John Lydgate and the Poetics of Fame

John Lydgate and the Poetics of Fame

Mary C. Flannery





An examination of the subject of "fame" in Lydgate, showing it as central to his work.
John Lydgate is arguably the most significant poet of fifteenth-century England, yet his position as Chaucer's literary successor and his role as a Lancastrian poet have come to overshadow his contributions to English literature. Here, "fame" is identified as the key to Lydgate's authorial self-fashioning in Chaucer's wake. The author begins by situating Lydgatean fame within the literary, cultural and political landscape of late-medieval England, indicating how Lydgate diverges from Chaucer's treatment of the subject by constructing a more confident model of authorship, according to which poets are the natural makers and recipients of fame. She then discusses the ways in which Lydgate draws on fourteenth-century poetry, the advisory tradition, and the laureate ideology borne out of trecento Italy; she shows that he deploys them to play upon reader anxieties in his short poems on dangerous speech, while depicting poets as the ultimate arbiters of fame in his longer poems and dramatic works.
Throughout, the book challenges standard critical positions on questions relating to how poets fit into late-medieval society, how they can be powerful enough to admonish princes, and how English letters fare next to the literature of the continent and of antiquity.

Mary C. Flannery is Lecturer in English at the University of Lausanne.


November 2012
206 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
ISBN: 9781843843313
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
BISAC LIT011000, LIT014000, LIT004120
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Table of Contents

Chaucerian Fame
Fame and the Advisory Tradition
Loose Tongues in Lydgate's England
The Poet's Verdict
Promotion and Self-Promotion
Lydgate's Fortune in the House of Fame


A convincing and illuminating account of the importance of fame to Lydgate's poetics. REVIEW OF ENGLISH STUDIES

(This) invigorating study is a timely and worthy addition to (the) emerging canon. ... Flannery is to be congratulated on challenging stale views of the Monk with a thesis that is both refreshing and intelligent. MEDIUM AEVUM

A welcome addition to the steadily growing field of scholarship on this major figure of late medieval literary culture ... A stimulating, well-argued and authoritative study of Lydgate's cultural importance. THE RICARDIAN

(A) stimulating book. It offers an original approach to this major Middle English poem and, in doing so, confirms Lydgate's importance in the literary culture of fifteenth-century England. TLS

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