Literature and Theatre

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French books and male readers in fifteenth-century England
J. R. Mattison

This chapter assesses the evidence for the movement of books in French during the Hundred Years War. Using the surviving books of Humfrey, duke of Gloucester, as a starting point, it reveals a network of cross-Channel book owners during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Operating through the shared language of French, this predominantly masculine network is further strengthened by military roles. Such military links both developed relationships between men and facilitated the movement of people during the course of the war that led to the exchange of books. The contexts of these exchanges encompassed gifts, purchases, ransoms and more. Linked foremost by martial and gender ties, rather than national or social affiliations, these men participated in the transnational trade of books that persisted even beyond the official end of the Hundred Years War.

in Literatures of the Hundred Years War
Alain Chartier’s allegorical oneiropolitics
Lucas Wood

Seeking to avert the ruin of a France threatened by international and civil conflict during the Hundred Years War, Alain Chartier’s Middle French Quadrilogue invectif (1422) mobilises the form of the literary dream vision and the poetics of personification allegory as instruments of historical representation and polemical critique. The scourge of faction, stemming from a general failure by all of the members of the body politic either to understand or to feel the essential truth of their unity and the community of interest it entails, is at once made visible and vigorously denounced, both verbally and performatively, in a vitriolic debate between personifications of ‘France’ and the three estates. By staging dissension among these characters, Chartier aims to remedy it in his readers, modelling a powerful affective investment in the common good and mediating the individual political subject’s self-insertion into multiple conceptual formations of collective identity. Even while boldly asserting dream allegory’s potential to reshape the political consciousness of the realm, however, the Quadrilogue reflects and implicitly reflects on the inevitable artificiality of allegorical oneiropolitics, a necessarily artful constructedness that Chartier’s rhetorical tropes ultimately share with the very figure of the perfectly unified polity that is insistently naturalised throughout his text.

in Literatures of the Hundred Years War
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The pastourelle and the Hundred Years War
Elizaveta Strakhov

In The Sexual Politics of Meat, Carol J. Adams examines how figurative language supports structural violence against both animals and women. Language elides the animal life of the meat we are consuming: we eat beef, we do not eat cow. Similarly, objectifying language focused on female body parts metaphorically reduces women’s subjecthood to units of flesh that can be consumed and abused, like animal flesh. Using Adams’s discussion as a lens, this chapter focuses on a little-known cycle of late medieval French pastourelles that openly critique the Hundred Years War by portraying rural deprivation and devastation. In the first half of the cycle, pillaged peasants are metaphorically and affectively imagined as their own attacked sheep, offering their plight a sacral register. The second half of the cycle, meanwhile, seems to switch gears to discuss sexual violence levied against women, who are also imagined as attacked sheep. On its surface, the poetic cycle thus seems to offering representation and perhaps even a voice for animals, female survivors of sexual assault, and the rural poor. And yet, a persistent representational aporia at the heart of the cycle’s project – manifested in a recursive emphasis on literal absences, repeated references to extradiegetic situations and hypothetical scenarios – belies their apparent sympathies with animals, women and the poor. Anticipating Carol Adams’s critique by multiple centuries, these pastourelles use metaphor to collapse animals, women and the poor into a category ultimately brought together by the cold logic of these groups’ economic usefulness to society as a whole.

in Literatures of the Hundred Years War
Andrew Galloway

The genre of ‘tragedy’ has a well-established though sprawling history, one in which glimpses of history’s massive and often horrifically destructive forces are as key as the many scholarly uses of tragedy to chart phases of history; in this sense Hegel remains as important as Raymond Williams. Views of medieval ideas of tragedy, however, remain more controverted and elusive. Scholarly focus has wavered between attention to a narrow lineage (Boccaccio–Chaucer–Lydgate) to a wide span of writings called ‘tragedy’ from the twelfth century. Against both options, the early to mid-fifteenth century, at the height and near the failure (with Henry V’s death) of the Hundred Years War, merits a closer look. Apt for further consideration are both the historical writings of the monk Thomas Walsingham (especially the Ypodigma Neustriae), and John Lydgate’s prolific ‘tragedies’, the Fall of Princes and Of the Sodein Fal of Princes in Oure Dayes. Drawing in different ways on ancient texts like Lucan’s, Walsingham and Lydgate elaborate a notion of ‘tragedy’ that indicates a tipping point in views of social structure in general, one that uses tragedy to reassess war, empire, conquest and lordship in newly critical terms. In works that straddled Henry V’s death but never acknowledge it, neither writer articulates the ruptures in the ideas of imperialism and lordship they reveal, but both indicate a vast range of new tragic perspectives, whose sudden plenitude suggests an overdue reconception of society, even if the genre they elaborate emphasises the inarticulable nature of all historical change.

in Literatures of the Hundred Years War
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Literatures of the Hundred Years War
Daniel Davies
and
R. D. Perry

The Hundred Years War stakes a claim to concerns of a continental scale. What began as a feudal territorial struggle became a multilateral conflict with connections across the continent through alliances and proxy battles. The introduction provides an overview of the traditional Anglo-French history of the conflict, before then arguing for an expansive approach to the period that attends to transnational diplomatic ties, proxy battles and ideological justifications. Reconsidering what the Hundred Years War was and what it did calls for a new conceptualisation of the relationship between war and medieval literary culture. After critical overviews of how literary scholars within and beyond medieval studies have approached the role of war as a context for literature, the introduction closes with an analysis of Charles d'Orléans’s lyric persona.

in Literatures of the Hundred Years War
David Wallace

Italy played crucial, facilitating roles in England’s long war with France. Papal and imperial politics, commerce and finance, shipping and weapons manufacture formed a complex nexus within which English writers engaged with Italian letters. This chapter considers key encounters over two generations, two ages of Chaucer: the first that of Geoffrey, and the second of Thomas, his son. Geoffrey’s travels to Florence, Genoa and Milan in the 1370s famously led him to reappraise what poetry, in the mother tongue, might achieve, given precedents set by Dante, Boccaccio and Petrarch. But Chaucer was dispatched from Westminster not to advance English letters, but to serve the English Crown in matters of finance, troop-ship movement, mercenary recruitment and marriage alliance. For a while, Chaucer thought that he had tidynges of an Italian match for Richard II. But needs of war, and of strategic alliance, caused the Crown to swerve from Valentina Visconti to Anne of Bohemia, daughter of Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor. More than a generation later, English men of letters who had flocked to the Council of Constance (1414–18) to help heal the Papal Schism befriended Dantisti and humanists from the disintegrating Italian delegation. Poggio Bracciolini, the most brilliant of all, came to England under the patronage of Cardinal Beaufort, a figure surveilled by Thomas Chaucer. The English victory at Agincourt, which precipitated Poggio’s unlikely translatio, astonished continental Europe, like many earlier battles. Nobody thought highly of English literary culture (music was another matter) but all agreed: this nation could fight.

in Literatures of the Hundred Years War
Editors: and

This volume demonstrates how the Hundred Years War (1337–1453) provides a necessary context for late medieval literature. Many of the major writers of the period, in a variety of different languages, lived either all or most of their lives under the shadow of war, including Geoffrey Chaucer, Christine de Pizan, Giovanni Boccaccio and Bridget of Sweden. The essays collected here investigate how authors use strategies including translation, adaptation and allegory in order to respond to the war. Simultaneously, they make a case for reconsidering how literature like women's visionary writing or lyric poetry, not generally seen as war literature, form part of the broader context of European warfare. As it extends the boundaries of what counts as war literature, the volume also moves beyond the traditional Anglo-French framing of the conflict by considering authors enmeshed in the conflict through proxy battles, diplomatic ties and ideological disputes. While covering English and French writers explicitly writing to the war, like John Lydgate or Alain Chartier, it also explores the war writing of prominent Welsh, Scottish and Italian authors, like Dafydd ap Gwilym, Walter Bower and Catherine of Siena. The book models a synthetic and transnational literary history of conflict that will pave the way for future scholarship in earlier and later periods. The chapters in this volume show how literature did more than reflect the realities of the Hundred Years War; it was also a crucial site for contesting the claims of war as literary writers crafted ways to actively intervene in the conflict.

Open Access (free)
Lynn Staley

Late medieval vernacular literary texts suggest a shift in merchant rhetoric, by which the merchant begins to shed the negative attributes found in estates satire and emerge as the self-described broker of peace. Peace, the necessary condition for ‘weelfare’, or a general well-being and prosperity, is signified by the goods that are the livelihood of mercantile endeavour. The late medieval merchant brokers more than peace; he or she brokers a rhetorical expansion of valuation by affirming the moral value of goods which enable and are enabled by peace. Popular works, all versions of earlier texts and all circulating in the mid- to late fourteenth century, offer perspectives upon social valuation that adumbrate the terms of a complicated and prolonged conversation regarding the merchant’s positive relationship to the social body. This conversation is not linear, but suggests variable, and possibly local, understandings of the complex relationship between the mercantile endeavour and national peace and prosperity, hence of the merchant’s changing status within the concept of the body politic.

in Literatures of the Hundred Years War
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Chronicle narratives, class conflict and regiminal ideology between France and England, c.1330–1415
Matthew Giancarlo

This chapter addresses the dynamics of class, language and reciprocity or exchange between England and France, specifically in ideas of ‘good governance’ and proper ‘regimen’ during the Hundred Years War. Drawing on vignettes and narratives from wartime chronicles (Jean Froissart, Jean de Venette), as well as de regimine or ‘mirror’ texts (William of Pagula, Thomas Hoccleve and Christine de Pizan), this chapter argues that these shared French and English writings reveal a clear crossing of class-based and national-based identifications often at odds with the ostensible sides of the war: English and French nobility often had more in common with each other than they did with their own countrymen, just as the labouring classes were recognised as a border-crossing estate. Similarly, ideals and standards of good governance and proper regimen – as expressed in contemporary de regimine texts and poetical works (William of Pagula, Thomas Hoccleve, Christine de Pizan and others) – also display a pattern of cross-identification between supposedly opposed sides. Overall it is argued that this pattern of identity-in-difference, as it was inflected across both class and nationality, provides a unique perspective for understanding the ideological and constitutional self-images presented by contemporary writers.

in Literatures of the Hundred Years War
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Calais and the Welsh imagination in the late Middle Ages
Helen Fulton

The fortified city of Calais was a key English possession during the Hundred Years War, and previous accounts of the city have been written from an English viewpoint. This chapter aims to open up a view of the city from the perspective of Welsh soldiers and migrants who lived there in the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. Primary source material includes examples of Middle Welsh poetry which refer to soldiers fighting in France, while comparative material in Middle English expresses ambivalent views regarding the economics of trade with Calais. The chapter is grounded in theories of migration and transnationalism and it argues that the Hundred Years War, which offered opportunities to Welshmen for overseas military duty, marked a social and political change in Wales towards a more Europe-focused perspective. The Welsh migrant, Elis Gruffydd, who settled in Calais in the early sixteenth century, exemplifies the Welsh diaspora who considered the city their home. The chapter includes a newly edited and translated Welsh poem in praise of Welsh soldiers stationed in Calais in the late fifteenth century.

in Literatures of the Hundred Years War