cycles he knew best into the Matter of Britain, the Matter of France and the Matter of Rome (although "non-cyclical" romance also existed). The Matter of Rome also included what is referred to as the Matter of Troy, consisting of romances and other texts based on the Trojan War and its aftereffects, including the adventures of Aeneas. For more on The Matter of Rome go to:

Part 1.1:

Readers with the interest in "early medieval literature" can examine literature during that period under the following sub-headings: (ii) Matter of France, (iii) Matter of Britain, (iv) Armenian, (v) Byzantine, (vi) Georgian, (vii) Kannada, (viii) Middle Persian and (ix) Turkish. Go to this link:

Part 2:

Below is a list and a description of literature in several languages from "the middle and late medieval period", the 9th and 10th centuries to the beginning of the Florentine Renaissance in the late 15th century. The literature of this time was composed of religious writings as well as secular works. Just as in modern literature, it is a complex and rich field of study, from the utterly sacred to the exuberantly profane, touching all points in-between. Because of the wide range of time and place it is difficult to speak in general terms without oversimplification, and thus the literature is best characterized by its place of origin and/or language, as well as its genre. Readers with the interest can examine the literature from this period under the many language headings which follow: Old Bulgarian, Old English, Middle English, Arabic, Armenian, Byzantine, Catalan, Dutch, French, Georgian, German, Indian, Old Irish, Italian, Korean, Japanese, Nepal Bhasa, Norse, Telugu, Turkish, and Welsh.

Part 2.1:

Here is some basic information about the literature in the first of these languages, Old Bulgarian. This is is medieval Bulgarian literature in the Middle Ages. With the Bulgarian Empire welcoming the disciples of Cyril and Methodius after they were expelled from Great Moravia, the country became a centre of rich literary activity during what is known as the Golden Age of medieval Bulgarian culture. In the late 9th, the 10th and early 11th century literature in Bulgaria prospered, with many books being translated from Byzantine Greek, but also new works being created. Many scholars worked in the Preslav and Ohrid Literary Schools, creating the Cyrillic script for their needs. Bulgarian scholars and works influenced most of the Slavic world, spreading Old Church Slavonic, the Cyrillic and the Glagolithic alphabet to Kievan Rus', medieval Serbia and medieval Croatia. For more on this Old Bulgarian literature go to: I leave it to readers with the interest to access any one, several, or all the other languages at this link:


Since Latin was the language of the Roman Catholic Church, which dominated Western and Central Europe, and since the Church was virtually the only source of education, Latin was a common language for Medieval writings, even in some parts of Europe that were never Romanized. However, in Eastern Europe, the influence of the Eastern Roman Empire and the Eastern Orthodox Church made Greek and Old Church Slavonic the dominant written languages.

The common people continued to use their respective vernaculars. A few examples, such as the Old English Beowulf, the Middle High German Nibelungenlied, the Medieval Greek Digenis Acritas, the Old East Slavic Tale of Igor's Campaign, and the Old French Chanson de Roland, are well known to this day. Although the extant versions of these epics are generally considered the works of individual (but anonymous) poets, there is no doubt that they are based on their peoples' older oral traditions. Celtic traditions have survived in the lais of Marie de France, the Mabinogion and the Arthurian cycles.


Because most of what we have was written down by clerics, much of extant medieval poetry is religious. The chief exception is the work of the troubadours and the minnesänger, whose primary innovation was the ideal of courtly love. Among the most famous of secular poetry is Carmina Burana, a manuscript collection of 254 poems. Twenty-four poems of Carmina Burana were later set to music by German composer Carl Orff in 1936. Old English religious poetry includes the poem Christ by Cynewulf and the poem The Dream of the Rood, preserved in both manuscript form and on the Ruthwell Cross. We do have some secularpoetry; in fact a great deal of medieval literature was written in verse, including the Old English epicBeowulf. Scholars are fairly sure, based on a few fragments and on references in historic texts, that much lost secular poetry was set to music, and was spread by traveling minstrels, or bards, across Europe. Thus, the few poems written eventually became ballads or lays, and never made it to being recited without song or other music. For a detailed outline of material on this subject go to:


Medieval French literature is, for the purpose of this outline, literature written in Oïl languages (particularly Old French & early Middle French) during the period from the eleventh century to the end of the fifteenth century. The material and cultural conditions in France and associated territories around the year 1100 unleashed what the scholar Charles Homer Haskins termed the "Renaissance of the 12th century" and, for over the next hundred years, writers, "jongleurs", "clercs" and poets produced a profusion of remarkable creative works in all genres. Although the dynastic struggles of the Hundred Years' War and the Black Death pandemic of the fourteenth century in many ways curtailed this creative production, the fifteenth century laid the groundwork for the French Renaissance. For more go to:


The Medieval Spanish literature is composed by the corpus of literary works written in medieval Spanish between the beginning of the 13th and the end of the 15th century. Traditionally, the first and last work of this epoch are the Cantar de Mio Cid, an epical poem the manuscript of which dates from 1207, and La Celestina (1499), a transition work to Renaissance. By the end of the 10th century, the languages spoken in North Spain were very far from theirLatin origins, and can assuredly be calledRomance. Latin texts were no longer understood, as can be seen from the glosses used in Castileto explain Latin terms. Spanish oral literature was doubtless in existence before Spanish texts were written. For more go to:


A notable amount of medieval literature is anonymous. This is not only due to the lack of documents from a period, but also due to an interpretation of the author's role that differs considerably from the romantic interpretation of the term in use today. Medieval authors often deeply respected the classical writers and the Church Fathers and tended to re-tell and embellish stories they had heard or read rather than invent new stories. And even when they did, they often claimed to be handing down something from an auctor instead. From this point of view, the names of the individual authors seemed much less important, and therefore many important works were never attributed to any specific person.

DANTE influence from The Middle Ages......

Not a 'modern' poet but a model for moderns in some ways, Dante saw himself as a poet of "justice." Justice can only be attained through the means which God in His providence has placed at man's disposal. This, for Dante, was the true subject of The Divine Comedy. Of course, the Baha'i has at his disposal the nucleus and pattern of a future World Order in the present day Baha'i Administration. He has the Book and the Interpreter of the Book as the central underpinning of this System, this 'means which God has placed at his disposal.'


"Dante had at his disposal a comprehensive & intellectually consistent image of the cosmos & its relationship to God," writes Harold L. Weatherby in his The Keen Delight: The Christian Poet in the Modern World(University of Georgia Press, Athens, 1975, p.5).  In an age profoundly infected with philosophical scepticism the problem of writing sacred poetry, the great song, requires that we recapture a genuine science of invisible things. This can be done through a grasp by the poet of both the external and internal worlds. The poet conveys his creative intuition into a receptive intuition.
-ibid. pp.123-149.

The poet, who is a member of the Baha’i community, has before him every atom in existence and the essence of all created things(1). There is no break between nature, art, poetry, science, religion & personal life. It is all one, a dynamic unity amidst multiplicity, amidst an organic body of ideas. On the basis of a vast corpus of sacred Writings this same poet has before him a massive body of religious literature. Its frameworks of systematic theology, philosophy, epistomology, ontology, aesthetics, theophanology, history and psychology are, for the most part, in their early stages of development. But the foundation is there for a rich and fertile global literature to evolve within a fusion of opposites, on some ladder of reflection &, inevitably, amidst a complex cross-fertilisation. -Ron Price, The Emergence of a Baha’i Consciousness in World Literature, Juxta Publications, 2003.

You get enough principles here
to build a cosmos in your brain,
to wander with Dante
through his world of keen delight,
to rebuild his model,
a reconstructed universe.

This is far more than mere living,
of simply amusing yourself
like some restless dilettante spectator
on the lounge room couch;
this is appreciation, deep and full,
far beyond a momentary touch of sorrow;
this is some vortex spinning with ideas,
driving its readers into their own memory,
back into a reverie, past depths
and the vagueness of past-times
into a oneness
that is slowly sweeping the face of the earth,
a search that is self-expression.

This universe, this cosmos, this self,
its likes and dislikes, comings and goings,
faults and weaknesses
are one entity,
even in its contradictions:
the oneness of a microcosm
in its egotism and limitations,
walking backwards or forewords,
in some new Rome at the crossroads,
in some solitude and aloneness
which is necessary and unavoidable,
bringing the past and the future into now,
with delicate scents, pulsations,
unnameable tactile sensations,
with an anxiety surrounding
my moments of tranquillity
but with light as the basis of structure
and darkness always at the periphery,
on an inner lifeline of such complexity,
such a seismographic record and sensibility,
such a breadth of compass
within the distilled sphere of these words
and their fusion of opposites.

Ron Price
18 August 1996

1Baha’u’llah, Hidden Words.


Dante’s The Divine Comedy has inspired many writers over the centuries. I have, here, in this poem, done a rewriting, a revision, a reworking of Dante's Canto 1, drawing on my own experience and thought -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Three Epochs, 27 December 1998.

Midway upon this journey of my life
I find myself within a forest dark,
although the straight path is not lost.

Good grief! How complex to describe
this forest’s savage, stern and sacred way
wherein my fear lies, embers burning.

A bitter taste is here, far more than death,
a kind of poison along with honied tongue.
They walk with me along my days and times.

I must say, though, now I am at mountain’s foot,
a tapestry of beauty appears above
and pierces my heart with joy,
consecrating all these devoted years.
It is as if my heart will break.

For what is here will lead others right by every road,
quieten distressful breath and fear of every load.
My weary body I will rest here
while the sun mounts up and to the stars.
If any place were one of Divine Love
it is here where I can cry and sense redemption.

Life’s long silence, part of source
and cause of every joy, can take my heart,
can finally meet its Maker.
He is here, my Master and my Author,

Alone the One from Whom I took the Book.
Such beauteous style that has done honour to me.
I followed You and now You are my guide.
You will lead me slowly to my eternal home.
You will lead me through my lamentations.

You will lead me through my second death.
Here in this city and this lofty throne.
Happy he whom thereto He elects!
Greatest Poet I entreat Thee
by that same God Whom Thou didst know.
Conduct me down the road
that I may see the portal
far beyond these disconsolate gates

Ron Price
27/12/'98 to 15/2/'15.


Part 1:

Students with an interest in medieval literature have a range of options as both internal and external students. I leave the examination of the many options across the world with readers here who have the interest. The following are some of the aspects of such programs.

Macquarie University in Sydney Australia offers the following course: "Medieval Literature: Dreams and Debates" This unit in the English department examines the imaginative content and literary style of key early texts in the English literary tradition. It focuses on the use of two different modes: the dream vision and the reasoned debate.  This unit examines how these two modes are used to create imaginary worlds and to present logical argument. Students are encouraged to analyse the multiple levels of meaning in a wide range of early texts from the Anglo-Saxon period to Chaucer and his contemporaries. The impact on meaning of both the medieval context of composition and also the later critical reception of individual works is studied. Discussion includes not only the content & narrative techniques of these texts but also their rhetorical and aesthetic qualities, wit, and cross-cultural intelligibility.

Part 1.1:

Areas of specialisation at many English departments include Old and Middle English (800-1500, approx.) among a host of other specializations like: Early Modern (1500-1750); Eighteenth Century and Romantic (1750-1837); Victorian (1837- 1901); 20th and 21st Century; Australian, Caribbean, American, or British literatures; literary theory; history of the book; cultural, gender, postcolonial and American studies; film, multimedia, linguistics and language studies. Whatever your pathway, you will explore questions about genre, period & place across a wide spectrum of works in English. You will learn to analyse and explain the formal and linguistic features of texts, aspects of their genre and history, and their dynamic role in local and global cultures. You will formulate and pursue meaningful theories of critical analysis, reading communities and literary value.

Part 2:

If you want a Master’s in medieval or early modern English literature, or indeed if you want to work across these two periods, the Cambridge MPhil programme offers a stimulating combination of diverse expert teaching and rich research resources. With both taught elements and opportunities for independent research, it enables you to acquire substantial technical skills and a broad range of knowledge within the field as well as following up your own interests. Over the year, you will have the chance to meet a wide range of scholars both from within Cambridge, as your teachers, and from further afield in the fortnightly research seminars. The MPhil attracts a first-class intake of students from the UK and abroad, and its graduates have an outstanding record in gaining employment in the academic world and outside.


Part 1:

Two new books on Dante came out in 2014. They were reviewed in The New York Review of Books(19/2/'15). They were reviewed by Robert Pogue Harrison in his 'Dante on Trial'. The two books were: (i) Dante & the Limits of the Law by Justin Steinberg(University of Chicago Press, 230 pages); & (ii) Reading Dante: From Here to Eternity by Prue Shaw(Liveright, 320 pages). Harrison writes: "For Dante the injury of exile went deeper than the hardships of poverty, homelessness, and loss of social status, about which he complained bitterly in his letters and the works he wrote after being exiled. It also went deeper than the loss of citizenship, which he cherished more than any other earthly blessing (see Paradiso 8: 115–117). What hurt Dante the most was the “infamy” of his conviction, based as it was on hearsay evidence that resulted in a permanent defamation of his character. Alluding to the way many Florentines simply assumed he was guilty as charged and unleashed a public outcry against him, Dante would later write about wandering all around Italy “displaying against my will the wound of fortune for which the wounded one is often unjustly accustomed to be held accountable.” For more go to:

Part 2:

The shame and indignation Dante felt at being chased from his nest by his fellow citizens never diminished with time. At the end of his life the wound remained as raw in his psyche as when disaster first struck in 1301.The Divine Comedy was conceived and completed within the dark, lacerated depths of a pain that Dante transmuted into a poetic rage against the machine—the defective machine of earthly justice that had unjustly condemned him and that he believed stood in desperate need of rescue, the way his pilgrim needed rescue in the dark wood of Inferno 1. (Dante soon became convinced that only a sovereign emperor who was above partisan politics and did not share temporal power with the church could administer justice properly throughout Europe).

Durante degli Alighieri(1265–1321) was a major Italian poet of the late Middle Ages. His Divine Comedy, originally called Comedìa, and later called Divina by Boccaccio, is widely considered the greatest literary work composed in the Italian language and a masterpiece of world literature. For a helpful overview on his life and his work go to: