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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 Basic Reading Texts and Literary Work

The Basic Reading Texts and Literary Work

(p.159) 5 The Basic Reading Texts and Literary Work
From Literacy to Literature

Christopher Cannon

Oxford University Press

The first texts schoolboys read stayed with them all their lives because they were usually memorized. Every one of the Ricardian poets goes back to these texts again and again, often at the most dramatic moments in their most ambitious poems. And yet these school-texts have rarely been read as literature. While their forms tend toward two general kinds (precept and narrative) these poems often piece a larger form together by repeating those forms (as a sequence) or piecing precepts and narratives together. Since these school-texts also converge on a single content (they tend to reflect the circumstances and attitudes of the schoolboy’s life) what they finally taught best was how to produce a “poetry of patchwork,” a form that can be found in all the major Ricardian poems, which also patch together a single large form out of many small pieces.

Keywords:   literary form, precept, narrative, syllabus, cento, patchwork

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