1. stormcat
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    stormcat Active Member

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    pre-1600s literature that we still recognize today

    Discussion in 'Research' started by stormcat, Feb 25, 2015.

    My story takes place in a "pocket universe" that split from earth in the 1600s. naturally, the cultures have evolved differently. The "new world" has never heard of alice in wonderland, or sherlock holmes, or even dracula, but what would be some stories (written before the rift) that they would recognize? They could be fairy tales, epic poems, any story would be good as long as there are memorable characters.
     
  2. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Assuming an anglophone culture, they would know the Canterbury Tales. They would know the vast majority of the epic sagas and poems. But if it's an alternate 2015 in this story, how relevant is this? I know about the Canterbury Tales, but this doesn't make mentioning it an easy segue in typical conversation in 2015, no matter how hard Amy Farrah Fowler tries. ;)

    Nether ye.

    Bow-chica-wow-wow. ;)
     
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  3. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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  4. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Anyone from the ancient times (Homer, Virgil, among others) is instantly recognizable. Dante, Shakespeare, and Milton are other big names with popular characters. All of these are still widely discussed and studied today.
     
  5. stormcat
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    stormcat Active Member

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    someone would hear the title alone and could recognize it as a famous story.
     
  6. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Ok, but again, how do you segue something like this into your story without it feeling like: "It's pre-1600's, mate! Wink-wink-nudge-nudg, say no more, say no more!" How do sell it and not have it be dead on the nose?
     
  7. stormcat
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    stormcat Active Member

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    It'll come down to a discussion between two characters. One from earth, one from the "other" world. they talk about ways the cultures have changed, but find a comfortable middle ground by both knowing who Romeo and Juliet are.
     
  8. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    Chretien de Troyes and his take on the Arthurian legends. Sir Thomas Malory. The Song of Roland. Piers Plowman. Christine de Pisan and her City of Ladies. All sorts of good stuff predates 1600, and farther back than that.
     
  9. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Well, you can't go wrong if you stick with Shakespeare, if you're looking for memorable characters and stories. However ...Shakespeare was a playwright. I suspect that many people didn't 'read' him till much later on. In fact, pre-1600, very few people read books because there were so few books and so many people were illiterate. So maybe oral stories might be the way to go. OR plays? Shakespeare was put on stage in London for the 'common' people's entertainment. Everybody saw Shakespeare at the time. So it kind of depends on circumstance, really.
     
  10. Gawler
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    Gawler Contributing Member

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    Surprised no one has mentioned The Bible. Can add Beowulf to the list.
     
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  11. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    You can have pretty much the entire western canon until the Age of Enlightenment.

    Yeah, this is right. Most people before the 1800s throught Ben Johnson was the better play-writer. And then Christopher Marlowe before Shakespeare. Also, if the point of divergence is literally the year 1600 then you wouldn't have some Shakespeare plays, so whenever your point of divergence is, be careful with the details.

    Learned people, and even if it's set in some alternative 2015 would likely know about, to give a very limited list, the likes of Homer, Sophocles, Aeschylus, Euripides, Virgil, Ovid, Horace, Catullus, Lucretius, Dante, Petrarch, Beowulf, Sir Gawain, Epic of Cid, The Elder Edda, and the Icelandic Sagas.
     
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  12. Gawler
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    Gawler Contributing Member

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    Yes but he did want stories with memorable characters, otherwise I would have included Aesop's Tales. Geoffrey of Monmouth is another.
     
  13. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Yeah, that's true. The bible would certainly be known. Actually (literally just hit me as I write this) I think the Beowulf manuscript was formally 'discovered' in the late 1700s/1800s*. Tennyson was interested in it and translated a bit ... was an awful translation, but still! It was first popularized in the 1800s at least, about the same time English poets started geeking out over medieval stuff and Arthurian legend. Kind of a hangover from the Romantics of Keats and Coleridge especially now that I think about it. The OP can decide if they want all this to happen.

    *Antiquarian nerdy note: The Beowulf manuscript is contained in the Cotton Vitellius codex, once housed in the appropriately named Ashburnham house - now housed in the British Library. Ashburnham - appropriately named! Because there was a terrible fire that singed the Beowulf manuscript which is why the poem we have is sadly incomplete - the fire occurred in the mid 1700s. A few words and lines are sadly lost to history. We don't know why the Cotton Vitellius was compiled exactly, but it was a book of monster stories, mostly of a biblical in nature I think. The other well-discussed piece in the codex is called 'Judith', another narrative/epic poem. The biblical nature of the Cotton Vitellius codex might be the reason why there are so many almost ham-fisted references to Christianity in Beowulf.


    Sorry, I love old books. :3
     
  14. Gawler
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    Gawler Contributing Member

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    Not to mention the sheer number of different translations of Beowulf that exist.
     
  15. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Yeah, that's because of the an issue of trying to change Old English into Modern English. I mean, something in Middle English like Chaucer or Sir Gawain - there is a wonderful quote by Simon Armitage who 'translated' Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: reading a Middle English poem is look looking at a modern poem through a sheet of ice. All Armitage was really doing was warming the ice and letting us see the poem again, seeing through the accumulated cold of the years. He's right too, at first middle English looks really strange, but when you read it out loud, aside from a few words, you can actually read it and understand it:

    'SIÞEN þe sege and þe assaut watz sesed at Troye'

    All you really need to know is that the letter 'Þ' is an old Norse rune, makes a 'Th' sound.

    'Sithen the sege and the assaut watz sesed at Troye'

    'Sithen the seige and the assault was ceased at Troy'

    Sithen is just the root word of 'since' so and you can now understand the line perfectly. With Beowulf, and Old English it's much much harder. I mean, what can you do with even just the first line:

    'Hweat we gardena | in gear-daygum'
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2015
  16. Gawler
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    Gawler Contributing Member

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    I would not even attempt to translate Old English. Given that scholars have such a difficult time it would be pointless me trying.
     
  17. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    If you are interested, send me a PM. I've translated a bit of Beowulf, and am happy to explain the process.
     
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