Cover

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About the Series, Title Page, Copyright

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Contents

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pp. v-vi

Abbreviations

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pp. vii-viii

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Preface

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pp. ix-x

Much of the pleasure one derives from scholarly pursuits comes from the serendipity of events. The genesis of this volume grew out of an invitation from Lee Patterson to give a talk at Duke for a special issue of the Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies. ...

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Introduction

Barbara A. Hanawalt

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pp. xi-xxii

The intersection of history and literature is hardly a new endeavor for scholars of the historical and literary fields, but independent developments in both has made possible a fruitful, new interdisciplinary approach. In the past, scholars ventured into each other's territory as primitive raiders. ...

Part I. The Political Context

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1. The Court of Richard II and the Promotion of Literature

Michael J. Bennett

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pp. 3-20

The circumstances of the great flowering of English verse in the late fourteenth century represent a major problem for the social and cultural historian. It is at once exhilarating and humbling to reflect on the England of Richard II, a country of only two million inhabitants, but with Chaucer, Gower, Langland, and the Gawain-poet all at the height of their literary powers. ...

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2. Saving the Appearances: Chaucer's Purse and the Fabrication of the Lancastrian Claim

Paul Strohm

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pp. 21-40

The particular logic and sequence of Henry of Derby's actions upon his return to England in July 1399 remain concealed behind the discrepant and unreliable chronicle accounts through which we attempt to know them. Nevertheless a general pattern does emerge: a pattern mixed, whether through uncertainty or deviousness, but moving by its own logic ever closer to a claim on the throne. ...

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3. Chaucer and Gentility

Nigel Saul

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pp. 41-56

Chaucer is a difficult poet for the historian to interpret. He rarely lays bare his conscience in the way that, for example, his contemporary Langland does. Nor does he ever make his poetry a medium for the expression of complaint. His manner is quiet and reflective, ironic and amused. He is in a sense a poet's poet. ...

Part II. London as a Literary Setting

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4. Chaucer and the Absent City

David Wallace

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pp. 59-90

Chaucer's Canterbury Tales does not begin in London: it begins south of the Thames in Southwark and moves us steadily away from the city walls. Chaucer's solitary attempt at pure London fiction comes to an abrupt end after just fifty-eight lines: "Of this cokes tale/' writes the Hengwrt scribe, "maked Chaucer na moore."1 ...

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5. William Langland: A London Poet

Caroline M. Barron

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pp. 91-109

Piers Plowman is, in many ways, a baffling and teasing poem, particularly so for the historian, who is inclined to prefer source materials to be cut and dried. Piers Plowman exists in at least three versions, none of which can be securely dated. The author (or authors) is unknown, and although we may infer, from the internal evidence of the poem, that his name was William Langland, ...

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6. Need Men and Women Labor? Langland's Wanderer and the Labor Ordinances

Lawrence M. Clopper

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pp. 110-130

At the beginning of Passus V of the C version of Piers Plowman, Langland presents his Wanderer, Will, in a confrontation with two personifications, Reason and Conscience, who question him with regard to the major provisions of the Statute of Laborers. The curious element in their interrogation is that they do not charge him with a single infraction— for example, "did you take excess wages?" ...

Part III. Literature of the Countryside

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7. Medieval Hunting: Fact and Fancy

Nicholas Orme

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pp. 133-153

There is a passion for hunting something, deeply implanted in the human breast/' wrote Dickens in Oliver Twist. Surely, the passion has seldom been stronger than it was in medieval England, when hunting occupied the minds and bodies of people across the whole of society. ! Its spell extended from the king to the lowest commoner. ...

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8. Ballads and Bandits: Fourteenth-Century Outlaws and the Robin Hood Poems

Barbara A. Hanawalt

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pp. 154-175

Robin Hood, the courteous outlaw, the rebel against authority, and the friend of the poor husbandman, was a popular subject for ballads in late medieval England and has lost little of his universal appeal today. ...

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9. John Ball's Letters: Literary History and Historical Literature

Richard Firth Green

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pp. 176-200

Pierce the Ploughman's Crede (c. 1394) is hardly one of the more frequently read Middle English poems, but it contains one particularly striking passage, a description of the life of a fourteenth-century plowman. This is how that description is characterized by one commentator: ...

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10. The Writing Lesson of 1381

Susan Crane

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pp. 201-222

At the beginning of his 1789 tract What Is the Third Estate? Emmanuel Sieyes summarizes that estate's prerevolutionary history in two questions and responses: "What has [the third estate] been until now in the political order? Nothing. What does it seek? To become something."1 ...

Contributors

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pp. 223-224

Index

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pp. 225-240