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REVIEWS troubling to a modern liberal understanding of the social good, and she usefully shows how and why they might be misread without taking account of the two hermeneutical types she has invoked. She also shows, again usefully, how much richer the thinking and writing about these texts become when one keeps always in the front of one’s mind the ordering principle (the glass bowl) that gives and constrains the meanings of the texts. For example, she makes a good point that the hermeneutical Jew, as revealed in certain personal and relational traits of the Jewish characters in the texts, shows a far greater resistance to the totalizing image of transformation that was, in the high theology of the period, supposed to accompany baptism/conversion. This point owes a great deal to an analogy or parallel between the hermeneutical Jew and what I think the author might be willing to call the hermeneutical Alien (stranger to the community) and hermeneutical Racial (the darkskinned ‘‘presence’’ or otherwise racialized presence defined, following recent medieval historiography, according to less somatically obvious distinctions). Finally, to see the past and past texts through these newly aware eyes of the hermeneutical Other is not to condemn the past for its mistakes (‘‘to seek moral reckonings,’’ p. 171), but to ‘‘seek ethical understandings’’ of it. This is a book that one must return to from time to time to elicit its nuggets of insight. It is sometimes a beautiful read, but almost never an easy one. Returning to it, however, can be a genuinely rewarding experience. William Chester Jordan Princeton University Kathy Lavezzo, ed. Imagining a Medieval English Nation. Medieval Cultures 37. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2004. Pp. xxxiv, 356. $68.95 cloth, $24.95 paper. Emphasis must fall on the ‘‘imaginary’’ part of Kathy Lavezzo’s title, since concepts of ‘‘nation’’ and ‘‘nationhood’’ are a good deal less present in this volume than the title would seem to imply. Actually, the commendably headstrong contributors are at their best when they jettison the doubtfully applicable concept of medieval nationhood altogether PAGE 331 331 ................. 11491$ CH13 11-01-10 14:02:40 PS STUDIES IN THE AGE OF CHAUCER and strike out on their own. ‘‘Nation’’ is really only gesturally present, as Aranye Fradenburg pursues her recent interest in the underpinnings of sacrifice (with patria hailed as one of its justifications); when Andrew Galloway considers the contributions of Higden and Walsingham to monastic historiography; when Jill Havens reflects on the Lollards as an imagined community within the realm; when Peggy Knapp asks what ‘‘imagination’’ actually meant in the later Middle Ages—to think only of the first four contributions. Although this collection’s blurb declares it to be ‘‘unusually coherent,’’ I would tend to argue otherwise, in favor of the unruliness of its talented contributors, and their commendably centrifugal offerings, as its greater asset. For all its inner diversity, this collection nevertheless does have a recurrent topic, preliminary or incidental to its stated one, and somewhat more agreeably indigenous to the Middle Ages. This is the subject of ‘‘community,’’ in all its ramifications, and most of the contributors turn to it with evident relief. After pondering the possibility that Higden’s interest in English varietas is itself a form of alienated national consciousness , Galloway turns to Walsingham, whose ‘‘most powerful sections access into his notions of English community’’ (p. 75). Havens observes that the polemic of Lollard texts ‘‘sets up an ideal of an imagined community , united by a belief in the ability of the English language to convey sacred truth’’ (p. 100). Kathleen Davis concerns herself with spatial and temporal disjunctions in Chaucer’s Parliament of Fowls, as they create an ‘‘alogical’’ zone in which various impossibilities can be imagined—a completed poem, a consummated marriage, and a harmonious community. Larry Scanlon’s restorative reassertion of Langland’s political radicalism grounds itself on ideals of community and the ‘‘true commons.’’ In his assertion of parallels between Edward III’s and Langland ’s views of the problems and potentialities of monetary exchange, Vance Smith gesturally invokes the concept of a ‘‘national economy,’’ but is more actively concerned with the contribution of the merchants as a group...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1949-0755
Print ISSN
0190-2407
Pages
pp. 331-334
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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