Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Imaginings of Time in Lydgate and Hoccleve's Verse

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Imaginings of Time in Lydgate and Hoccleve's Verse

Article excerpt

Karen Elaine Smyth, Imaginings of Time in Lydgate and Hoccleve's Verse (Farnham: Ashgate, 2011). viii +187 pp. ISBN 978-1-40940-631-0. £68.00.

Karen Elaine Smyth's book aims to demonstrate the ways in which developments in the understanding and measuring of time inform the literature of late medieval England. While Smyth entertains a broad range of literatures in passing (including Chaucer), the majority of the study is devoted to the poetry of John Lydgate and Thomas Hoccleve: Smyth uses these poets' works as case studies in demonstrating convergent narrative expressions of time. Her stated focus is on addressing 'how alternative registers of time operate within different societal groups, between the works of two writers, between different texts by the same author and even within a text' (p. 10). Smyth also aims for a broader impact in her research: she encourages not only a critical reassessment of the works of Lydgate and Hoccleve, but also a reconsideration of the boundary between understandings of time perceived as 'medieval' and as 'modern' - and of the 'modernity' and 'alterity' of late medieval expressions of time.

Smyth's first chapter is devoted to an overview of what she terms 'cultural narratives of time' in the medieval period. The chapter is divided into eight sections, and it covers - for instance - technological advances in the measuring of time, the significance of the chronometer, and time regulation, leading into a more prolonged discussion of 'literary imaginings of time'. Smyth entertains in this overview not only the work of Lydgate and Hoccleve, but also the Paston letters, Chaucer's works, and religious texts that use time structurally or thematically, such as Henry Suso's Horologium sapientiae. The remaining chapters of Smyth's study are devoted to the work of Lydgate and Hoccleve. Chapters 2-4 consider Lydgate's Troy Book, Fall of Princes, and Siege of Thebes, respectively; and they entertain a range of subjects, including the use of time-markers as 'narrative framing devices', the relationship between temporal specificity and political commentary in the mirror-for-princes genre, and the thematic roles of astronomical time-referents, the ages of man, and references to eternity. …

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