alliterative revival


alliterative revival
   The term alliterative revival refers to a renewal of interest in ALLITERATIVE VERSE among late 14th-century MIDDLE ENGLISH poets.OLD ENGLISH verse had been governed by strict rules of stress and alliteration, but after the Norman Conquest of 1066 introduced French literature and French tastes into the English courts, alliterative poetry in English became rare, at least in written texts, with many English poets turning to rhymed metrical verse as a result of the French influence.
   Still alliterative English verse seems never to have died out completely: LAYAMON used alliteration in his Brut (ca. 1200), and the five religious prose texts from the early 13th-century West Midlands known collectively as the KATHERINE GROUP make extensive use of alliterative prose. Judging from these scattered remains, it seems likely that an oral tradition of alliterative verse in English survived into the 14th century.
   As written texts in English began to appear in the late 14th century, there was a strong revival of the use of alliterative verse, particularly in the west and the northwest of England. It has been suggested that such poetry was a nationalistic reaction against French poetic forms. Important texts included in this tradition are LANGLAND’s PIERS PLOWMAN and the anonymous poems SIR GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT, PEARL, WINNER AND WASTER, The PARLEMENT OF THE THREE AGES, and THE ALLITERATIVE MORTE ARTHURE, among others. Although there is much more variation among these poems than in the more strictly rule-bound Old English verses, one still finds lines of four strong stresses, a clear caesura, and alliteration linking the two half lines.
   Bibliography
   ■ Lawton, David, ed. Middle English Alliterative Poetry and Its Literary Background: Seven Essays. Cambridge, U.K.: Brewer, 1982.
   ■ Moorman, Charles. “The English Alliterative Revival and the Literature of Defeat,” Chaucer Review 16 (1981): 85–100.

Encyclopedia of medieval literature. 2013.

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