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  • Authorship and First-Person Allegory in Late Medieval France and England by Stephanie A. Viereck Gibbs Kamath
  • Erica R. Machulak
Stephanie A. Viereck Gibbs Kamath, Authorship and First-Person Allegory in Late Medieval France and England (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer 2012) 226 pp.

Authorship and First-Person Allegory in Late Medieval France and England attends to the historical conditions of the texts it explores without sacrificing its focus on the literary development of late-medieval vernacular poetics. The textual analysis it supplies is especially rewarding because it puts French and English texts in conversation, dissolving traditional critical boundaries to examine overarching trends that emerged from international reception of the Roman de la Rose. This is a comprehensive study that extends well beyond direct translations of and allusions to the Rose. It investigates the network of international [End Page 284] translations and responses, showing that authors in a spectrum of contexts used the model of first-person allegory initiated by the Rose to draw authorial claims simultaneously from their immediate contexts and their shared literary heritage. As vernacular poets became increasingly interested in portraying the processes of their own authorship and reception, they capitalized on the model of traditional exegetical interpretation to explore the relationships between author, text, and reader.

Chapter 1 builds secure scaffolding for the progression of readings that follow by drawing out the literary maneuvers that first-person allegory enables in the Rose, and then examining Guillaume de Deguileville’s selective use of these strategies in his first and second recensions of Pélerinage de la vie hu-maine (PVH1 and PVH2). First-person allegory draws attention to the process of composition and interpretation by creating permeable diegetic boundaries and making readers aware of deliberate obscurities and absences. The moment of transition from Guillaume de Lorris’s portion of the Rose to Jean de Meun’s demonstrates these strategies when the God of Love voices the names of both poets and projects the future authorship of the text being read. While Deguileville’s explicit allusion to the Rose as his dreamer-narrator’s inspiration in PVH1 has led critics to read his text as a moralization of his source, his omissions of the Rose’s title and authors in PVH2 indicate his engagement with the text’s underlying literary strategies.

In her studies of Chaucer, Hoccleve, and Lydgate, Stephanie A. Viereck Gibbs Kamath makes the case that the Pélerinage de la vie humaine was as fundamental as the Rose to the development of vernacular poetic allegory. The compound adaptations and translations of both texts in Middle English poetry testify to the sources’ intimately linked lines of transmission. Indeed, they demonstrate that post-Chaucerian English poets were invested in authorial issues well beyond the Lancastrian agenda. By tracing links between Chaucer’s partial translations of the Rose and the Pélerinage de la vie humaine, chapter 2 amplifies our understanding of Chaucer’s corpus by connecting the authorial strategies he employs in his dream-visions and his texts-within-texts as responses to developing cross-cultural theories of allegory. Chapters 3 and 4 argue that Hoccleve and Lydgate entered the Rose tradition to situate themselves not only as English poets, but also as contributors to literary discourse on a grander scale. Responses to the Rose like Deguileville’s, Christine de Pizan’s, and Boccacio’s had generated a rich allegorical tradition. By translating and adapting these responses, Hoccleve and Lydgate simultaneously championed their identities as post-Chaucerian English poets and tapped into the formal and ethical avenues that the allegorical tradition made available.

The rich combination of texts and themes at play in Authorship and First-Person Allegory in Late Medieval France and England invites attention from a wide range of critical perspectives. The author dissolves anachronistic linguistic and generic boundaries in favor of comparisons between texts that shared codicologically-evident international readership. In the process, she uncovers new ground for scholars interested in theology, intellectual history, literary studies, and material culture. As the author herself acknowledges, the nature of her methodology necessitates that certain subjects, such as “the axiological pull exerted by the author’s veiled or overt ecclesiastic, didactic, civic...


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pp. 284-286
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