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From Literacy to LiteratureEngland, 1300–1400$
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Christopher Cannon

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198779438

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198779438.001.0001

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The Ad Hoc School

The Ad Hoc School

(p.41) 2 The Ad Hoc School
From Literacy to Literature

Christopher Cannon

Oxford University Press

Little data survives on the nature of medieval schools prior to the fourteenth century, but all the surviving evidence suggests that such schooling was informal in the broadest sense: it took place in a priest’s home or a nook in a church; it was usually a kind of tutorial rather than anything like a “class.” Surviving schoolbooks suggest a similar sort of improvisation, for, while historians have often said that here was something like a medieval “textbook” for elementary learning, the contents of these books is eclectic. All this informality carried over directly to what the schoolboy was taught, since he was equipped with rules so that he could begin to write Latin sentences of his own. Where these sentences were in verse rather than prose, the schoolboy was taught to invent his own poems not by technical manuals (“arts of poetry”) but by the simplest exercises of basic grammar.

Keywords:   schools, schoolbooks, early English grammars, Liber catonianus, improvisation

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