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An Orientation to Early English Literature. A Brief Guide Accessible Version: General Timeline. Timeline of Medieval England. Map of Anglo-Saxon England. Timeline of Anglo-Saxon England. Timeline of English Language and Literature.

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An Orientation to Early English Literature

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an orientation to early english literature

An Orientation toEarly English Literature

A Brief Guide

Accessible Version:

the stages of english
The Stages of English

Examples of the Lord's Prayer:

Old English (c. 1000)

Fæderure, þuþeeart on heofonum, siþinnamagehalgod; tobecumeþin rice gewurþeþinwilla, on eorðanswaswa on heofonum. Urnegedæghwamlicanhlafsyle us to dæg, and forgyf us uregyltas, swaswa we forgyfaðurumgyltendum; and ne gelædþu us on costnunge, ac alys us of yfelesoþlice.

Middle English (c. 1384)

Ourefadirþat art in heuenes, halwid be þi name; þireume or kyngdom come to be. Be þiwille don in herþe as it is doun in heuene. Yeue to us today oureechedayes bred, and foryeue to us ouredettis, þat is ouresynnys, as we foryeuen to ouredettouris, þat is to men þathansynned in us. And lede us not into temptacion, but delyuere us from euyl.

Early Modern English (1534)

eMonE (Tyndale, 1534): O oure father which arte in heven, halowed be thy name. Let thy kyngdome come, thy wyll be fulfilled as well in erth as it ys in heven. Gevevs this dayeouredaylybreede, and forgevevsouretreaspases, even as we forgevenouretrespacers, and leadevs not into temptacion: but delyvervs from evell.

Early Modern English (King James Version, 1611)

Our father which art in heauen, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, in earth as it is in heauen. Giue us this day our daily bread, and forgiue us our debts as we forgiue our debters; and lead us not into temptation, but deliuer us from euill.

terminology for studying the middle ages
Terminology for Studying the Middle Ages
  • "Middle Ages" is always capitalised.
  • The adjective used to describe the Middle Ages is "medieval". It is never capitalised unless it is at the beginning of a sentence or in a title.
  • Make it your personal mission not to misspell "medieval". Make sure the second letter is an e and that the word does not contain "evil".
  • In academic use, "the Middle Ages" and "medieval" refer to the period between the Roman Empire and the early modern period. They are often used in non-academic settings to refer to a non-specific time in the past where people were assumed to be more barbaric, ignorant, and violent than we are today. These prejudices do not always have a basis in historical reality and should be avoided. The phrase "to get medieval" does not really express anything specific about the Middle Ages; its meaning could be as easily captured by the phrase "to get Tarantino".
  • The same is true for the term "the Dark Ages". In older scholarship, the term was used to refer to the early medieval period, and the term "medieval" generally referred to the period from 1100-1500. You will sometimes still see this division today, but it is best avoided because of the prejudices that accompany the term "the Dark Ages". Use "the Middle Ages" and "medieval" for the whole period from 500-1100, and, if you need to get more specific, use terms like "early Middle Ages" and "late medieval".
  • From our the year 1100, the socio-economic system known as "feudalism" developed. Because feudalism developed in the medieval period, the term "feudal" has also acquired in modern non-academic use a derogatory sense implying a less "civilised" past. You should also avoid this prejudicial usage.
  • In many ways, we define our own sense of "modernity" against the medieval past. What makes use modern is how we are different from the Middle Ages. We also tend to assume that the present is better than the past (incidentally, an assumption which medieval people would not have shared). As a result, we construct myths of the Middle Ages which embodies things we disapprove. It is important not to let our own cultural prejudices based on such myths influence us when we are trying to study the historical Middle Ages.