Academic journal article Arthuriana

Medieval Literature: Criticism and Debate

Academic journal article Arthuriana

Medieval Literature: Criticism and Debate

Article excerpt

HOLLY A. CROCKER AND D. VANCE SMITH, eds., Medieval Literature: Criticism and Debate. London and New York: Routledge, 2014. Pp. 534. isbn: 978-0-415-66789-6 (cloth), 978-0-415-66790-6 (pbk). $125 (cloth), $55.95 (pbk).

Medieval Literature: Criticism and Debate is a powerful collection for long-standing professionals and graduate students alike. Unlike most essay collections consisting entirely of new scholarly work, Medieval Literature: Criticism and Debate (MLCD) provides a rich contextual slice of medieval studies over the past twenty five years. While most essays were first published after the millennium, a few notable essays from the 1990's are also included (David Lawton's iconic essay, for example, 'Dullness and the Fifteenth Century,' first published in 1987), signaling the way in which these earlier essays have continued to exert significant influence in the field of medieval literary studies well into the 21st century. There are essays here from David Wallace, Bruce Holsinger, Patricia Clare Ingram, Christine Chism, the hardworking duo of Laurie Finke and Martin Shichtman, well-known to Arthurian scholars, and many other fine scholars of medieval literature. Re-published essays from esteemed colleagues are worth reading for the first or fourth time. The resulting collection is akin to aggregating the best plenary lectures of Kalamazoo, Leeds, The New Chaucer Society, The International Arthurian Society, and the MLA all into one volume. For graduate students, the volume is essential reading as a means of entering the conversations that have shaped and are currently shaping the field of late-medieval studies, and each chapter offers suggestions for further reading that includes other important essays published in the last 25 years. The majority of the volume, however, consists of newly-commissioned work across a provocative range of constructs, grouped together to spark critical dialogue.

Editors Holly A. Crocker and D. Vance Smith, both contributors to the volume, attribute their inspiration for their methodological approach to medieval debate poetry. As the editors assert, 'Scholastic method . . . is a mode of critique, a testing of the possibility of what is being asserted, and an analysis of how it is thought about' (4). In this spirit, MLCD does not have one theoretical perspective but provides, instead, a spirited (rather than 'bloodless' [5]) celebration of polyphonic voices and debate. The volume is thus organized 'around a series of counter-posed topics' with the goal of enacting 'the capacious dynamism that is present from the outset of the medieval disputation' (3).

Essays are grouped so as to enhance dialectical exchange within conceptual categories such as 'Form and History,' 'Belief and Thought,' 'Gender and Sexuality,' 'Memory and Matter,' 'Nation and Language,' 'Time and Place,' 'Science and Embodiment,' 'Period and Politics,' and 'Desire and Performance.' Within these groupings are essays on chronicles, ballads, romance, Chaucer, religious texts, conduct books, the Pearl Poet, the Ancrene Wisse, Hoccleve, fabliau, Mandeville's Travels, Malory, Christian-Jewish relations, and more. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.