Languages of Power in the Age of Richard II

Overview

In this book the distinguished medievalist Lynn Staley turns her attention to one of the most dramatic periods in English history, the reign of Richard II, as seen through a range of texts including literary, political, chronicle, and pictorial. Richard II, who ruled from 1377 to 1399, succeeded to the throne as a child after the fifty-year reign of Edward III, and found himself beset throughout his reign by military, political, religious, economic, and social problems that would have tried even the most skilled ...

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Overview

In this book the distinguished medievalist Lynn Staley turns her attention to one of the most dramatic periods in English history, the reign of Richard II, as seen through a range of texts including literary, political, chronicle, and pictorial. Richard II, who ruled from 1377 to 1399, succeeded to the throne as a child after the fifty-year reign of Edward III, and found himself beset throughout his reign by military, political, religious, economic, and social problems that would have tried even the most skilled of statesmen. At the same time, these years saw some of England’s most gifted courtly writers, among them Chaucer and Gower, who were keenly attuned to the political machinations erupting around them. I

n Languages of Power in the Age of Richard II Staley does not so much “read” literature through history as offer a way of “reading” history through its refractions in literature. In essence, the text both isolates and traces what is an actual search for a language of power during the reign of Richard II and scrutinizes the ways in which Chaucer and other courtly writers participated in these attempts to articulate the concept of princely power. As one who took it upon himself to comment on the various means by which history is made, Chaucer emerges from Staley’s narrative as a poet without peer.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Lynn Staley’s new book is informed by an impressive command of Middle English culture and is chock-a-block with new insights. Few scholars could offer such a rich confrontation of literature and history for this important and distinctive period.”
—Ralph Hanna, Keble College, Oxford

“Staley has produced a remarkable book. . . . [T]he extraordinary richness and depth of learning in the book as a whole is . . . an achievement impossible to ignore for the possibilities it raises, and the challenges it presents for future directions of Gower scholarship, among many others.”
John Gower Newsletter

“This bold book adds a welcome voice to the rich, complicated, and contested discourse on the politics and culture of later medieval England. If it at times falls prey to the common historicist fallacy of mistaking interpretation for evidence, its stimulating readings of the poets should be taken seriously by literary scholars and historians alike.”
—Charles F. Briggs, Journal of English and Germanic Philology

“In recent years so much has been written about the works of Chaucer and his contemporaries that it is hard for anyone to say anything that is new. But Staley has managed it. In this richly textured and wide-ranging work she tells us much about writers’ attempts to articulate the concept of princely power.”
—Nigel Saul, Royal Holloway, University of London

“Lynn Staley has given us a magisterial book about the political and cultural milieu of Richard II’s England, and in doing so she has greatly enriched our understanding of how fraught the environment was in which Chaucer and his contemporaries lived and wrote.”
—William McClellan, Speculum: A Journal of Medieval Studies

“In Languages of Power in the Age of Richard II, Lynn Staley investigates various Middle English ‘attempts to articulate the concept of princely power’ during the twenty-three years of the reign of Richard II. . . . Staley’s arguments are expansive and complex, [offering] fascinating insights. . . . I want to single out for attention Staley’s exploration of French texts: late medieval Anglo-French literary exchanges have tended to play second fiddle to Anglo-Italian contacts in recent years. Languages of Power reminds us once again of medieval England’s ‘French connection,’ but in an expansive (and non-courtly) sense that adds to earlier scholarship on Chaucer and his French sources. . . . I therefore recommend the book enthusiastically.”
—Robert Barrett, The Medieval Review (TMR)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780271029115
  • Publisher: Penn State University Press
  • Publication date: 6/28/2006
  • Pages: 408
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.19 (d)

Meet the Author

Lynn Staley is Harrington and Shirley Drake Professor in the Humanities at Colgate University. She has published three previous books with Penn State Press: The Powers of the Holy: Religion, Politics, and Gender in Late Medieval English Literature (with David Aers, 1996), Margery Kempe's Dissenting Fictions (1994), and The Shepheardes Calendar: An Introduction (1990). She also is the editor and translator of the Norton Critical Edition of The Book of Margery Kempe (2001).

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Table of Contents

Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments

1. The Hawk on the Wrist and the Fool in the Chimney Corner

2. Inheritances and Translations

3. Princely Powers

4. French Georgics and English Ripostes

Epilogue

Bibliography

Index

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