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Imagining a Medieval English Nation

Kathy Lavezzo Editor
Volume: 37
Copyright Date: 2004
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 394
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.cttttxxk
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  • Book Info
    Imagining a Medieval English Nation
    Book Description:

    Examining a diverse array of texts—ranging from Latin and vernacular historiography to Ricardian poetry and chivalric treatises—this volume reveals the variety of forms England assumed when it was imagined in the medieval West. Contributors: Kathleen Davis, L. O. Aranye Fradenburg, Andrew Galloway, Jill C. Havens, Peggy A. Knapp, Larry Scanlon, D. Vance Smith, Claire Sponsler, Lynn Staley, Thorlac Turville-Petre.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9245-3
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. vii-xxxiv)
    Kathy Lavezzo

    At least since Benedict Anderson breathed new life into the thought of Walter Benjamin, Ernst Renan, and Victor Turner, nationalism has constituted a prominent conceptual feature of contemporary literary and cultural studies. Following the lead of Perry Anderson, Anthony Giddens, and others, academics in English literary studies, by and large, have restricted their analyses to artifacts produced since the late eighteenth century, when the American and French revolutions launched the processes that gave rise to both a modern state founded on popular sovereignty and the appearance in the lexicon of the word “nationalism” (Anderson,Imagined Communities, 116–19).¹ But, as...

  4. Part I. Theorizing the Medieval English Nation

    • Pro Patria Mori
      (pp. 3-38)
      L. O. Aranye Fradenburg

      Imagining community is a work of desire, as Benedict Anderson pointed out when referring to the love people feel for the nations they dream into being.¹ Communities—their social structures, architecture, marketing practices, secret places—are not only imagined but also made by desire (Deleuze and Guattari,Anti-Oedipus, 6). They are our “territorializations,” our complex and shifting ecologies ofhabitusand habitation.² We participate in the histories of their enjoyment; we are there (where else?) when they assemble and fall apart, take (over) place and dwindle, in the course of their attempts to get as close tojouissance(impossible or...

  5. Part II. The Languages of England

    • Latin England
      (pp. 41-95)
      Andrew Galloway

      Thorlac Turville-Petre’sEngland the Nation, linking English literary communities and anthologies with the emerging national status of the English language, calls out for a succession of appendices—or rather, in the spirit of his nondogmatic and open-ended work, with its provocatively pre-Ricardian stopping point, many further chapters, in what deserves to be a vast, collaborative project assessing the ideologies and contexts of national community in late medieval English-speaking areas.¹ A simple encompassing claim about nationalism in the period will not be satisfactory, but the time is long past when we can make a flat declaration that a pan-European Christian ideology...

    • “As Englishe is comoun langage to oure puple”: The Lollards and Their Imagined “English” Community
      (pp. 96-128)
      Jill C. Havens

      In her article “Lollardy: The English Heresy?” Anne Hudson argues that Lollardy and its promotion of the English vernacular was not propelled by a “nationalistic” movement: “To attempt to show that the single major heresy known in medieval England arose from a concatenation of peculiarly insular factors would be, I think, a forlorn enterprise. Nor does it seem right to discern nationalism as a major force in the origin of lollardy or in its continuance” (143). Hudson defines “nationalism” here as a catalyst, not an end result. She is right in asserting that nationalism had little to do with the...

  6. Part III. Chaucer’s England

    • Chaucer Imagines England (in English)
      (pp. 131-160)
      Peggy A. Knapp

      When Benedict Anderson argued that the nation is “an imagined political community,” his phrase seemed so apt, even obvious, that it made its way into many facets of analysis in the human sciences. It also meshed with the current elevation of imagination as the most interesting, most effective, mental power we humans have—Captain Janeway must make a remarkable leap to find any continuity between her self-enclosed mental landscape and the collective intelligence of the Borg.¹ More particularly, the idea of imagined communities forged an important link between political and literary theories, since the mutual effects of imaginative constructs and...

    • Hymeneal Alogic: Debating Political Community in The Parliament of Fowls
      (pp. 161-188)
      Kathleen Davis

      At the end of the dream vision inThe Parliament of Fowls, just after Nature has given the common fowl their mates “by evene acord,” the birds sing a departing song in Nature’s honor. “The note,” the narrator explains, “imaked was in Fraunce, / The wordes were swiche as ye may heer fynde, / The nexte verse, as I now have in mynde” (677–79).¹ The multivalenced “heer” in this context refers most obviously to the written page, to the “nexte verse” of the poem; however, “heer” must also refer to England, the geographical source of these “wordes,” in counterpoint...

  7. Part IV. Langland’s England

    • King, Commons, and Kind Wit: Langland’s National Vision and the Rising of 1381
      (pp. 191-233)
      Larry Scanlon

      Erich Auerbach is not generally associated with postcolonial theory. Yet open up that postcolonialist urtext, Benedict Anderson’sImagined Communities, and you will find that Auerbach is the very first thinker Anderson mentions: “As will be apparent to the reader, my thinking about nationalism has been deeply affected by the writings of Erich Auerbach, Walter Benjamin and Victor Turner” (ix). On its face, this grouping seems unlikely; but what is most surprising, given the predominantly Marxist orientation of Anderson’s project, is that it is Auerbach who proves to be the most important of the three. Turner gets cited only once, as...

    • Piers Plowman and the National Noetic of Edward III
      (pp. 234-258)
      D. Vance Smith

      I begin this essay by admitting my wariness about the ethics of thinking nationally, thinking of the nation as the ground for thinking, the mnemonic place filled with the disciplinary imagery of its sovereign community. I’m skeptical because of what must be obliviated in memorializing the nation—for that is what we do when we think of a nation, of the work of its dead that goes on in us, we who must continue to reanimate them¹—not just the suppression of difference but the suppression of alternatives to the national noetic, the set of changing narratives and images that...

  8. Part V. England and Its Neighbors

    • Translating “Communitas”
      (pp. 261-303)
      Lynn Staley

      Translatio, the act of transferring authority, significance, of transplanting, grafting, of transposing, was a concept that for the literate meant that ideas, meanings, words, or things would be moved from one sphere to another.¹ The very act of removal was intended to convey the carefully interlocked sets of meanings that had obtained in the original sphere to the new sphere, thus investing the new medium with the power of the old. Or, to use France as the prime example of the arts of translation, if the authority of the empire was to be transferred from a pagan and classical world...

    • The Captivity of Henry Chrystede: Froissart’s Chroniques, Ireland, and Fourteenth-Century Nationalism
      (pp. 304-339)
      Claire Sponsler

      Near the end of Book IV of hisChroniques, Jean Froissart describes an encounter in Richard II’s chambers with an Anglo-Irish knight named Henry Chrystede, “ung escuier d’Angleterre” about fifty years of age, whom Froissart meets on his return visit to England in 1395. Noting with approval that Chrystede is “moult homme de bien et de prudence grandement pourveu” (Oeuvres, 15:167–68) and is fluent in French, Froissart is pleased when Chrystede recognizes that Froissart is “ung historien” (15:168) (as he has heard from Sir Richard Stury) and engages him in conversation, promising a story he can use in his...

  9. Afterword: The Brutus Prologue to Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
    (pp. 340-346)
    Thorlac Turville-Petre

    In writingEngland the NationI was concerned (I now think overconcerned) to demonstrate that the concept of national identity was available to writers in the fourteenth century. This seemed to me—as I suspect it does to everyone who knows anything about the Middle Ages—undeniable, though frequently denied by modernists who work on nationalism, who assert that it was a phenomenon that arose in the nineteenth century, or the late eighteenth, or the mid-sixteenth. More recently Adrian Hastings inThe Construction of Nationhoodhas taken a broader look at the development of nationalism, locating the earliest expressions of...

  10. Contributors
    (pp. 347-352)
  11. Index
    (pp. 353-356)