Hortulus 14.2 (Spring/Summer 2018)
From anonymous poems written during the king’s reign to Shakespeare’s Richard II, literary critiques of Richard II have used nature allegories to explicate his flaws and chart the end of his reign. England becomes a garden or park, Henry Bolingbroke becomes an eagle or falcon, and Richard’s followers become stags, birds, bushes, grass, and “caterpillars of the commonwealth.” While scholarship has most often treated these texts as political allegories, recent scholars working on texts relating to Richard II, especially Shakespeare’s play, have begun to attend to the materiality of their natural subjects. This paper intends to produce a reading of these Ricardian critiques that accounts for both the material and the political dimensions of the nature allegory.
Focusing on the fourteenth-century poems “Richard the Redeless” and “There Is a Busch That Is Forgrowe,” as well as Shakespeare’s Richard II, this paper will demonstrate not only that the gardens, birds and bushes in these works are worthy subjects in their own right, but that the political issues being allegorized contain important material dimensions, particularly in regards to the ownership, cultivation of, and profit from land in Ricardian England. Nicole Shukin’s concept of “rendering” and Susan Crane’s work on the medieval bestiary’s metaphor offer a strategy of double-reading that encompasses these overlaps. Looking at the Ricardian nature allegory as a form of rendering and/or metaphor, we can produce readings that neglect neither the material nor the political elements, but rather illuminate how they reflect and interact with each other.
Questions about the future were never far from the medieval Christian mind. In Troilus and Criseyde, Geoffrey Chaucer plunges his story back into the ancient past. The poem presents the reader with multiple perspectives on how readers, writers, and characters interact with the future. It furthermore presents us with questions concerning the psychology of the future and our ways of understanding it. This essay utilizes both St. Augustine’s ontology of time in Book XI of his Confessions and Michel de Certeau’s thoughts on spatial temporalities as theoretical foundations for a close reading of Chaucer’s poem. This textual criticism will explore the manner in which different temporal perspectives on the future embed themselves in Troilus.
Historians have previously suggested that the cultures and institutions of continental Western Europe colonized the continent’s fringes during the High Middle Ages (c.950–c.1350). As a part of that phenomenon, Welsh Cistercian houses from the foundation of Whitland monastery in 1140 evince colonial characteristics that adhere to postcolonial models. The Cistercian monasteries of Whitland’s family economically exploited the Welsh land that they occupied, modified colonized peoples’ social hierarchies, and attempted to “improve” local Welsh people according to continental Latin Christian standards. The Cistercians benefitted from spiritually zealous and politically opportunistic lords – native and newly introduced – for funds and other support. In this way, the Cistercians positioned themselves as recipients of funding from powerful members of native and imported continental society and thus embedded themselves in Welsh political and monetary economies. The reformed monasteries also acted as fiscally productive satellite establishments of the continental church. The yields from Cistercian granges entered the church’s financial apparatus and funded other ecclesiastical expansionary campaigns such as the Near Eastern crusades. Moreover, the Welsh Cistercian houses became loci of cultural and spiritual syncretism, though their hegemony ultimately proved deleterious to Welsh culture as the Cistercians attempted to “improve” Welsh spirituality. This article also briefly considers contemporaneous Eastern European and Iberian comparative studies and finds that Eastern Europe – like Wales – experienced ecclesiastical colonization. The article concludes with a call for more research on postcolonial theory’s utility for understanding medieval ecclesiastical colonization as related to later colonial histories.
This paper explores the ways in which the character Pandarus from Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde functions allegorically. Pandarus’s focus on sexual fulfillment throughout the text illuminates his allegorical personification of lust in contrast to Troilus’s representation of courtly love. Pandarus undermines, devalues, and ultimately distorts Troilus’s definition of courtly love, making Troilus complicit in Pandarus’s sexualized conception of love as lust. As Suzanne Conklin Akbari suggests, Chaucer bends traditional medieval allegorical models in Troilus and
Criseyde, instead developing Pandarus as a psychologically complex, multi-faceted character with subtle allegorical traits that help clarify his motives and shape his actions throughout the narrative. Pandarus consistently employs deceptive rhetoric in order to orchestrate a sexual relationship for the lovers, while Troilus and Criseyde model opposing readings of Pandarus’s intentions beyond his rhetoric. The extent to which characters discern Pandarus’s intentions illustrates the interpretive act in which the characters participate. Chaucer’s use of allegory as a self-reflexive genre suggests that, by participating in the interpretive act, readers are also
complicit in the creation of meaning in the text.
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