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Whereas most critics of Thomas Hoccleve's poetry have focused on elucidating the author's particular mode of self-presentation, this essay sets out to demonstrate that few fifteenth-century readers beyond the poet's initial addressees enjoyed his artful self-portraiture per se. Until now, Hoccleve Studies have been dominated by the texts preserved in the autograph manuscripts produced by the poet towards the end of his life. When we turn to the non-autograph traditions of his works, however, it becomes clear that Hoccleve's poems were preserved in a variety of forms and contexts and that medieval readers' experiences of these texts must have been considerably more varied than has typically been allowed. While Hoccleve's own exemplification of the link between self-fashioning and book production in the Series may have provided an important stimulus for the selective reception of this work, I explore the possibility that the highly unusual nature of the poet's most personal texts led to their sidelining in the reproduction of his corpus. Accordingly, I suggest, consideration of the fifteenth-century transmission and reception of Hoccleve's personal poetry can illuminate not only the often deeply self-serving nature of reading and textual reproduction in late medieval England; it can also provide a fresh indication of the extent to which some of Hoccleve's texts depart from the norms of the literary and codicological cultures in which their author participates.
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SSHRC (Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, Canada) Standard Research Grant, Written Culture and the Common Law in the 15th and Early 16th Centuries
Sobecki, S., Critten, R., Honeyman, C., Barootes, B. & Oberer, K.
01/04/2008 → 31/03/2011