Faith and religion

From stories of saints and demons to reflections on life and death, God and salvation: discover how medieval literature navigates matters of faith and religion.

saints and sanctity

Saints and sanctity in medieval England

Article by:
Sarah Salih

Sarah Salih explores how medieval Europeans memorialised the lives of real and fictional Christian saints, transforming them into the superheroes and celebrities of the Middle Ages.

Theme:
Faith and religion
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Mystery plays and medieval drama

Medieval drama and the mystery plays

Article by:
Hetta Elizabeth Howes

The mystery plays and morality plays of the 15th and 16th centuries were very different from modern drama. They were performed in public spaces by ordinary people, and organised and funded by guilds of craftsmen and merchants. Hetta Howes takes us back in time to show how these plays portrayed scenes from the Bible, conveyed religious doctrine and encouraged their audiences to lead Christian lives.

Themes:
Form and genre, Faith and religion
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Waves to illustrate the elegies of the Exeter Book

The elegies of the Exeter Book

Article by:
Michael Bintley

The poems in the Exeter Book known as the 'Old English elegies' focus on loss, separation and the transience of earthly things. Mike Bintley explores these poems, which include The Wanderer and The Wife's Lament, and highlights the parallels between the elegies and the riddles in the Exeter Book.

Themes:
Form and genre, Faith and religion, Gender and sexuality
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Dream visions

Dream visions

Article by:
Mary Wellesley

Used by diverse writers throughout the Middle Ages, the dream vision as a form was as popular in the late medieval period as the novel is today. From courtly comedy to social critique, via feminist polemic, Mary Wellesley explores some of the most captivating works of the medieval period.

Themes:
Form and genre, Myths, monsters and the imagination, Faith and religion
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piers plowman

Piers Plowman: an introduction

Article by:
Lawrence Warner

Lawrence Warner introduces the questions of penance and obligation that are at the heart of Piers Plowman, and shows how the work's fierce satire and commitment to justice have influenced English literature, from multimedia reimaginings to the work of Jonathan Swift and Zadie Smith.

Theme:
Faith and religion
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Old English heroic poetry

Old English heroic poetry

Article by:
Michael Bintley

Old English heroic poetry celebrates ancient and contemporary warriors, but it also celebrates acts of self-sacrifice and the stories of brave women, and combines pagan and Christian values. Mike Bintley introduces some of the key texts of the genre, including Beowulf, The Battle of Maldon, The Dream of the Rood and Judith.

Themes:
Myths, monsters and the imagination, Heroes and heroines, Form and genre, Faith and religion
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Saracens and racial Otherness in Middle English romance

Saracens and racial Otherness in Middle English romance

Article by:
Claire Harrill

Claire Harrill considers how 'Saracen' characters are portrayed in Middle English romances, and what these texts can reveal about ideas of Otherness in this period.

Themes:
Heroes and heroines, Faith and religion, Gender and sexuality
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anchoress banner

The life of the anchoress

Article by:
Mary Wellesley

During the medieval period, hundreds of women chose a life of prayer and contemplation, shut up alone in a cell. Dr Mary Wellesley explains the path to becoming an anchoress, how anchoresses spent their days and what medieval texts such as Ancrene Wisse and Julian of Norwich's Revelations of Divine Love can tell us about anchoritic life.

Themes:
Faith and religion, Gender and sexuality
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Banner

Female ‘soveraynetee’ in Chaucer’s ‘The Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale’

Article by:
Alexandra Melville

Alexandra Melville explores the character of the Wife of Bath and the ambiguity surrounding her outspoken views on marriage, power and religious doctrine.

Themes:
Faith and religion, Gender and sexuality
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Further themes

Language and voice

From the development of Old and Middle English to the innovations of William Caxton and the printing press: explore language and voice in the medieval period.

Heroes and heroines

Discover some of the earliest heroes and heroines in English literature, from Beowulf to King Arthur. What are the typical characteristics of a medieval hero, and what can this reveal about society in the Middle Ages?

Gender and sexuality

Examine representations of gender, sex and relationships in medieval literature, from the works of women's writers to tales of courtly love to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.

Myths, monsters and the imagination

A shadowy man-eating monster, a strange green knight, and fictional accounts of journeys around the world: investigate the boundaries between the real and imaginary in medieval literature.

Faith and religion

From stories of saints and demons to reflections on life and death, God and salvation: discover how medieval literature navigates matters of faith and religion.

Form and genre

Dream visions, heroic poetry, riddles and mystery plays: approach medieval literature through the lens of form and genre.