In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

REVIEWS Sylvia Federico. New Troy: Fantasies of Empire in the Late Middle Ages. Medieval Cultures 36. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003. Pp. xxiv, 207. $60.95 cloth, $21.95 paper. Sylvia Federico’s New Troy: Fantasies of Empire in the Late Middle Ages joins a spate of recent critical works analyzing English fantasies of nation and empire in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, in this case mining the identifications and conflicts embedded in England’s literary obsession with Troy. Engaging psychoanalytic accounts of fantasy and desire and theories of utopianism with close textual and archival work, Federico ’s study advances the argument that late-middle English claims on Troy positioned political and literary culture within a prestigious (if ambivalent ) historical imaginary, one capable of advancing England toward a national future. Her study awards national primacy of place to London —it here signifies ‘‘mainstream English culture’’ (p. 61)—thus helping us think about the medieval city as future metropole. Chapter 1 inaugurates the focus on London in texts produced during the period immediately following the Rising of 1381. London emerges as a contentious and vibrant commercial space, linked to Trojan structures of meaning in both John Gower’s Vox Clamantis and in Richard Maidstone’s Concordia facta inter regem Riccardum II et civitatem Londonie (1393). Both texts figure Troy ambivalently as a means of coping with the benefits and liabilities of such civic volatility and promise. Gower’s Book I, for example, casts London’s rulers—unable to protect the city from the rising—as Troy’s traitors, positioning Gower himself as the moral leader London (and by extension England) needs, a ‘‘type of Aeneas ’’ (p. 17). The pageant, an attempt to convince an implacable Richard II to restore the freedoms and privileges recently taken from the city, links Richard’s ‘‘intervention in London’s autonomy . . . to the Greeks’ invasion of Troy,’’ thus placing Richard ‘‘on the wrong side of the Trojan War’’ (p. 26). In each case, New Troy is feminized and eroticized : for Gower, a London overrun with rebels appears as a widow too free with her favors; in Maidstone’s poem, Richard unites with the city as sovereign and spouse, imaging the relation of ruler and ruled as a display of the consent of wife for husband, subject for sovereign. Each construes London as a space of possibility poised toward futurity: Gower ’s conservative fantasy idealizes the Trojan past in the utopian hope of heralding a revivified future for postrevolt London; Maidstone’s poem PAGE 303 303 ................. 11491$ CH13 11-01-10 14:02:26 PS STUDIES IN THE AGE OF CHAUCER likewise surfaces utopian civic hopes, exerting ‘‘symbolic pressure’’ on Richard to restore liberties denied. Chapter 2 reads the Trojan references in Chaucer’s House of Fame and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight as crises of interpretation. History and interpretation move toward the geographic consolidation that accompanies national community. Federico reads London’s centrality in the regionalism of Gawain, specifically in the text’s ‘‘delight’’ in the ‘‘wild terrain of Wales and the oddities found therein,’’ as emblematic of the historical process whereby the region of the Gawain-poet is ‘‘drawn more into the national mainstream’’ (p. 61). Chaucer’s House of Fame, written during the poet’s London period, alludes to the hurly-burly of London (in the figure of the wicker house as a ‘‘marketplace of tidings’’), where history and fame are made by the circulation of story and reputation . Federico smartly argues that each poem refigures the ambivalent meaning of Aeneas’s journey so as to address ideologies of history, authenticity , and fable—finally coming to the ‘‘frustrating realization that the perversion of truth is the necessary concomitant to fame’’ (p. 31). Gawain and the Green Knight addresses the transmission of narrative— both the story of Trojan genealogy and that of Gawain’s reputation—in the midst of the poet’s awareness of the unpredictability of any text’s reception. Chaucer’s House of Fame, beginning in a way where Gawain leaves off, imagines New Troy as a ‘‘home for English letters’’ (p. 56). Chapter 3, in many ways the historiographic heart of the book, analyzes the historical imagination legible in Troilus...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1949-0755
Print ISSN
0190-2407
Pages
pp. 303-306
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.