A companion website for Boston College ENGL4424: Middle English Alliterative Poetry. It may also be used as a general introduction to this medieval poetic corpus. The special areas of focus throughout this website are metrical form, manuscript context, and literary context. Most pages include a selective, hyperlinked bibliography.
In the fourteenth century, there were two ways of writing poetry in English. Chaucer’s rhyming, syllable-counting iambic pentameter exemplifies one tradition. ENGL4424 makes a survey of the other tradition, known today as alliterative poetry. Among the poems we will read are tales of King Arthur’s court, the story of a resurrected corpse discovered in London, and a wild allegorical dream vision starring such characters as Bribery and Truth. We ask how this poetry is formally organized, where this form of writing comes from, and why medieval English writers chose to use it. No prior knowledge of Middle English required.