Love, history and emotion in Chaucer and Shakespeare

Troilus and Criseyde and Troilus and Cressida

For the last three decades or so, literary studies, especially those dealing with premodern texts, have been dominated by the New Historicist paradigm. This book is a collection of essays explores medieval and early modern Troilus-texts from Chaucer to Shakespeare. The contributions show how medieval and early modern fictions of Troy use love and other emotions as a means of approaching the problem of tradition. The book argues that by emphasizing Troilus's and Cressida's hopes and fears, Shakespeare sets in motion a triangle of narrative, emotion and temporality. It is a spectacle of which tells something about the play but also about the relation between anticipatory emotion and temporality. The sense of multiple literary futures is shaped by Shakespeare's Chaucer, and in particular by Troilus and Criseyde. The book argues that the play's attempted violence upon a prototypical form of historical time is in part an attack on the literary narratives. Criseyde's beauty is described many times. The characters' predilection for sententiousness unfolds gradually. Through Criseyde, Chaucer's Poet displaces authorial humility as arrogance. The Troilus and Criseyde/Cressida saga begins with Boccaccio, who isolates and expands the love affair between Troiolo and Criseida to vent his sexual frustration. The poem appears to be linking an awareness of history and its continuing influence and impact on the present to hermeneutical acts conspicuously gendered female. The main late medieval Troy tradition does two things: it represents ferocious military combat, and also practises ferocious literary combat against other, competing traditions of Troy.

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‘This volume marks a significant contribution to the ongoing scrutiny of the dynamic between Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde and Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida.'
Rachel Stenner, University of Sheffield
The Spenser Review
May 2016

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