Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Poetry and London learning: Chaucer, Gower, Usk, Langland and Hoccleve
by Pangilinan, Maria Cristina Santos, Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania, 2009, 220; 3381772
Abstract (Summary)

Medieval London, unlike medieval Paris, did not have a university. The absence of a dominant local institution that regulated intellectual innovation in a historical moment that sees the collapse of distinctions between clerical and lay presented an opportunity for the poetic appropriation of the academy's disciplines in Latin and in Middle English. "Poetry and London Learning" presents London as a center of English, intellectual culture, on par with Oxford and Cambridge. I argue that late medieval London poetry constitutes a coherent, innovative intellectual movement. London poets Geoffrey Chaucer, John Gower, Thomas Usk, William Langland, Thomas Hoccleve, and the anonymous Mum and the Soothesegger-poet present poetry as local scholarship that is affiliated with the City and the nearby jurisdictions of Southwark and Westminster rather than the academy. These poets redefine medieval academic disciplines to make them immediately available, comprehensible and useful to a London reading audience. Chaucer narrates the history of alchemy; Gower revises late-medieval historiography; Usk makes a London ethics out of the materials of theology; and Langland narrates a common origin for poetry and natural philosophy. In the process of revising academic disciplines for the City, these poets present poetic, pedagogical narratives that intend to generate models of urban intellectual subject formation.

Every chapter describes London, a community and a place experienced differently by each poet, and explains how each poet's specific location, career, and affiliations produced singular revisions of institutional, pedagogic tradition. Each chapter also presents the long histories of the disciplines concerned in order to describe how these poets' contributions become implicated or marginalized in English intellectual history. Hoccleve's invention of Chaucerian science contributed to sixteenth-century antiquarians' claims regarding the genealogy of an ancient urban, poetic scholarly tradition in spite of the continued absence of a university in the City. Gower's idiosyncratic performance of Latin history alienates his poetic production from the longer tradition of historical writing about the City. "Poetry and London Learning," therefore, refuses to narrate a history of English poetry periodized by regnal period, but insists upon imagining the place of London's late-medieval poets in the longer history of English scholarship.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Copeland, Rita, Steiner, Emily
School: University of Pennsylvania
School Location: United States -- Pennsylvania
Source: DAI-A 70/10, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Medieval literature, British and Irish literature
Keywords: Chaucer, Geoffrey, England, Gower, John, Hoccleve, Thomas, Langland, William, Medieval London, Medieval historiography, Middle English, Middle English poetry, Poetry, Usk, Thomas
Publication Number: 3381772
ISBN: 9781109431988
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