Practicing Literary Theory In The Middle Ages: Ethics And The Mixed Form In Chaucer, Gower, Usk, And Hoccleve by Eleanor JohnsonPracticing Literary Theory In The Middle Ages: Ethics And The Mixed Form In Chaucer, Gower, Usk, And Hoccleve by Eleanor Johnson

Practicing Literary Theory In The Middle Ages: Ethics And The Mixed Form In Chaucer, Gower, Usk…

byEleanor Johnson

Paperback | December 20, 2017

Pricing and Purchase Info


Earn 235 plum® points

Prices and offers may vary in store


In stock online

Ships free on orders over $25

Not available in stores


Literary scholars often avoid the category of the aesthetic in discussions of ethics, believing that purely aesthetic judgments can vitiate analyses of a literary work’s sociopolitical heft and meaning. In Practicing Literary Theory in the Middle Ages, Eleanor Johnson reveals that aesthetics—the formal aspects of literary language that make it sense-perceptible—are indeed inextricable from ethics in the writing of medieval literature.
Johnson brings a keen formalist eye to bear on the prosimetric form: the mixing of prose with lyrical poetry. This form descends from the writings of the sixth-century Christian philosopher Boethius—specifically his famous prison text, Consolation of Philosophy—to the late medieval English tradition. Johnson argues that Boethius’s text had a broad influence not simply on the thematic and philosophical content of subsequent literary writing, but also on the specific aesthetic construction of several vernacular traditions. She demonstrates the underlying prosimetric structures in a variety of Middle English texts—including Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde and portions of the Canterbury Tales, Thomas Usk’s Testament of Love, John Gower’s Confessio amantis, and Thomas Hoccleve’s autobiographical poetry—and asks how particular formal choices work, how they resonate with medieval literary-theoretical ideas, and how particular poems and prose works mediate the tricky business of modeling ethical transformation for a readership.
Eleanor Johnson is assistant professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University.
Title:Practicing Literary Theory In The Middle Ages: Ethics And The Mixed Form In Chaucer, Gower, Usk…Format:PaperbackDimensions:264 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.6 inPublished:December 20, 2017Publisher:University of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:022652745X

ISBN - 13:9780226527451


Table of Contents

On Spellings and Translations

Introduction  Formalism and Ethics: The Practice of Literary Theory

1. Formal Experiments with Ethical Writing: Prosimetrum and Protrepsis
2. Sensible Prose and a Sense of Meter: Chaucer’s Aesthetic Sentence in the Boece and Troilusand Criseyde
3. The Consolation of Tragedy: Protrepsis in the Troilus
4. Prosimetrum and the Canterbury Philosophy of Literature
5. Political Protrepsis: Usk and Gower
6. Hoccleve and the Convention of Mixed-Form Protrepsis

Conclusion A Mixed-Form Tradition of Literary Theory and Practice


Editorial Reviews

“This rivetingly original work is the book we’ve all been waiting for. In this relentlessly thematic age, Eleanor Johnson shows us why form still matters, to us and to our comprehension of the literary past, and she does so with bracing intelligence and a fine eye for formal and stylistic detail. Moving from Boethius and his continental legacy into the Middle English tradition, Practicing Literary Theory in the Middle Ages tells a compelling story about the intricate yet transformative effects of prose and poetry as imagined and practiced in a range of works in several languages. Johnson is a kind of literary-critical mechanic, revealing with brilliance and skill how particular formal and rhetorical elements work discretely and together to shape the readerly process—not for its own sake, but for the larger premodern project of personal ethical transformation. The research is first-rate and the arguments original, and the book will have an immediate and lasting effect on the study of medieval literature.”