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Chaucer and His Readers:
Imagining the Author in Late-Medieval England
Seth Lerer

Winner of the 1995 Beatrice White Award, English Association

Paperback | 1996 | $47.95 | £39.95 | ISBN: 9780691029238
328 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4 | 8 halftones
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Reviews | Table of Contents

Challenging the view that the fifteenth century was the "Drab Age" of English literary history, Seth Lerer seeks to recover the late-medieval literary system that defined the canon of Chaucer's work and the canonical approaches to its understanding. Lerer shows how the poets, scribes, and printers of the period constructed Chaucer as the "poet laureate" and "father" of English verse. Chaucer appears throughout the fifteenth century as an adviser to kings and master of technique, and Lerer reveals the patterns of subjection, childishness, and inability that characterize the stance of Chaucer's imitators and his readers. In figures from the Canterbury Tales such as the abused Clerk, the boyish Squire, and the infantilized narrator of the "Tale of Sir Thopas," in the excuse-ridden narrator of Troilus and Criseyde, and in Chaucer's cursed Adam Scriveyn, the poet's inheritors found their oppressed personae. Through close readings of poetry from Lydgate to Skelton, detailed analysis of manuscript anthologies and early printed books, and inquiries into the political environments and the social contexts of bookmaking, Lerer charts the construction of a Chaucer unassailable in rhetorical prowess and political sanction, a Chaucer aureate and laureate.


"A brilliant reassessment of the Chaucerian tradition during the fifteenth century. . . . Described as `a book about endings,' in which Chaucer's envoy is construed as the dominant trope in later moments of dedication, closure, and subjection to readerly correction, it is really a book about beginnings--new ways to discuss literary history, the influence of tradition, and the cultural status of the author."--John M. Bowers, Medium Ævum

"An excellent book on the reception of Chaucer's writings in the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. [Lerer's argument] is pursued with great energy and erudition, and with a subtlety and versatility of argumentative maneuver that make the book very readable as well as enormously rich in suggestion."--Yearbook of English Studies

Table of Contents:

List of Illustrations
A Note on Editions
List of Abbreviations
Introduction The Subject of Chaucerian Reception 3
Ch. 1 Writing Like the Clerk: Laureate Poets and the Aureate World 22
Ch. 2 Reading Like the Squire: Chaucer, Lydgate, Clanvowe, and the Fifteenth-Century Anthology 57
Ch. 3 Reading Like a Child: Advisory Aesthetics and Scribal Revision in the Canterbury Tales 85
Ch. 4 The Complaints of Adam Scriveyn: John Shirley and the Canonicity of Chaucer's Short Poems 117
Ch. 5 At Chaucer's Tomb: Laureation and Paternity in Caxton's Criticism 147
Ch. 6 Impressions of Identity: Print, Poetry, and Fame in Hawes and Skelton 176
Envoy "All this ys said vnder correctyon" 209
Appendix 219
Notes 223
Works Cited 285
Index 303

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File created: 7/11/2017

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