This volume brings together a selection of lectures and essays in which J.A. Burrow discusses the work of English poets of the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries: Chaucer, Gower, Langland, and Hoccleve, as well as the anonymous authors of Pearl, Saint Erkenwald, and a pair of metrical romances. Six of the pieces address general issues, with some reference to French and Italian writings ('Autobiographical Poetry in the Middle Ages', for example, or 'The Poet and the Book'); but most of them concentrate on particular English poems, such as Chaucer's Envoy to Scogan, Gower's Confessio Amantis, Langland's Piers Plowman, and Hoccleve's Series. Although some of the essays take account of the poet's life and times ('Chaucer as Petitioner', 'Hoccleve and the 'Court''), most are mainly concerned with the meaning and structure of the poems. What, for example, does the hero of Ipomadon hope to achieve by fighting, as he always does, incognito? Why do the stories in Piers Plowman all peter out so inconclusively? And how can it be that the narrator in Chaucer's Book of the Duchess so persistently fails to understand what he is told?
John A. Burrow is Emeritus Professor of English at the University of Bristol, UK.
Contents: Thinking in poetry: three medieval examples; The poet and the book; The sinking island and the dying author: R.W. Chambers 50 years on; The languages of medieval England; Autobiographical poetry in the Middle Ages: the case of Thomas Hoccleve; Poems without endings; Politeness and privacy: Chaucer's Book of the Duchess; Vituperations in Chaucer's poetry; Chaucer's Sir Thopas and La Prise de Nuevile; Chaucer as petitioner: three poems; The poetry of Amans in Confessio Amantis; Gower's poetic styles; The endings of stories in Piers Plowman; Lady Meed and the power of money; God and the fullness of time in Piers Plowman; The old and new ploughs in Piers Plowman; Hoccleve and the 'court'; Hoccleve and the Middle French poets; An 18th-century edition of Hoccleve; Hoccleve's questions: intonation and punctuation; The 14th-century Arthur; The Avowing of King Arthur; The uses of incognito: Ipomadon A; Index.