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Medieval Latin and Middle English Literature

Medieval Latin and Middle English Literature: Essays in Honour of Jill Mann

Jill Mann
Christopher Cannon
Maura Nolan
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 280
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7722/j.ctt81qcp
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  • Book Info
    Medieval Latin and Middle English Literature
    Book Description:

    Jill Mann's writing, teaching, and scholarship have transformed our understanding of two distinct fields, medieval Latin and Middle English literature, as well as their intersection. Essays in this volume seek to honour this achievement by looking at entirely new aspects of these fields (the relationship of song to affect, the political valence of classical allusion, the Latin background of Middle English devotional texts). Others look again at the literary kinds and ideas most important in Mann's own work (beast fable, the nature of allegory, the nature of "nature", the relationship of economic thought and literature, satire, language as a subject for poetry) in the poets she has been most drawn to (Chaucer, Langland, Henryson). All of the essays involve close readings of the most careful kind, taking as their primary method Professor Mann's repeated injunction to attend, above all, to the"words on the page". Christopher Cannon is Professor of English, New York University; Maura Nolan is Associate Professor of English, University of California, Berkeley. Contributors: Siobhain Bly Calkin, Christopher Cannon, Rebecca Davis, Peter Dronke, A.S.G. Edwards, Elizabeth B. Edwards, Maura Nolan, Paul J. Patterson, Derek Pearsall, Ad Putter, Paul Gerhard Schmidt, James Simpson, Barry Windeatt, Nicolette Zeeman.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-926-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Bibliography of Jill Mann’s Works
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  5. 1 The Man of Law’s Tale and Crusade
    (pp. 1-24)
    Siobhain Bly Calkin

    The Man of Law’s Tale does not usually leap to mind as a Chaucerian evocation of late medieval crusade, perhaps because it seems determined to skirt ideas of armed conflict over religion, referring only briefly to Romans ‘brenn[ing and] slee[ing]’ Saracens (II.964) and emphasizing instead Custance’s individual religious devotion.¹ Scholars of this tale who do mention historical crusades tend to do so briefly, in a passing reference in their analyses of other matters. For example, in her study of race and religion in the Man of Law’s Tale, Carolyn Dinshaw suggests that the text’s anxiety about the efficacy of conversion...

  6. 2 The Language Group of the Canterbury Tales
    (pp. 25-40)
    Christopher Cannon

    When Kittredge first wrote about the issue of marriage in the Canterbury Tales he referred to a ‘Marriage Chapter’ in the larger ‘Human Drama’, by means of these simple phrases associating the Tales in formal terms with both the novel and Dante’s Divine Comedy.² When he later expanded on these views in his famous lectures on Chaucer, the ‘Marriage Group’, as he now always called it, was presented as if it were fully substantiated by the fragments of the Tales when placed in what we now usually call Ellesmere order: in this account, the appearance of the Wife of Bath’s...

  7. 3 ‘Save man allone’: Human Exceptionality in Piers Plowman and the Exemplarist Tradition
    (pp. 41-64)
    Rebecca A. Davis

    In a central passus of Piers Plowman, in a vision-within-a-vision, the figure Kynde calls the Dreamer by his first name and places him at the summit of ‘a mountaigne þat myddelerþe hiƷte’, offering him a privileged perspective from which he might survey all of creation (B.11.324).² As the Dreamer understands it, he is meant to use the natural world as a repository of lessons that will lead him to love of God: ‘I was fet forÞ by forbisenes to knowe,/ Thorugh ech a creature kynde my creatour to louye’ (B.11.325–26). Such a description aligns the Vision of Kynde with...

  8. 4 The Land of Cokaygne: Three Notes on the Latin Background
    (pp. 65-75)
    Peter Dronke

    The Land of Cokaygne occupies a unique place in medieval English poetry. It survives only in one manuscript, London, British Library Harley 913, which most recent scholars agree was copied in Ireland, for the most part by a single hand, around 1330. The codex contains much verse and prose in Latin, and a little in French, as well as a collection of Middle English verse. The text of Cokaygne is not an autograph, so the poem remains hard to date with complete precision. We cannot dismiss the dating suggested by older scholars, to the second half of the thirteenth century....

  9. 5 The Canterbury Tales and Gamelyn
    (pp. 76-90)
    A. S. G. Edwards

    The twenty-five manuscripts of the Middle English metrical romance Gamelyn make it, in numerical terms, by far the most popular extant Middle English verse romance.¹ But numbers do not convey Gamelyn’s appeal accurately: it occurs only in copies of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales; it has no wider circulation. The relationship between the romance and Chaucer’s work has never been satisfactorily clarified. There is no evidence for Gamelyn’s date or place of origin. It has proved impossible to explain where it came from and why it was included so often with the Canterbury Tales. The questions it raises are obvious in nature...

  10. 6 The Cheerful Science: Nicholas Oresme, Home Economics, and Literary Dissemination
    (pp. 91-112)
    Elizabeth B. Edwards

    In 1371, Nicholas Oresme, scholar, academic, councillor of Charles V and later Bishop of Lisieux, completed a translation and commentary in French on the Pseudo–Aristotelian Livre Yconomique, and one on Aristotle’s Politics, companion works to his earlier commentary on the Ethics. Produced under the aegis of a publication program of Charles V, Oresme’s commentaries are remarkable for many reasons. Both text and gloss are in French, in a striking departure from the usual scholastic context of such works, and they thus introduce many neologisms and new terms for concepts. They are found in deluxe manuscripts, with wonderful programs of...

  11. 7 The Poetics of Catastrophe: Ovidian Allusion in Gower’s Vox Clamantis
    (pp. 113-133)
    Maura Nolan

    The lion’s share of critical attention for the Vox Clamantis has come from medievalists interested in Gower’s outraged response to the Rising of 1381 in Book I (known as the Visio), particularly his indictment of the peasants in a vicious beast allegory.² But beast allegory is not the only genre at work in the Visio. It is also a Boethian account of the relation between self and society, individual and community, dramatized in part by a dialogue between the narrator and Wisdom and cast as a story of exile.³ These latter aspects of the poem foreground the narrator’s emotional response...

  12. 8 Preaching with the Hands: Carthusian Book Production and the Speculum devotorum
    (pp. 134-151)
    Paul J. Patterson

    When the University of Notre Dame purchased at auction a copy of the Speculum devotorum,or Mirror to Devout People, from the private collection of the Foyle family in 2000, they made available an invaluable record of the Carthusian/Syon axis of textual production and exchange. The manuscript contains three works: the Speculum devotorum, a fifteenth-century Middle English devotional work written for a sister at the Birgittine Syon Abbey by an anonymous Carthusian at Sheen; the O Intemerata, a Latin prayer to Mary and John the Evangelist; and the Book of the Craft of Dying, a Middle English work in the ars...

  13. 9 The Necessity of Difference: The Speech of Peace and the Doctrine of Contraries in Langland’s Piers Plowman
    (pp. 152-165)
    Derek Pearsall

    In Passus XX of the C-Text of William Langland’s Piers Plowman (B XVIII), the Four Daughters of God gather and debate the Incarnation, its meaning and its consequences.¹ The debate has its rootsin Psalm 84.10–11 (AV 85.10–11): ‘Surely his salvation is near to them that fear him, that glory may dwell in our land. Mercy and truth have met each other, justice and peace have kissed.’² From these verses, with the help of a reference to ‘God’s daughters’ in Isaiah 43.6, ‘bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth’ (in the context,those...

  14. 10 Chaucer’s Complaint unto Pity and the Insights of Allegory
    (pp. 166-181)
    Ad Putter

    One of the many things I remember Jill Mann saying to me is: ‘If close reading is so easy, then why is so little of it any good?’ Her point was that intelligent literary criticism is not as simple as it seems. In the case of Middle English literature, it requires, above all, a sympathetic understanding of the values dear to medieval writers together with an appreciation of the possibilities of literary modes and genres that are no longer current. Jill Man’s own criticism always achieves that inwardness with the things that mattered to poets, including their chosen forms. This...

  15. 11 Amor in claustro
    (pp. 182-192)
    Paul Gerhard Schmidt

    Denis Diderot’s novel La religieuse, the story of a nun struggling to be released from her monastic vows, is one of the most embittered monastic satires of the Enlightenment. In this novel Diderot, whose point of departure was a public trial in 1758, took the view that the monasticlife is incompatible with human nature and indeed with Christianity itself. He demonstrated this through the sufferings of his unfortunate heroine in three separate nunneries. She was only able finally to escape from the unnatural monastic life with the help of a priest. Alessandro Manzoni’s novel Monaca di Monza, in effect the...

  16. 12 ‘And that was litel nede’: Poetry’s Need in Robert Henryson’s Fables and Testament of Cresseid
    (pp. 193-210)
    James Simpson

    The last words of Cresseid in Robert Henryson’s Testament of Cresseid (c.1475) evoke the pained comment of Chaucer’s narrator in Troilus and Criseyde (c.1385). Cresseid dies thus:

    ‘O Diomeid, thou hes baith broche and belt

    Quhilk Troylus gaue me in takning [tokening]

    Of his trew lufe’, and with that word scho swelt.² [died]

    Attentive readers of Troilus and Criseyde will remember the precise moment in Chaucer’s narrative that Cresseid evokes, when she gives the brooch, which had belonged to Troilus, to Diomede:

    And eek a broche (and that was litel nede)

    That Troilus was, she yaf this Diomede.

    And eek,...

  17. 13 The Art of Swooning in Middle English
    (pp. 211-230)
    Barry Windeatt

    Swooning occurs so frequently in many medieval narratives, and so extravagantly in some, as to pass for almost commonplace behaviour that prompts puzzlingly little comment or explanation by medieval authors, or reaction from bystanding characters within the texts. Such swooning belongs to a convention-governed lexicon of medieval body language, with its own rules, patterns and expectations, and swooning often characterizes the accretions to medieval narratives typically added by the embellishing imaginations of subsequent translators and adaptors of earlier texts. It is this ubiquity and clustering of swoons in medieval literature that is the focus of this essay, together with the...

  18. 14 The Theory of Passionate Song
    (pp. 231-252)
    Nicolette Zeeman

    At various points in the narratives of Chaucer’s Book of the Duchess, Troilus and Criseyde, Canterbury Tales, Lydgate’s Fall of Princes, and Henryson’s Testament of Cresseid, protagonists or narrators express passionate feeling in the form of song, that is, in verse imagined to be musically performed, or at least marked by one or more formal features associated with song.¹ And of course much medieval song – although by no means all of it – purports to express erotic and religious desire, joy, regret or complaint. But these later English poets seem to go further, implying that for them song is...

  19. List of Contributors
    (pp. 253-254)
  20. Index
    (pp. 255-262)
  21. Tabula Gratulatoria
    (pp. 263-263)
  22. Back Matter
    (pp. 264-264)