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STUDIES IN THE AGE OF CHAUCER I merely speak to the future ofBakhtin and medieval studies. I truly en­ joyed and was provoked by all of these essays. This volume represents a very rich and powerful combination of theory and credentialed me­ dieval scholarship in an age when both medieval studies and theory are under attack. The proponents of posttheory (neobelletrists, some bodytheorists and queer theorists, neopragmatists and neoapprecia­ tionists) and the long-cavilling, antitheory proponents of conservative medieval studies have a volume in Bakhtin and Medieval Voices that should challenge, irk, and I hope win them. I sincerely believe that this collection of new essays can have the impact of the now infamous 1990 issue of Speculum on the "New Philology." That collection, felicitously cited by Farrell in his smart introduction, provided one of the first workable fusions of theory and traditional, textualism-centered me­ dieval studies. I think that Bakhtin and Medieval Voices does the same. Anybody interested in Bakhtin, theory, the literature of the later Middle Ages, and medieval documentary materials should likewise value this volume. JAMES). PAXSON University of Florida JUDITH FERSTER. Fictions ofAdvice: The Literature and Politics ofCounsel in Late Medieval England. Middle Ages Series. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1996. Pp. xii, 216. $32.95. The "Mirror for Princes" has often been thought of as an inert genre, in which complaisant scholar-lackeys, whether under solicitation or not, would give princes advice that it was not too painful for them to hear. Be wise and prudent, listen to faithful advisors, keep your promises­ these and other similarly bromide exhortations are easy to acquiesce in, it would seem, and impinge little on the actual business of governing. It is the great merit ofJudith Ferster's new book that it challenges these easy and self-indulgent assumptions, and makes one think again about some familiar materials. It is not suggested that the writers of these works were brave radicals with original views on the conduct of gov­ ernment policy who were prepared to risk the displeasure of princes, but rather that there was some equilibrium between power and provocation. The prince would do what he would, but he could do it more 256 REVIEWS successfully and for longer ifhe showed himselfreceptive to advice; and there might even develop some consensus about what constituted good government in which other interests than the prince's might be given weight. So Professor Ferster is prepared to find more in these works ofadvice than has usually been recognized in the past. "The mirrors for princes are not only more topical than they appear to be but also more critical ofthe powerful than we might expect" (p. 3). Her book examines a se­ ries ofsuch works in order to historicize them more fully, to show how their use offamiliar materials is often strategically selective, with read­ justments of emphasis that would have had important contemporary relevance and impact. She is interested in "the hermeneutics ofcamou­ flaged texts" (p. 4), in the possibility ofresistance to apparently mono­ lithically powerful regimes, and in arguments against the Foucauldian view that opposition is always co-opted. She is interested in the systems of encoding by which opposition and dissent can be communicated without offending those in power or without provoking repression. Ambiguity is one technique; the use ofhistorical examples, made safe by distance, another. Professor Ferster discusses the kind of political discourse that was possible in late medieval England, when there was no legally enforced censorship (except, it might be noted, ofheretical writings), but when authority exercised the usual pressures and con­ straints upon writers. She emphasizes the growth in the sense that there was a "commonwealth" in which all had a stake and, with the spread of the means ofdisseminating information, the development ofa "politi­ cal class" that might be interested in its nature and welfare. Chapters 3-5 introduce the Secretum Secretorum, the germinal text for the mirrors for princes, and some ofthe versions ofit that found their way into English, including the translation done by James Yonge in 1422 for the earl ofOrmonde. Professor Ferster uncovers some ofthe self-contradictions within the genre-to govern well, the king must be "well-governed...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1949-0755
Print ISSN
0190-2407
Pages
pp. 256-259
Launched on MUSE
2018-01-03
Open Access
No
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