Wednesday, August 8, 2007

As promised, The Medieval Literature Selections

The Medieval Reading List for next year is long. There are so many truly worthy and enjoyable stories for this time period. You'll find an assortment of fiction here to compensate for the age differences of my children and the need for diversity. We usually stay close to unabridged versions of books, but make a few exceptions when needed when the material is too bawdy or too difficult to sort through.
  • The Arabian Nights - We have a beautiful version of this classic, the Morrow Books of Wonder edition. The framing device of Shah Shahryar avenging the faithlessness of women and his reasons for doing so should probably be left to an older audience or edited as you read, but the actual 1001 tales (51 in the case of this edition) full of jinnis, lamps, and flying carpets are sure to capture the imaginations of children.
  • Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer and retold by Geraldine McCaughrean - This is another book that we won't read in its entirety, though I considered it. McCaughrean does a wonderful job transforming Chaucer's verse to prose. We will read and hear the Middle English Prologue (see Luminarium below) and if the children are interested in doing more, I just happen to have a copy of the unabridged version in Middle English.
  • King Arthur and His Knights by Howard Pyle (Sterling Publishing) - These tales of bravery, honor, romance and magic capture the essence of chivalry. True the tales are legend and may not give accurate portrayals of the reality of life in the Middle Ages, but allusions to these stories are prolific in literature. To be a reader, you must understand the allusions from their original context, not the Cultural Literacy version. They will be ready for the Malory version next time.
  • Robin Hood by Howard Pyle - I hope we like Pyle. The last two times we read Robin Hood we read the Bernard Miles version. I thought we would try a different view.
  • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight - We will use the modern translation from Luminarium (see below). This one is short enough to read online. No you don't get the cozies when you snuggle with the computer, but it is certainly cheaper.
  • Saint George and the Dragon by Geraldine McCaughrean - This is a beautiful picture book. The illustrations by Nicki Palin are fabulous. Don't be fooled, children and adults love picture books and can learn as much from them as more scholarly works.
  • Favorite Medieval Tales by Mary Pope Osborne - This is an anthology of the short versions of medieval tales from Finn Maccoul to The Song of Roland to Chanticleer and the Fox. Lovely illustrations and retellings of the classic stories of the period perfect for my youngest. She will still listen to the longer versions, but I wanted something accessible for her.
  • Castle Diaries by Richard Platt - This may be considered drivel by many, but I like the journaling involved in the book, the honesty of the hardships, and the voice of the younger boy.
  • Don Quixote of the Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes - We read Don Quixote and the Windmills by Eric Kimmel last time. It is a beautiful picture book and I will try to get a copy from the library this time, but it wasn't enough for my son. He thought the whole situation was hilarious and wanted to read the whole book. We will attempt to read an unabridged copy this time.
  • This may belong in the geography section, but we will be reading The Travels of Marco Polo translated by William Marsden.
  • The Midwife's Apprentice by Karen Cushman - I want to read this one. Hopefully, the children will agree.
  • Shakespeare and the other plays - A lot happens in medieval drama. I will write a separate post on our Shakespeare studies and the others. They deserve the space.
This should get us started. We will go to the library to add picture books and shorter fiction and non fiction. If you haven't already, see the history resources.

For a web resource of information and a great deal of medieval literature try Luminarium. The Medieval and Renaissance sections are truly informational. Click here to hear the Prologue to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales in Middle English while reading it with annotations. The birds twittering in the background may be over kill, but truly a good rendition. Many of the pages have music and just listening to reenacted music on medieval instruments is educational in itself. There are texts and images from medieval plays. Take a look. It truly is an amazing resource.


Anonymous said...

Since you are immersed in the middle ages right now ... if you were going to be travelling down the Rhine and then up through Paris, Brussels, etc. what would your top picks of medieval places to see be?

Wisteria said...

Are you trying to make me jealous?? I don't think you will have any trouble finding the Middle Ages/Renaissance on your trip. Isn't the Rhine flanked by castles the entire way? Instead of reading about castles you can see them.

I would make a point to visit the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa, but also some of the religious alter art, and some actual Illuminations.

Seeing the Bayeux Tapestry would be great if you would be in that area.

The opportunities are endless. May we go with you?

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