Studying Middle English or Old English literature? There is lots of help out there!
n.b. it’s been awhile since I’ve been able to update these links … my apologies for any dead ends you may find. I do plan to do a thorough housecleaning as soon as may be!
middle english resources
The Middle English Compendium: lots of useful stuff, but top of the list is the full Middle English Dictionary. This is absolutely the most useful thing ever when reading and writing about Middle English texts. The searching can be a bit persnickety, but it’s worth fiddling with it!
Helpful tips for reading and pronouncing Middle English, compiled by me and my colleague Andrew Albin from Fordham.
Harvard Chaucer Page: Larry Benson (Chaucer expert and editor extraordinaire) has compiled this great page to help you learn about Chaucer and Middle English. The pronunciation guide (under “How to read Chaucer) can be especially helpful, and the interlinear translations (click the Canterbury Tales link) are great for those reading Chaucer for the first time.
Middle English Grammar: I don’t think this is necessary, strictly speaking, but in case you are looking for more info or are struggling with ME, this may be useful. Since this site is no longer available, the link should take you to a capture saved by the Wayback Machine. 🙂
Chaucer MetaPage: tons of good links on medieval life & lit – not limited just to Chaucer studies. (another archived site)
Margery Kempe site: Great resource on her life and work, info on pilgrimages and more.
Latin/English help: There’s no doubt about it. Latin = literacy in the late Middle Ages. So if you come across some Latin, don’t just skip it in despair! Look it up here. Valete!
Douay-Rheims Bible: To get the most out of medieval lit, it helps to know your Bible. Or at least know how where to look stuff up. The Douay-Rheims is an English translation of the Vulgate, the Latin version that was the standard for the medieval Church. The people who maintain this website are definitely trying to proselytize, so be warned that there are ads, links, and images with which you may not be comfortable. But their version of the DRB is nonetheless easily searchable and very useful. (For the earliest translation of the NT into English, you can also check out The Wycliffite New Testament Online.)
old english resources
(this section will be updated for my Spring 2021 students!)
Old English @ UVa: This site includes an introductory text, exercises, and resources for studying Old English texts.
OE @ University of Calgary: offers a full online course in OE.
ModE to OE vocab: A helpful “reverse translation” glossary. Just for fun, choose a letter of the alphabet and look through the words to see how many OE words are still in our vocabularies today. (Sometimes you need to use a bit of imagination to compensate for spelling/sound changes.)
The Electronic Beowulf Project: Well worth a visit when you are reading the OE masterpiece.
Þa Engliscan Gesiþas: A U.K. historical society for people interested in all aspects of Old English language and culture.
Circolwyrde Wordhord: If you want to be able to talk about your computer in OE, this is the site for you.
audio and video
If you’d like to hear a bit of OE or ME pronunciation through the miracle of the interwebs, here are some options for you. You will doubtless notice quite a bit of variety in pronunciation!
The Criying and the Soun: great ME audio files. (You need to go old-school with RealPlayer to listen to most of these files. The “download plugin” button on the VMI site doesn’t work anymore, but you can get it here.)
The General Prologue: a delightful reading from the beginning of The Canterbury Tales. Highly recommended!
“How to Pronounce Middle English” series by YouTube user thatoneguyinlitclass:
Part 1 (vowels)
Part 2 (consonants)
Part 3 (special characters)
Part 4 (vocabulary)
Opening lines of The Canterbury Tales, read and spelled phonetically in this video.
Anglo-Saxon Aloud: This site has TONS of files to listen to!
Yet more audio files: from all periods of literature in the Norton Anthology
And finally: The Canterbury Tales Rap: