Academic journal article Arthuriana

Trading Tongues: Merchants, Multilingualism, and Medieval Literature

Academic journal article Arthuriana

Trading Tongues: Merchants, Multilingualism, and Medieval Literature

Article excerpt

JONATHAN HSY, Trading Tongues: Merchants, Multilingualism, and Medieval Literature. Columbus, OH: The Ohio State University Press, 2013. Pp. xii, 237. isbn: 13-978- 0-8142-1229-5. $59.95.

Trading Tongues joins the growing field of studies examining the commercial language, practices, and culture of late medieval England. Hsy's book 'examines how multilingualism and medieval commerce shape texts written in medieval contact zones' (4). In Hsy's case, the principal 'contact zone' is the commercial world of late medieval London, and his book focuses on how commerce shapes the language used by writers in late medieval London and also how these writers 'engaged in linguistic exchange' (5) moved across languages and combined them in their texts.

In his Introduction, Hsy reads two short poems through the lens of the linguistic diversity of fourteenth-century London as a way to illustrate the city as a 'contact zone.' The Latin poem 'Stores of the City' catalogues the sites of London in a mixture of Latin and Latinized English names, and the English poem 'London Lickpenny' describes how a speaker from outside of London negotiates streets filled with speakers of different languages and 'how people deploy languages and adapt, often abruptly, to the different types of social interactions that city life requires' (14). London-based writers are the focus of most of the chapters.

The first chapter, for instance, concerns Geoffrey Chaucer's relationship with two London locations: his dwelling over Aldgate and his workplace in the customs house near the Thames. Hsy reads the House of Fame and the Shipman's Tale through the lens of these spaces reconstructed within Chaucer's poetry. Chaucer, John Gower, and Charles d'Orleans are the subjects of the second chapter, which argues that the mediating space of the sea through maritime trade invites multilingual perspectives in poetic texts. Gower and Chaucer tell the tale of Constance to describe a character who becomes a commodity shared between different spaces. Charles d'Orleans' poetry in English and in French shows rigid linguistic hierarchies with 'high-prestige French [being] portable, but humble English' not as portable (87). In the third chapter, Hsy pairs Gower with William Caxton because both the poet and the printer 'crafted polyglot literary personas' in order to produce 'texts across many languages' (91). …

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.