A New Literary History of the Long Twelfth Century: Language and Literature between Old and Middle English

When William the Conqueror was crowned in 1066, to the Norman guards at the coronation English was an ‘unknown tongue’. My New Literary History of the Long Twelfth Century focuses on post-Conquest English as the unknown tongue of English literary and linguistic history, where it habitually falls between the subperiods of ‘Old’ and ‘Middle’ English. The book’s approach spans the disciplines of literature and linguistics. Both have always seen the long twelfth century as pivotal but essentially inscrutable. Linguistically, the transition from Old English to Middle English in the course of the period has been described as ‘the most dramatic change in the English language’, but this change remains seriously underexamined. In literary studies, the connection between the body of texts aggregated as ‘Old English’ literature and those labelled as ‘Middle English’ remains tantalising. Texts composed in the long twelfth century, produced at the intersection of these two periods, invite us to consider scholarship’s construction of ‘Old’ English, ‘Middle’ English and thereby the entire body of medieval texts. The book offers a literary history of English language texts in the long twelfth century, considering texts first and foremost as linguistic objects and the various approaches it adopts to understanding their language are described in a methodological chapter that follows the introduction. Part I of the book establishes the affordances of English in the long twelfth century. Part II examines how English was used during this period in three different genres: documents, histories and sermons.

Pre-print available 1 April 2022

Reference: Mark Faulkner, A New Literary History of the Long Twelfth Century: Language and Literature between Old and Middle English (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2022)