Overview of Medieval Literature
Often the literature from the period was not transcribed on paper, but rather on
Hi, I'm Zach Toombs for About.com, and today, we're taking a closer look at medieval literature.Also known as Anglo-Saxon literature, this literature genre encompasses roughly a thousand years of European literature and world literature. Medieval literature covers a period of time from roughly 500 AD to 1500 AD, roughly from the fall of the western Roman Empire to the Italian Renaissance.Because of the dominance of the Roman Catholic Church during this time period, and because Catholicism has its language roots in Latin, much of the works in this kind of literature have religious undertones or origins. Much of the work written is from anonymous sources, as anonymity was more the norm in pre-Romantic literature times. Because the medieval literature era encompasses such a large period of time, it also has many themes, starting with fables from the oral tradition, encompassing religious texts, and evolving into tales of romance and chivalry.Among the noted authors of this time period are Chaucer, Dante, Saint Thomas Aquinas, Francis of Assisi, Martin Luther and Pierre Abelard. Among the noted works from this time period are La Chanson de Roland, Dante's Inferno, Beowulf, Caedmon's Hymn, The Wife's Lament, and The Wanderer. Hansel and Gretel and Grimm's Fairy Tales both have their roots in Medieval culture, as do the tales of Robin Hood and King Arthur and his knights.Among the genre made popular during this time: Anglo-Saxon riddles, early romances, hymns, political and romantic poetry, and women's literature. And because very few people outside of the church were educated or had the ability to read, many of the stories were told by troubadours, bards and minstrels. Themes focused on food and famine, health, chivalry and romance. This was, after all, the era of the Black Plague, horrible famines, and the Crusades.Often the literature from the period was not transcribed on paper, but rather on animal skins known as vellum or parchment. Many of them were hand copied and illustrated by monks. Books during this period were bound in wood, and were not widely distributed, but rather kept under lock and key.And that's a look at Medieval Literature. Thanks for watching. For more information, check out About.com.