This opening volume of "The Penguin History of Literature" begins with the earliest surviving documents of literary importance, dating from around 800 AD. It ends with the works of writers such as John Skelton, William Dunbar and Thomas Malory, whose careers were well established before the accession of Henry VIII in 1509. Eight chapters are contributed by ten scholars in the field. They explore the birth of an island literature conceived before the invention of printing, its language borrowed from Germany, its impulse imported from Rome. A lot of space is devoted to Chaucer, and there are chapters on Old English and on the popular and courtly poetry and prose of the period. The editor provides an introduction to conditions in the Middle Ages, together with a full bibliography and a tables of dates. Published in ten volumes, "The Penguin History of Literature" is a critical survey of English and American literature covering 14 centuries, from the Anglo-Saxons to the present.
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