restricted access Hochon’s Arrow: The Social Imagination of Fourteenth-Century Texts by Paul Strohm (review)
In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

REVIEWS them. It is fitting, therefore, that the last visual image analyzed by the author is that ofCriseyde quaking like an aspen leaf in Troilus's arms. In Stillinger's eloquent words, "She is like a page being bound into a book" (p. 211), a page that lends itselfto infinite glossing since Criseyde herselfis an enigma. Troilus, the narrator, Pandarus, and all the "olde clerkes" that wrote her story attempt to define her once and for all, to fold her shut, as it were, in the interests ofclosure demanded by the form ofthe book and by patriarchal social structure. As "a shifting signifier" (p. 215) Criseyde is the center of a postmodern, unstable subjectivity, whereas Troilus prefigures the modern masculine self, unified and disengaged from the shifting con­ texts that surround him. Yet by the poem's end the form ofTroilus and the form oflyric are no longer the locus of privilege but rather oftroubling fictions. In so doing, Chaucer gives his readers the freedom not only to identify with his characters or to remain unmoved but also to see his own struggle as a poet who stands alone and original (like Troilus), or derivative and culturally programmed (like Criseyde). The Song of Troilus, despite or perhaps because of its shifting concerns and densely argued issues, is an important contribution to medieval studies, particularly to the scholarship on Chaucer and the Italian Trecento. The complexity ofthe questions posed and the occasionally impressionistic manner ofanswering those questions may prove too daunting for under­ graduate readers. Despite its flaws, it is a stimulating scholarly text that dares to present original and novel ideas that will be ofinterest to every specialist in the field. CARON ANN CIOFFI University ofCalifornia, Davis PAUL STROHM. Hochon's Arrow: The Social Imagination ofFourteenth-Century Texts. App. by A. J. Prescott. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1992. Pp. xii, 128. $37.50 cloth, $12.95 paper. Paul Strohm's book consists ofseven substantial essays dealing mainly with London affairs in the period between 1380 and 1400, two appendices (one by A.J. Prescott), and a briefintroduction setting out the principles which underlie his approach. He writes: "At the center ofmy inquiry is the text itself, with the cryptic and paradoxical information it both offers and with293 STUDIES IN THE AGE OF CHAUCER holds. And the text is characteristically viewed within a larger field or 'environment' of previous and contemporary texts, visual representations, pageants, social dramas, and political acts" (p. 6). A little later he says, "An environment embraces not just words and textual conventions, but also schemes or structuring ideas functioning at an intermediate level ofgener­ alization" (p. 6). His normal procedure is to set and test one text against others, exposing hidden assumptions and ideologies, and in doing so he collapses somewhat the distinctions between what is "fictional" and what is a record offact, what is "literary" and what is "historical." The approach in general owes much to New Historicism, but other models are also used from time to time. Most ofthese essays bear, in one way or another, on Chaucer, Gower, and Thomas Usk, authors to whom Strohm has already devoted much scholarly attention, but the first two chapters focus on historical events. "Hochon's Arrow" deals centrally with the mayoral elections in London on October 13, 1384, and the threats of violence which accompanied them. A brief narrative by John Banham telling how he prevented Hochon of Liverpool from shooting Hugh Fastolf, one of the supporters of the victorious Nicholas Brembre, as he urinated against the wall of St. Lawrence's Church, provides the author with a way into a discussion of the factional­ ism of London city politics. These were essentially the "politics of space," he argues, and uses anthropological ideas about marking behavior as an interpretive aid. Though the initial incident itselfis fairly trivial and noth­ ing happened, the approach and discussion are illuminating. Interesting too is the chapter on the Revolt of 1381, where Strohm invokes Bakhtinian ideas about "carnival," misrule, and the (temporary) overturning of orthodoxy to help to identify the "rebel voice" (p. 51) and something of the ideology of the rebels. He sees significance in the Monk of...


pdf