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The Medieval Literary: Beyond Form

Edited by Catherine Sanok and Robert J. Meyer-Lee

The twenty-first century has witnessed the re-emergence of various kinds of literary formalism, and one project that characterizes most of these diverse formalisms is the effort to distinguish what is precisely literary about their objects of study. The presumed relation between form and the literary that this project presupposes, however, raises questions that still need to be addressed. What is it about form that produces the category of the literary? What precisely is literary about literary form? Can the literary be defined beyond form?
This volume explores these questions in the historical and geographical frame of late medieval Britain, across vaunted literary works such as the Franklin's Tale, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and the Towneley Shepherds' Plays, and presumed "non-literary" texts, such as books of hours. By studying texts from a period long prior to literary formalism - indeed, before any fully articulated theory of the literary - the essays gathered here aim to rethink the relationship between form and the literary.