This study brings emergent methodologies of literary geography to bear upon the unique contents—or more to the point, the moving, artful, frequently audacious contents—of a codex known as London, British Library MS Harley 2253. The Harley manuscript was produced in provincial Herefordshire, in England’s Welsh Marches, by a scribe whose literary generation was wiped out in the Black Death of 1348–1351. It contains a diverse set of writings: love-lyrics and devotional texts, political songs and fabliaux, saints’ lives, courtesy literature, bible narratives, travelogues, and more. These works alternate between languages (Middle English, Anglo-Norman, and Latin), but have been placed in mutually illuminating conversation. Following an Introduction that explores how this fragmentary miscellany keeps being sutured into ‘whole’-ness by commentary upon it, individual chapters examine different genres, topics, and social groupings. Readers from literary history, medieval studies, cultural geography, gender studies, Jewish studies, book history, and more, will profit from the encounter. Harley 2253 is famous as medieval books go, thanks to its celebrated roster of lyrics, fabliaux, and political songs, and owing to the scarcity of material extant from this ‘in-between’ period in insular literary history. England’s post-Conquest/pre-plague era remains dimly known. Despite such potential, there has never been a monograph published on Harley 2253. Harley Manuscript Geographies orients readers to this compelling material by describing the phenomenon of the medieval miscellany in textual and codicological terms. But another task it performs is to lay out grounds for approaching this compilation via the interpretive lens that cultural geography provides.
discourse known as ‘counterfactualism’. By featuring an obscure poem, a suppressed population, and discredited method, our next Harley manuscript foray encourages contemporary audiences—especially credentialled specialists—to reassess certain valorizing habits and canonical orientations that continue to constrain medieval Englishliteraryhistory, to its detriment.
How it might turn out (or, Contingency and the cautionary tale)
The common wisdom in literary study, as in many things, is to begin at the beginning, especially when in doubt; and if this chapter is about
experience, memories produced by language and literature worked toward this same end. Lacking the mythology of the Poetic Edda and Prose Edda , as well as the sagas’ detailed descriptions of daily life in the Middle Ages, English readers could find in Norse literature reasons to believe there had been comparable material in Englishliteraryhistory and that what Norse literature described equally might have been said about the English experience. By a parallel interpretative gesture, similarities between Old English and Old Norse could be understood to affirm the
discover—each one meaningfully arranged—may sound like tired sentiment, stale methodological news . But literary-geographical method offers a way to move forward while looking back. To re-chart Harley 2253’s mappings of its world—and of Englishliteraryhistory—is an exercise long overdue.
1 For early description, see Wanley et al ., Catalogue of Harleian Manuscripts , II.585–591.
2 Pearsall, Old English and Middle English Poetry , 120.
3 Fletcher et al ., 1000 Years.
4 Pearsall, Old English and Middle English Poetry , 120.
5 Soja, Postmodern
Heather James examines late-sixteenth- and early- seventeenth-century printed commonplace books, a form which played a vital role in elevating the status of English vernacular literature. James shifts our focus from this form’s place in English literary history to its impact on political subjectivity. For James, late-Elizabethan printed commonplace books enabled innovations in the ‘politics of reading’ through their organization of decontextualised sentences grouped together by topic, modelling a form of political conversation on even the most incendiary of subjects (i.e., tyranny)
Ye goon to … Hereford? Regional devotion and England’s other St Thomas
The Epilogue reviews how—after much anarchic pulling apart—the Harley miscellany comes together as a literary-cartographic compilation. Sacred space manifests here as a Hereford-centred ecclesiastical regionalism. Harley 2253 is famous for other genres, but saints’ lives govern its undertaking. Its saintly roster proves diverse (biblical/medieval; foreign/domestic; political/parodic), but committed to locally grounded sanctity. Providing a focal point for ‘Ye Goon to … Hereford?’ is St Thomas Cantilupe, a Hereford bishop (canonized 1320) whose cathedral shrine competed on even footing, for a while, with the royal-associated cult of Archbishop Thomas Becket, whose Canterbury shrine dominates English literary history (via Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales) and cultural geography. Cantilupe’s fortunes recall those of the Harley manuscript within literary studies; both acquire meaning via their regionalist character. Reading Harley 2253 and Hereford Cathedral together challenges the dominance of Becket, Chaucer, and Canterbury Cathedral. To seek St Thomas of Hereford in the Harley manuscript is to borrow trouble codicologically—he won’t be found, any more than Becket’s shrine is reached by Chaucer’s Pilgrims. But pursuing his absent presence, in a book that privileges sanctified geography by planting local saints at threshold locations, does move us towards Hereford Cathedral, where a famous mappamundi awaits those approaching Cantilupe’s shrine.
In its contributions to the study of material social differences, queer theoretical writing has mostly assumed that any ideas which embody 'difference' are valuable. More than this, where it is invoked in contemporary theory, queerness is often imagined as synonymous with difference itself. This book uncovers an alternative history in queer cultural representation. Through engagement with works from a range of queer literary genres from across the long twentieth century – fin-de-siècle aestheticism, feminist speculative fiction, lesbian middle-brow writing, and the tradition of the stud file – the book elucidates a number of formal and thematic attachments to ideas that have been denigrated in queer theory for their embodiment of sameness: uselessness, normativity, reproduction and reductionism. Exploring attachments to these ideas in queer culture is also the occasion for a broader theoretical intervention: Same Old suggests, counterintuitively, that the aversion they inspire may be of a piece with how homosexuality has been denigrated in the modern West as a misguided orientation towards sameness. Combining queer cultural and literary history, sensitive close readings and detailed genealogies of theoretical concepts, Same Old encourages a fundamental rethinking of some of the defining positions in queer thought.
Poetry and Politics in the English Renaissance (1984; rev. ed.
Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002).
On vocation, see seminal studies by David L. Miller,
‘Spenser's Vocation, Spenser's Career’, EnglishLiteraryHistory , 50 (1983), 197–231; Richard Helgerson, Self-Crowned
Laureates: Spenser, Jonson, Milton, and the Literary
Performing the politics of passion: Troilus and Criseyde and Troilus and Cressida and the literary tradition of love and history
Andrew James Johnston and Russell West-Pavlov
must be considered to be the most spectacular example of a
self-consciously literary tradition in Englishliteraryhistory.
Indeed, Troilus constitutes a subject matter always already
conceived of as a literary tradition that stands in a conflict-ridden
relationship to history. And precisely because in the case of Troilus
that relationship has, since its very inception, been seen as both
: for instance, Spenser is revealed to be a more generative source of allusion and poetic innovation for Eliot (compared to Donne’s more ‘functional’ role), whereas Joyce, Fogarty and Grogan argue, deploys Spenser with the deepest of ironies and recasts Donne as essentially ‘medieval’. Through these several complex triangulations, the chapter links the transitional period at the turn of the sixteenth century with another transitional period in Englishliteraryhistory, one that helped entrench the very scholarly paradigm that we are working to counter