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STUDIES IN THE AGE OF CHAUCER The concluding essay, "Poetics and Style in Late Medieval Literature" (pp. 263-93), by the editor of the collection, examines the conception of the poet toward himselfand toward his work as this can be seen in Lydgate, James I, Henryson, Dunbar, Douglas, Hawes, and Skelton, and shows how the attitude toward "high style" changed through the course of the fif­ teenth and sixteenth centuries. For this reader this interesting study would have been more useful still ifsimilar works and writers from the Continent had been incorporated into it. Altogether, then, we have a group ofstudies touching on various topics of interest to many students of the, literature of the Middle Ages. A side benefit to the insights and elucidationspresented is that they are represen­ tative of the varied approaches and interests existing in medieval circles today. There is something here for most medievalists, but all that is here will probably not be for all of them. PAUL BARRETTE University of Tennessee A.S.G. EDWARDS, ed. Middle English Prose: A Cn.tical Guide to Major Authors and Genres. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1984. Pp. xi, 452. $50.00. In his own essay in this volume, Editor A.S.G. Edwards refers to these "thesis-hungry times"-that is, the present age, with its emphasis on finding new things to publish. It seems that feeding the thesis-hungryis an all-too-important mission in this otherwise useful collection of eighteen bibliographical review essays on Middle English prose. Though they differ greatly in organization (even in the use of formal subdivisions), in cover­ age, and sometimes even in intention, each essay offers up a rich banquet ofdesiderata. We are told, for example, that, as yet, "there is no compre­ hensive approach to Rolle's thought" and that much work remains on "Rolleana;" that in studies ofWalter Hilton and the Clouda/Unknowing we have done much and "other gaps are in the process ofbeing filled;" that there is a need for someone to explore "the influence ofWycliffite writings on fifteenth-century prose;" that someone should undertake a careful study of the diagrams in manuscripts of the Treatise on the Astrolabe. 188 REVIEWS Some ofthe suggestions for new studies and new editions do not appear to be at all out of order-someone should, for example, assess Rolle's contributions to English vocabulary. But when every essay calls for a reassessment here, a "rethinking" there, the cumulative effect is unset­ tling. Why so many "calls?" Is it simply to help one locate a dissertation or thesis topic for one's students (or for one's self) or is it to stimulate the understanding and appreciation ofsome important Middle English texts? Whatever the reason, the authors ofthese essays and their readers should take a long, hard look at a scholarly economy that can hardly bear the oppressive weight of yearly contributions to our "understanding." In a sense, the maddening refrain of desiderata is at cross-purposes with the bibliographical purpose of this volume. A bibliographical review essay should bedesignedto help the researcherunderstand the shapeofprevious commentary on a subject. It is retrospective bibliography of the most useful kind first, it is actually readable (unlike an enumerative or anno­ tated bibliography that isusuallyconsulted for purposes ofreference only); second, itassesses the value ofwhat has been published; most important, it provides a measure of order by grouping studies of similar topics and by highlighting evolving critical and scholarly controversies. Spotting the "gaps" in commentary puts the emphasis in the wrong place altogether­ on what has not yet been said. But the emphasis on future directions over retrospective assessment is not the most serious problem in this collection. Far more important is the unevenness of the bibliographical coverage itself. Some of this is to be expected in a collection by eighteen hands on eighteen very different subjects. But one must question the usefulness of editorial guidelines flexible enough to allow one author the freedom to write an argumentative essay on his subject, withreference to onlyselected commentary relevant to the argument, while another undertakes a more-or-less exhaustive review of the scholarship and criticism. Each bibliographical essay provides an overview of...


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