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Parliament and Literature in Late Medieval England

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Part of Cambridge Studies in Medieval Literature

  • Date Published: June 2010
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521147729

$ 40.99 (C)
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About the Authors
  • Parliament and Literature in Late Medieval England investigates the relationship between the development of parliament and the practice of English poetry in the later fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries. During this period, the bureaucratic political culture of parliamentarians, clerks, and scribes overlapped with the artistic practice of major poets like Chaucer, Gower, and Langland, all of whom had strong ties to parliament. Matthew Giancarlo investigates these poets together in the specific context of parliamentary events and controversies, as well as in the broader environment of changing constitutional ideas. Two chapters provide fresh analyses of the parliamentary ideologies that developed from the thirteenth century onward, and four chapters investigate the parliamentary aspects of each poet, as well as the later Lancastrian imitators of Langland. This study demonstrates the importance of the changing parliamentary environs of late medieval England and their centrality to the early growth of English narrative and lyric forms.

    • A historical as well as literary-critical analysis of parliament and its representation
    • Provides much information on Chaucer, Langland and Gower
    • Completely fresh research on chronicles, petitions and other documentary sources of the period
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    Reviews & endorsements

    “Parliament and Literature in Late Medieval England is a coherent study of deeply rooted connections between parliament and poetry in the later Middle Ages… This is a book that the field needs, and indeed it chimes with much current work… [it] makes a compelling argument about the relationship between two changing aspects of society, reminding us of the centrality of parliament in the textual culture of the era, and making clear the extent of the interpenetration between political and poetic forms. An exploration of parliament in the thirteenth to fifteenth centuries produces a portrait of a changing political world, tracing major social, bureaucratic, textual, legal, and political upheavals through this combative and controversial institution. Giancarlo is doing something much more sophisticated than merely claiming that literature reflects political and institutional changes; he goes some way towards demonstrating a mutual dependence and influence in terms both of form and of concerns.”
    -Marion Turner, Jesus College, Oxford, Review of English Studies

    “Given the obvious relevance of an evolving parliamentary system to a literature which often comments on its collective concerns, it is surprising that no one has attempted such a detailed study of the relationship between them and reassuring that Giancarlo’s is so well executed. His understanding of what constitutes influence in these terms is complex and carefully articulated… All in all, this is an engaging and thought-provoking study which should be of interest to both literary critics and historians.”
    -Elizabeth Evershed, Durham University, Medium Ævum

    “This is a rich book and a learned one. Giancarlo writes clearly and simply, offering real historical information about the history of parliament, parliamentary Commons, and parliamentary procedure… His critical and cultural arguments emerge from his familiarity with English texts in England’s three languages, which he cannily employs in an argument for a common voice. He also offers some trenchant remarks about petitionary narrative, about gender -- both historically and imaginatively represented -- and about the development of literary forms in relation to historic events. In moving easily from the Thirteenth to the early Sixteenth Century, he makes an implicit argument for grounding our understanding of the Early Modern period in an understanding of medieval forms and institutions… I can see much good work emerging from a study as filled with attentive readings, sound scholarship, and cultural awareness as this one.”
    -Lynn Staley, Colgate University, Studies in the Age of Chaucer

    “Poetry vis-a-vis politics makes a good, substantial subject, especially between the reigns of Henry III and Henry V. This volume has the thoroughness and weight we might expect of the theme… Matthew Giancarlo has written a serious, professional work. It will be an essential guide to the no man’s land between the legislative assemblies and poetry of late medieval England. It offers varied insights on how parliament was viewed and what ideologies its members possessed… [in] an age when courtiers, MPs, and civil servants read political poetry, and sometimes even wrote it.”
    -Andrew Breeze, University of Navarre, Modern Language Review

    “[T]his book builds its case through a detailed and thorough investigation of the entanglements of parliamentary controversies and literary endeavors. Giancarlo convincingly demonstrates that parliament provided an inspiration for late medieval English writers engaged in the ambitious task of writing a uniquely public poetry. This book will be of interest to historians and literary scholars alike and makes an important contribution to recent explorations of voice and authorship, the development of a public sphere, and the growth of documentary culture in fourteenth-century London.”
    -Claire Sponsler, University of Iowa, Journal of British Studies

    “In sum, this study offers a new and persuasive way of thinking about parliament’s centrality to the development of Ricardian and early Lancastrian poetry and its narrative forms… [T]he strength of this book lies in its ability to demonstrate the fresh perspectives that become available to historians and literary scholars when the extraordinary, symbiotic relationship between two of late medieval England’s greatest institutions is scrutinised. Giancarlo’s study makes an admirable contribution to the field of medieval studies and it will no doubt become a standard work of reference for those working on political thought, the history of ideas and English literature of the later Middle Ages.”
    Sarah Peverley, University of Liverpool, The Medieval Review

    “Matthew Giancarlo has written a splendid and important book on parliament and literature in late medieval England. While the book will prove to be mandatory reading for scholars of late medieval English literature, the title might understate the significance of this work for historians of the period. Giancarlo’s approach to his subject is truly interdisciplinary, and he is as well-versed in the history of the period as he is in the poetry. Moreover, this book clearly demonstrates that such an interdisciplinary approach is the best way to understand the development of medieval parliament, and Giancarlo has provided a model that will rekindle interest in the history of the institution… It is precisely the enticing nature of Giancarlo’s analysis here and elsewhere that makes this book at once a readable and admirably complex treatment of the intertwined development of parliament and English literature.”
    Clementine Oliver, California State University-Northridge, Medievalia et Humanistica

    ""Giancarlo's study succesfully interfaces with a range of recently prominent critical concerns: literature and documents/documentary culture, the status of English vernacularity, (and Ricardian origins), complaint and the rhetoric of the bill or petition, literature and legalism."
    Ralph Hanna,University of Oxford

    "Giancarlo's study successfully interfaces with a range of recently prominent critical concerns … The strength of Giancarlo's arguments resides in the discovery and analysis of a public space in which all these topics achieve a common prominence … There is much to learn from and to admire in Giancarlo's most general argumentative moves. The volume makes a strong, if not always robustly and analytically argued, case for reading across the divide between 'the [conventionally] literary' and 'the [conventionally] historical.' … Giancarlo's argument proceeds through a series of elegant and well chosen juxtapositions … Giancarlo has a strong framework for his analysis, and he handles it adeptly throughout the book … In this documentary study, the volume is unfailingly interesting … His chosen exemplary bills are richly suggestive and, generally, provocatively analyzed … Parliament and Literature does a richly provocative job, especially with materials conventionally the province of historians."
    The Journal of Ecclesiastical History

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    Product details

    • Date Published: June 2010
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521147729
    • length: 308 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 18 mm
    • weight: 0.46kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    List of illustrations
    Preface
    Acknowledgements
    Abbreviations and textual notes
    Introduction
    1. Parliament and voice in the thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries
    2. Parliament, criticism, and complaint in the later fourteenth century
    3. Property, purchase, parliament: the estates of man in John Gower's Mirour de l'Omme and Cronica Tripertita
    4. 'Oure is the voys': Chaucer's parliaments and the mediation of community
    5. Parliament, Piers Plowman and the reform of the public voice
    6. Petitioning for show: complaint and the parliamentary voice, 1401–14
    Conclusion
    Bibliography
    Index.

  • Author

    Matthew Giancarlo, English Department, University of Kentucky
    Matthew Giancarlo received his PhD from Yale University, Connecticut in 1998 and is currently Associate Professor of English at the University of Kentucky. He is the author of several articles on medieval English literature and culture.

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