Edited by Larry Scanlon and James Simpson
“As a commentator on trends of Fortune, Lydgate would have enjoyed the surge of affirmative attention his poetry has begun to attract. This revisionary book radically revalues this previously maligned poet’s accomplishments.” —Paul Strohm, Columbia University
Essays in this volume argue for a powerful reassessment of John Lydgate’s poetic projects. The preeminent English poet of his own century, Lydgate (ca. 1370–1449) addressed the historical challenges of war with France, looming civil war in England, and new theological forces in the vernacular. He wrote for household, parish, city, monastery, church, and state. Although an official poet of sorts—perhaps the first major official poet in the English poetic tradition—he was not by any means a merely celebratory or sycophantic writer. Instead, he drew on his authority both as poet and as monastic historian to shape a challenging literary space and to underline the treacherousness of history. Despite his exceptional cultural significance, Lydgate has, for different reasons, been marginalized by many literary historical movements since the sixteenth century. John Lydgate: Poetry, Culture, and Lancastrian England is energized by the challenge of a substantial oeuvre in need of reevaluation. Each essay makes a decisive contribution to an aspect of Lydgate’s work and opens fresh perspectives for further investigation.
Contributors write about Lydgate from a variety of critical perspectives and emphasize the diversity of the poet’s writings beyond the city-state tragedies of Troy and Thebes. Genres discussed include beast fable, mumming, hagiography, devotional poetry, and civic pageant. The essays also reassess crucial themes in the field of Lydgate studies, including Lydgate’s unofficial laureateship, his relations to his patrons, his syntax, and his relationship to Chaucer. This book makes an important contribution to medieval scholarship; it will be welcomed by scholars and students alike.
Contributors: Larry Scanlon, James Simpson, Phillipa Hardman, Robert J. Meyer-Lee, Scott-Morgan Straker, C. David Benson, Maura B. Nolan, Jennifer Summit, Rita Copeland, Fiona Somerset, and Ruth Nisse.
“Larry Scanlon and James Simpson, the editors of John Lydgate: Poetry, Culture, and Lancastrian England, come right out and say it: ’We propose to take Lydgate seriously as a major poet.’ Their essay collection steers away from the longest poems in favour of (more) neglected texts, and it thus enriches our sense of the vast range of Lydgate’s output and his multiple roles as a poet.” — Times Literary Supplement
“This impressive and significant collection situates itself at the forefront of the current whirlwind rehabilitation of the Monk of Bury. . . .” — Medium Aevum
“The collection’s goal is to remedy the neglect into which Lydgate has fallen, ‘by taking [him] seriously as a major poet’ and in so doing to fill a gaping hole in our understanding of Middle English literary history. This well-conceived and timely collection takes us a long stride toward understanding and doing justice to an undeservedly overlooked writer and will no doubt spur future revisionist efforts with its powerful example.” — Speculum
“Scanlon and Simpson have done a fine job in bringing together a range of essays on Lydgate and his works, which challenge our preconceived notions of the quality and nature of Lydgate’s writing, and open up questions about literary culture in fifteenth century England.” — Parergon