One of the chief functions of poetry in Antiquity, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance was to praise gods, people and things. Heroes and kings were glorified in many varieties of praise, and the arts of encomium and panegyric were codified by classical rhetoricians and later by writers on poetry. J. A. Burrow's study spans over two thousand years, from Pindar to Christopher Logue, but its main concern is with the English poetry of the Middle Ages, a period when praise poetry flourished. He argues that the 'decline of praise' in English literature since the seventeenth century, which has meant that modern readers and critics find it hard to appreciate this kind of poetry. This erudite but accessible account by a leading scholar of medieval literature shows why the poetry of praise was once so popular, and why it is still worth reading today.

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