Medieval English Literature is the first volume of the comprehensive Oxford Anthology of English Literature to be published in a second, expanded, and fully revised edition. It provides an authoritative and representative selection from the vast riches of Anglo-Saxon and Middle English literature of the period between AD 700 and AD 1500. The texts are presented either in full or in ample selections, helpfully and fully glossed and annotated according to the most recent scholarship. They are situated in their cultural context through general and particular introductions and through the carefully chosen illustrations, many of them new. Texts, annotations, introductions, and the bibliography have been thoroughly revised and brought up to date, and there is a full glossary of literary and historical terms.
Anglo-Saxon poetry appears in modern verse translation. In addition to the whole of Beowulf (Edwin Morgan's translation), elegies, The Dream of the Rood, and The Battle of Maldon, there is a sampling of wisdom literature and of biblical epic made with particular reference to the situation of women in Anglo-Saxon society. The generous choice of Chaucer's poetry, in a lightly modernized, glossed text, now includes, as well as the General Prologue and the tales of the Miller, the Nun's Priest, the Wife of Bath (with her Prologue), the Franklin, and the Pardoner, an extract from The Legend of Good Women, and others from the Scottish Chaucerians Henryson and Dunbar. For romance, the whole of the third book of Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde and the entire text of Sir Orfeo, both glossed, have been added to Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (revised translation by Keith Harrison). The selections from Malory's Morte Darthur have been augmented, as have the translated extracts from The Visions of Piers Plowman (with the account of the Harrowing of Hell). Modernized versions of the Chester Play of Noah and the Seven Deadly Sins episode from The Castle of Perseverance join the Second Shepherds' Play and Everyman in the Theater section. Ballads and lyric poetry have also been changed and amplified to link with a notable innovation: the section entitled Women's Writing and Women's Experience, an introduction to Middle English prose written by and for women.