Cornish literature

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Cornish literature.

The literature of the Celtic language of Cornwall, which has been spoken only by bilingual speakers since the late 18th cent. The surviving pre-1800 literature consists largely of a few miracle playsmiracle play
or mystery play,
form of medieval drama that came from dramatization of the liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church. It developed from the 10th to the 16th cent., reaching its height in the 15th cent.
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, mostly of the 15th cent. With the exception of the Life of St. Meriasek, they are usually on biblical subjects. The plays closely resemble Breton drama. Also surviving is the Middle Cornish narrative poem The Passion of Our Lord. Since the 20th cent. there has been a concerted effort to revive spoken and written Cornish, which has met with minor success.


See R. M. Longsworth, The Cornish Ordinalia (1967); E. Norris, ed., Ancient Cornish Drama (2 vol., 1859; repr. 1968).

References in periodicals archive ?
Berresford Ellis, "the development of Cornish literature stopped with its miracle play output:" (72) Although in recent years there has been a movement to revive the Cornish language, and while traces of the old language remain evident in dialect words, Cornish has for the most part--like the blessed Meriasek himself--disappeared into the local landscape.
Berresford Ellis, The Cornish Language and Its Literature (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1974), 37-38; Brian Murdoch, Cornish Literature (Cambridge: D.
1960-97; reprint, Felinfach: Llanerch, 1997), 2:118-28; Murdoch, Cornish Literature, 101.
Murdoch's study at once becomes the book on Cornish literature, essential for anyone concerned with Cornwall's past, but also breaking new ground for students of mediaeval drama, popular religion, and apocryphal literature.
The author ably sets out current knowledge of Cornish literature at a time when its texts are receiving fresh attention from editors and critics.