My paper, based on a recent article, reconsiders the etymology of the swear word ‘bloody’, which is typically regarded as a British English word. I suggest that this use of ‘bloody’ is a calque from the Anglo-French ‘sanglant’, which enters into the written record as a ‘swear word’ in the last years of the 14th century. After discussing ‘sanglant’ and its use as an intensifier in Anglo-French texts (as well as its ironic application in Continental French texts), I will consider the potential for this kind of research to deconstruct modern conceptions of British identity.
The first publisher of books in English, William Caxton (c. 1420-1492), is not often associated with Renaissance humanism, but he ought to be, particularly with the profound regard that humanists felt for ancient Roman civilisation. Humanists saw themselves as continuers of classical culture distinct from the medieval, barbaric, or ‘gothic’ period in which they lived, which they disparagingly termed ‘the Dark Ages’. Their enthusiasm for the classical world shaped historical memory, creating the chronological categories of ‘ancient, medieval, and modern’ still used today. This presentation will explore Caxton’s favourable treatment of classical Rome in his translation of the massive hagiographic collection the Legenda aurea into The Golden Legend (1483).
The 1951 production of the York mystery plays – the first major performance of the cycle since 1569 – took place as part of the Festival of Britain, whose two-fold purpose was to celebrate the glories of Britain’s past while looking forward to a new and exciting post-war future. The Festival production of the play cycle handled this by superimposing a 1950s British cultural and spiritual outlook onto set and costuming that were vaguely ‘medieval’ but in fact not true to any historical time or place. Exploring this hybridisation of past and present, this paper examines how the Festival production reinvented the plays for a new age