‘Registers of petition in Thomas Hoccleve’ and ‘Resistance and Persistence in Medieval Romance Literature’ (Public lectures, 29th August)

The third Late Summer Lecture explores themes of remembrance, rejection and lost love. Laurie Atkinson and Hannah Piercy will move from past to present, starting with a detailed look at medieval manuscripts and ending with some thoughts on how medieval romance influences film and literature today. All welcome to Alington House, Durham on 29th August from 17.30.

Remembrance, but to what end?: Registers of petition in the holograph manuscripts of Thomas Hoccleve, with Laurie Atkinson

Durham University Library, Cosin MS V. iii. 9 is one of only three holograph manuscripts for the poetry of the Privy Seal clerk Thomas Hoccleve (c. 1367-1426). Despite having produced one of the most popular works of the fifteenth-century—the Lancastrian Regiment of Princes dedicated to the future Henry V—Hoccleve’s work has only recently begun to draw the kind of critical attention that befits this early follower of Geoffrey Chaucer.

The Durham Manuscript, alongside the two other Hoccleve holographs held in the Huntington Library, San Marino, have been central to Hoccleve’s revived critical reputation as a deliberate self-anthologiser in a financially perilous bureaucratic culture. That said, remarkably little attention continues to be paid to the devotional and specifically Marian verse that actually makes up much of the holographs’ contents. In this talk, I offer a critical reappraisal of Hoccleve’s devotional verse, and in particular, the shared petitionary register that is employed to apparently opposing ends in his secular and religious poetry. Taking as my focus the enigmatic ‘Monk who clad the Virgin by singing Ave Maria’, I suggest that the reciprocal remembrance proffered by the prologue to the legend is also a feature of the complaints and dedications inscribed elsewhere in the holographs. The contract of reciprocal remembrance between a supplicant speaker—meditating on the Passion, and singing his Ave Maria—and the mediatory Virgin—who in return ‘haast evere in mynde | Alle tho þat up-on thee han memorie’—offers a striking analogue to the distinctively ‘Hocclevean’ strategies of petition in the secular verse. The prologue to the ‘Monk who clad the Virgin’ presents the text itself as at once an object and an act of remembrance: a compelling new direction for our critical understanding of making, reading and their various ‘ends’ in the literature of Lancastrian England.

(S)he’s just not that into you: Resistance and Persistence in Medieval Romance Literature, with Hannah Piercy

How do we get to a happy ending? This lecture will discuss how a happy ending is achieved in medieval romance literature, examining how the paths that lead us towards the happy ending can be problematic. In particular, this lecture focuses on the issue of how rejecting a lover is resolved in the happy ending of a romance. How does a romance achieve a happy ending, when one of its protagonists is not interested in love? Is this lack of interest overcome, and if so how? And can we really talk of a happy ending at all, if the paths that lead us there involve what can at best be described as obtaining consent, but at worst overcoming resistance to love through means that border on threats, bribery, and force?

All of these questions will be explored in this lecture, which will also provide a brief overview of medieval romance literature, a genre popular in Western Europe from the twelfth to the sixteenth centuries. The lecture will focus on the similarities and differences between male and female rejections of love in medieval romance, not simply to argue that the necessity of love is treated and achieved differently for male and female characters, but to explore some of the subtle nuances that exist in representations of men and women’s reluctance to love, as well as some of the major and perhaps surprising similarities. Rejecting love can empower both men and women, but it can also lead to threats, bribery, and violence being inflicted upon both sexes – although this violence is focused disproportionately on women. The lecture will conclude by examining the cultural relevance and influence of medieval romance today, exploring how some of the same narrative patterns are still being deployed in contemporary literature, film, and society.

Laurie Atkinson

Laurie Atkinson is a first year PhD student in Durham University’s Department of English Studies. He received a BA in English literature at Durham in 2016 and an MPhil in Medieval and Renaissance Literature from Cambridge in the following year. Laurie’s thesis considers the medieval dream-poem after Chaucer, specifically, the utilization in diverse literary projects of the ‘fiction of authorship’ encoded in the dream-frame. This inquiry has facilitated the study of analogous framing strategies in a great variety of English and Scottish texts. Laurie’s first article on the Durham Manuscript of Thomas Hoccleve’s Series was published in Neophilologus last year; in May, he presented on names, nicknames, and identity in the dream-poetry of Stephen Hawes at the International Medieval Congress in Kalamazoo. He has since been undertaking a placement with Medieval Institute Publications and will shortly be returning to the UK to recommence his study of the dream-framed prologues to Gavin Douglas’s Eneados.

Hannah Piercy

Hannah is a second year PhD student and teaching assistant in the Department of English Studies at Durham University. Her research focuses on representations of desire and lack of desire in medieval romance literature. She has previously spoken at a variety of events, including Durham’s Postgraduate Lecture Day, Teeside University English Research Seminar, the MEMSA (Medieval and Early Modern Student Association) seminar series, cross-disciplinary collegiate forums, and many specialist conferences, such as the Medieval Insular Romance Conference, Leeds International Medieval Congress, and the Middle Ages in the Modern World. Her PhD is funded by Northern Bridge.

From snake-women to satirical pamphlets, the beginnings of sound film to the burning of Shakespeare’s globe: Late Summer Lectures brings you the latest thoughts from early-career researchers at Northern universities. The series is free and everyone is warmly welcome, from school and university students to the general public. There will be a chance to ask questions of the speakers, and to socialise afterwards over free refreshments.

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