Unhappy Families: Literary Inheritance in the Fifteenth Century (ICMS Kalamazoo 2016)

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Call for Papers
A Roundtable Sponsored by Medievalists@Penn
at the 51st International Congress of Medieval Studies
Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, May 12-15, 2016

vae tibi terra cuius rex est puer et cuius principes mane comedunt (Ecc. 10:16)

For Huizinga, the fifteenth century was a filial disappointment. The profound advances made in the mature High Middle Ages were but a distant memory and it was part of an epoch marked by 'childish' and immature beliefs. Whether or not we accept this characterization, the fifteenth century seems peculiarly marked by questions about childhood, youth, immaturity and filiation. The English poets that succeeded Chaucer, such as Thomas Hoccleve, John Lydgate and Stephen Scrope, expressed anxieties about their literary pedigree, comparing themselves to 'father' Chaucer and finding their own abilities lacking. This session invites papers which explore textual relationships through the lens of the unhappy family. How does filial awareness and resentment shape and motivate authorship? What modes of filiation do we find poets using? In what ways do English writers of the fifteenth century both avoid and emulate Chaucer? In an age when childhood became a political problem through the minority of Henry VI, how do poets craft and explore maturity?

In addition to exploring the relationship between fifteenth-century English writers and 'father' Chaucer, submissions to this session might examine the insular inheritance of continental French literature. While Sheila Delany famously excluded Christine de Pizan from a list of "mothers to think back through," Thomas Hoccleve, Stephen Scrope and Anthony Woodville all translated Christine's French texts into Middle English during the fifteenth century. Similarly, John Lydgate worked from French 'parent' texts, translating Guillaume de Deguileville's pilgrimage trilogy and using a version of the French Roman de Thèbes to compose The Siege of Thebes. Are these translations a practice of simple adaptation of material already in heavy circulation among Francophone aristocratic lay readers or do these acts of cultural appropriation take on a new meaning at the end of the Hundred Years' War? And might these French source texts allow fifteenth-century English poets to re-think their relationship to Chaucer and shape a new vision of English literary history?

Please send proposals with a one-page abstract and a Participant Information Form (www.wmich.edu/medieval/congress/submissions/index.html) to Daniel Davies (daviesd@sas.upenn.edu) by September 15, 2015. Preliminary inquiries and expressions of interest are most welcome.