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Mary Flannery

| The Culture of Inquisition in Medieval England | John Lydgate and the Poetics of Fame


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The Culture of Inquisition in Medieval England


Flannery, Mary C., and Katie L. Walter, eds. The Culture of Inquisition in Medieval England. Westfield Medieval Studies 4. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2013.

Inquisition in medieval and early modern England has typically been the subject of historical rather than cultural investigation, and focussed on heresy. Here, however, inquisition is revealed as playing a broader role in medieval English culture, not only in relation to sanctions like excommunication, penance and confession, but also in the fields of exemplarity, rhetoric and poetry. Beyond its specific legal and pastoral applications, inquisitio was a dialogic mode of inquiry, a means of discerning, producing or rewriting truth, and an often adversarial form of invention and literary authority.
The essays in this volume cover such topics as the theory and practice of canon law, heresy and its prosecution, Middle English pastoralia, political writing and romance. As a result, the collection redefines the nature of inquisition's role within both medieval law and culture, and demonstrates the extent to which it penetrated the late-medieval consciousness, shaping public fame and private selves, sexuality and gender, rhetoric, and literature.

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John Lydgate and the Poetics of Fame



Flannery, Mary. John Lydgate and the Poetics of Fame. Woodbridge: D.S. Brewer, 2012.


John Lydgate is arguably the most significant poet of fifteenth-century England, yet his position as Chaucer's literary successor and his role as a Lancastrian poet have come to overshadow his contributions to English literature. Here, "fame" is identified as the key to Lydgate's authorial self-fashioning in Chaucer's wake. The author begins by situating Lydgatean fame within the literary, cultural and political landscape of late-medieval England, indicating how Lydgate diverges from Chaucer's treatment of the subject by constructing a more confident model of authorship, according to which poets are the natural makers and recipients of fame. She then discusses the ways in which Lydgate draws on fourteenth-century poetry, the advisory tradition, and the laureate ideology borne out of trecento Italy; she shows that he deploys them to play upon reader anxieties in his short poems on dangerous speech, while depicting poets as the ultimate arbiters of fame in his longer poems and dramatic works.
Throughout, the book challenges standard critical positions on questions relating to how poets fit into late-medieval society, how they can be powerful enough to admonish princes, and how English letters fare next to the literature of the continent and of antiquity.


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