MIDDLE ENGLISH LITERATUREEnglish literature of the medieval period - c.1100 to c.1500.BackgroundThe Norman conquest of England in 1066 traditionally signifies the beginning of 200 years ofthe domination of French in English letters. French cultural dominance, moreover, was general in Europe at this time. French language and culture replaced English in polite court society and had lasting effects on English culture. But the native tradition survived, although little 13th-century, and even less 12th-century, vernacular literature is extant, since most of it was transmitted orally. Anglo-Saxon fragmented into several dialects and gradually evolved into Middle English, which, despite an admixture of French, is unquestionably English. By the mid-14th cent., Middle English had become the literary as well as the spoken language of England.The Early PeriodSeveral poems in early Middle English are extant. The Orrmulum- a 12th-century work of Biblical exegesis, written in early Middle English verse by a monk named Orm. It’s a verse translation of parts of the Gospels which is of linguistic and prosodic rather than literary interest. Of approximately the same date, The Owl and the Nightingaleis the first example in English of the débat,a popular continental form; in the poem, the owl, strictly monastic and didactic, and the nightingale, a free and amorous secular spirit, charmingly debate the virtues of their respective ways of life.The Thirteenth CenturyMiddle English prose of the 13th cent. continued in the tradition of Anglo-Saxon prose—homiletic, didactic, and directed toward ordinary people rather than polite society. The “Katherine Group” (c.1200), comprising three saints' lives, is typical. The Ancren Riwle (c.1200) is a manual for prospective anchoresses; it was very popular, and it greatly influenced the prose of the 13th and 14th cent. The fact that there was no French prose tradition was very important to the preservation of the English prose tradition.In the 13th cent. the romance, an important continental narrative verse form, was introduced in England. It drew from three rich sources of character and adventure: the legends of Charlemagne, the legends of ancient Greece and Rome, and the British legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Layamon’s Brut, a late 13th-century metrical romance marks the first appearance of Arthurian matter in English.Layamon's Brut, also known as the Chronicle of Britainand often called simply Brut, is a Middle English poem compiled and recast by the English priest Layamon. It is named for Britain’s mythical founder, Brutus of Troy. The Brutis 16,095 lines long and narrates the history of Britain. The rhyming style is the alliterative verse line style commonly used in Middle English poetry. Layamon's Brut (c. 1215) is a history of England in verse written in a form of Middle English and it remains one of the best extant examples of early Middle English.