Reading and War in Fifteenth-Century England

Reading and War in Fifteenth-Century England

From Lydgate to Malory

Catherine Nall





An investigation into the connections between military and literary culture in the late medieval period, and how warfare shaped such texts as Malory's Morte.
"Offers an impressive vision of a militaristic culture and its thinking, reading and writing. This is war as political and economic practice - the continuation of politics by other means. The book develops that feeling of war as a very real practical and intellectual problem and shows how a discourse community comes to share its thinking: in the processes of translating, annotating, rewriting, and so on. A major contribution to the literary history of the fifteenth century." Professor Daniel Wakelin, University of Oxford.

Reading, writing and the prosecution of warfare went hand in hand in the fifteenth century, demonstrated by the wide circulation and ownership of military manuals and ordinances, and the integration of military concerns into a huge corpus of texts; but their relationship has hitherto not received the attention it deserves, a gap which this book remedies, arguing that the connections are vital to the literary culture of the time, and should be recognised on a much wider scale. Beginning with a detailed consideration of the circulation of one of the most important military manuals in the Middle Ages, Vegetius' De re militari, it highlights the importance of considering the activities of a range of fifteenth-century readers and writers in relation to the wider contemporary military culture. It shows how England's wars in France and at home, and the wider rhetoric and military thinking those wars generated, not only shaped readers' responses to their texts but also gave rise to the production of one of the most elaborate, rich and under-recognised pieces of verse of the Wars of the Roses in the form of Knyghthode and Bataile. It also indicates how the structure, language and meaning of canonical texts, including those by Lydgate and Malory, were determined by the military culture of the period.

Catherine Nall is Senior Lecturer in Medieval Literature at Royal Holloway, University of London.

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July 2012
198 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
ISBN: 9781843843245
Format: Hardback
BISAC HIS037010, HIS015000, LIT011000
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Table of Contents

Introduction: Reading and War from Lydgate to Malory
Reading Vegetius in fifteenth-century England
Reading and War in the Aftermath of Defeat
Making War: the Martial Endeavours of John Lydgate and Henry V
Sacralising Warfare in Knyghthode and Bataile
Malory's Morte Darthur and the Rhetoric of War


Well researched and thought provoking. SPECULUM

Wide-ranging and engagingly argued, and will appeal to scholars of literature, cultural history and book history alike. REVIEW OF ENGLISH STUDIES

A deeply founded, perceptive, and clear study of the close engagement of English literary culture with the military mentality of the late Middle Ages, a book that connects and illuminates a wide range of disparate textual materials. It will be important reading for scholars working in the area. STUDIES IN THE AGE OF CHAUCER

A valuable and impressive study. ARTHURIANA

A welcome contribution to what we might now call the New Fifteenth-Century Studies. NOTTINGHAM MEDIEVAL STUDIES

An impressively researched survey. [...] Providing a fresh look at the literature of a still relatively neglected period, the book will be of most interest to those working both on military history and 15th-century literature. CHOICE

A stimulating read. [It] will be an indispensable point of reference for the understanding of fifteenth-century chivalric culture, war and politics for many years to come.THE RICARDIAN

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