Impolitic Bodies: Poetry, Saints, and Society in Fifteenth-Century England : the Work of Osbern Bokenham

Synopsis

With Impolitic Bodies Delany breaks important ground in fifteenth century scholarship, a critical site of cultural study. Delany examines the work of English Augustinian friar Osbern Bokenham, never before written on at length, and fully explores the relations of history and literature in the particularly turbulent period in English history, beginning with "The Wars of the Roses" and during the "Hundred Years War." Delany examines the first collection of all female saints' lives in any language: Legends of Holy Women composed by Bokenham between 1443 and 1447. The book is organized around the image of the body --- a medieval procedure becoming popular once again in current attention to the social construction of the body. One emphasis is Bokenham's relation to the body of English literature, particularly Chaucer, the symbolic head of the fifteenth century. Another emphasis is a focus on the genre of saints' lives, particularly female saints' lives, with their striking use of the body of the saint to generate meaning. Finally, the image of the body politic, the controlling image of medieval political thought is here, and Bokenham's means to examine the political and dynastic crises of fifteenth-century England. Delany uses these three major concerns to explain the literary innovation of Bokenham's Legend, and the larger and political importance of that innovation.