Impolitic Bodies: Poetry, Saints, and Society in Fifteenth-Century England / Edition 1

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This pioneering book explores the work of English Augustinian friar Osbern Bokenham, an ardent Yorkist on the eve of the "Wars of the Roses" and a gifted poet. Sheila Delany focuses on a manuscript written in 1447, the "Legend of Holy Women." Narrating the lives and ordeals of thirteen heroic and powerful saints, this was the first all-female legendary in English, much of it commissioned by wealthy women patrons in the vicinity of Clare Priory, Suffolk, where Bokenham lived. Delany structures her book around the image of the human body. First is the corpus of textual traditions within which Bokenham wrote: above all, the work of his two competing masters, St. Augustine and Geoffrey Chaucer. Next comes the female body and its parts as represented in hagiography, with Bokenham's distinctive treatment of the body and the corporeal semiotic of his own legendary. Finally, the image of the body politic allows Delany to examine the relation of Bokenham's work to contemporary political life. She analyzes both the legendary and the friar's translation of a panegyric by the late-classical poet Claudian. The poetry is richly historized by Delany's reading of it in the context of succession crises, war, and the connection of women to political power during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Original and provocative....An engaging and lively study that should appeal to all faculty and students...of medieval literature and culture."—Choice

"Impolitic Bodies, with its exquisite literary and historical contextualization, powerful analysis, and magisterial scope, ranks as one of the best books ever published on a fifteenth-century author."—John M. Ganim, University of California, Riverside

"...Delany does a masterful job of drawing together a wealth of current criticism's most hotly discussed."—C. Marie Harker, Truman State University

"Absorbing, subtle, complex reading. Among the leading ranks of medieval feminist scholarship, [Impolitic Bodies] may help restore the 15th Century to its rightful place in English literary history."—John McLaughlin, E. Stroudsburg University

"Sheila Delany's book is as complex and ambitious as its title and subtitle is a valuable work that adds to more than just the increasing interest in fifteenth-century studies."—Arthuriana

John M. Ganim
"Impolitic Bodies," with its exquisite literary and historical contextualization, powerful analysis, and magisterial scope, ranks as one of the best books ever published on a fifteenth-century author. -- John M. Ganim
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195109894
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 12/28/1997
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 256
  • Lexile: 1400L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Sheila Delany is Professor of English at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia. She is the author of such books as Chaucer's House of Fame: The Politics of Skeptical Fideism, The Naked Text: Chaucer's Legend of Good Women and Writing Woman, Medieval and Modern.

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Table of Contents

1 Introductions 3
2 The Literary Corpus 29
3 The Friar as Critic 44
4 Impolitic Bodies I: Head, Feet, Face, Womb 70
5 Impolitic Bodies II: Tongue, Mouth, Language 89
6 Impolitic Bodies III: Breast, Genital, Gut, and All 106
7 The Body Politic 127
8 Sexual-Textual Politics 160
8 Last Things and Afterlives 185
Notes 205
Bibliography 215
Index 233
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