|About the Book|
English literary culture saw a fairly abrupt expansion in the production of alliterative verse and prose during the period 1350-1450. The motivation for this episode of increased alliterative writing, as well as its relations to antecedent andMoreEnglish literary culture saw a fairly abrupt expansion in the production of alliterative verse and prose during the period 1350-1450. The motivation for this episode of increased alliterative writing, as well as its relations to antecedent and contemporary literatures, have been debated since the beginnings of academic study of medieval English literature. Cultural Promotion: Middle English Alliterative Writing and the Ars Dictaminis reexamines this problem by employing the sociological theory of Pierre Bourdieu in combination with the tools and methods of philology, manuscript studies, source studies, and thematic analysis. I argue that this episode of English alliterative writing represents the promotion of previously existing verse-forms to newly prestigious status- and that this event of cultural promotion was provoked in part by contemporary developments in the training of bureaucratic and secretarial clerks. In fourteenth-century England the ars dictaminis or Latin art of letter-writing became an important component of the professional training and practice of the social classes that are the most likely producers of alliterative writing. Contemporary testimonia and scribal presentation of alliterative writing suggests that literary sensibilities shaped by Latinate practice tended to perceive the signature rhythmical patterns of alliterative writing as equivalent to the rhythmical cadences taught by the ars dictaminis, and thereby assimilated English alliterative verse into Latin culture. The result of this cultural assimilation was to increase the English forms prestige and perceived capacities. Thus, in addition to providing alliterative poets with sources, Latin traditions provided models of cultural legitimacy and inflected the ways that English poets related to the existing literary resources of their native language. The cultural meaning of these literary forms was mediated by habitus and field: by the durably incorporated linguistic dispositions that literary producers owed to their multilingual training, and by the specific logic of the cultural fields in which these producers worked.