Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Poets and Power from Chaucer to Wyatt

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Poets and Power from Chaucer to Wyatt

Article excerpt

Robert J. Meyer-Lee, Poets and Power from Chaucer to Wyatt, Cambridge Studies in Medieval Literature 61 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007). xii + 297 pp. ISBN 978-0-521-86355-1 and 0-521-86355-4. £50.00.

Robert J. Meyer-Lee's first book is a useful survey of English poetry from Hoccleve to Skelton, with Chaucer and Wyatt as bookends. The organizing theme is the creation and definition of the poet's role as 'laureate' and the power that such a poet would have. It argues that this period is the one which developed the still prevalent 'high-culture' notion of what poetry is (p. 3). It covers some of the ground of Spearing's Medieval to Renaissance and Ebin's Illuminator, Makar, Vates, but is led by more recent scholarship, some new material, and more theoretical sophistication. It is built around close reading - a sign of the current revival in that - but carefully keeps historical contexts in sight (especially in chapter 4). Although it is sometimes slightly abstract in phrasing, it would serve as a useful initiation for students to some meta-literary topics and to much fifteenth-century literature.

For the already initiated, among the newest materials are a survey of Ashby's work, especially its response to Hoccleve's (pp. 139-68); a careful reading of Barclay's understudied work (pp. 190-204); and an enjoyable consideration of Burgh's response to Lydgate (pp. 132-6) - though an opportunity is missed to discuss their 'joint publication' Secrees of Old Philisoffres. Some excellent suggestions about de Pizan's influence on Lydgate (pp. 61-5) remind us that the influence of French literature on fifteenth-century English literature would repay more research, extending the excellent work of Boffey, Burrow, and (for later years) Coldiron. The strong arguments include the suggestion that epideictic poetry elevates the praising poet as much as the praised (pp. 56-61) and a discussion of the speaker's persona in Lydgate's work (p. …

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