"This book solidifies and adds nuance to our understanding of speech and language in later medieval literature."—John Fyler, author of Language and the Declining World in Chaucer, Dante, and Jean de Meun
"David Coley's lucid readings of medieval English poetry show how speech makes and amends social, and even spiritual, realities. A timely swerve from written text to human voice; recommended."—David Wallace, University of Pennsylvania
In The Wheel of Language, Coley explores representations of speech in English poetry of the later Middle Ages, proposing that the spoken word, both within Ricardian and Lancastrian poetry and within latemedieval English culture, was understood as an efficacious, powerful medium. Representing speech in the poetic text was always a political act, one by which authors were able to criticize and comment upon issues as diverse as the Lancastrian usurpation; the Lollard heresy; and the philosophical, economic, and institutional changes that England witnessed in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Coley examines the work of Chaucer, Gower, Hoccleve, and the anonymous author of St. Erkenwald to show how writers manipulated cultural understandings of speech to engage with the crises that defined the later Middle Ages. Ultimately, The Wheel of Language uses the spoken word within the written text to map the complicated and shifting relationships among language, literature, politics, and power.
David K. Coley is assistant professor of English at Simon Fraser University. He has published articles in the Journal of English and Germanic Philology and the Chaucer Review.
6 x 9, 272 pages