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perdomo
Oct 13, 2018
In Heroes, Saints, & Lovers
In the article, "William Langland: A London Poet" writer Caroline M. Barron investigates who Langland is using materials from the poem as well as materials from possible contemporaries of the time. Since scholars are able to discern the region and time period where Piers Plowman was written, they are able to work backwards to use that material to examine the "Wills" and who William Langland could have been. The textile materials give us evidence on what Langland could have been trying to do with his work and the commentary he was making upon his actual time period. Some of these investigation includes the law and court system as well as the royal courts and religious issues, such as Lollard's, which was becoming a prominent element. Barron's assessment of how we understand who William Langland is shows an all around look. I liked the fact that the writer did not limit herself to the text but made use of what many scholars believe to be the time period of Langland as well as her assertion that he was in fact a "Londoner" or at least familiar with London. For me, I saw her take care into representing Langland as well as thinking about what it was that other scholars were working with. I would not have considered questioning the mentions of Williams or William Langland's during the time or even how scholars came to understand Langland to be the writer of the text. Barron also pays special close attention to the naming or the naming references within the text, and in examining the location she was able to establish the London area. And as such, she was able to keep focus on the element that the text focuses on the London government, as she argues. She goes further into how the government in London helped to make the the moral arguments that Langland presents throughout his text. Overall, the article was an interesting representation. Rather than thinking about the text and how each character represents something, Barron takes an overview examination of the text. This could lead to the problem of vagueness within the writing, which is evident, but this article would be one that first time readers of Piers Plowman would be able to read through without the need for close text reading. However, for those that do close text reading there were moments where Barron could have gone deeper and flesh out her ideas.
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perdomo
Sep 14, 2018
In Heroes, Saints, & Lovers
In Jonathan Hsy's article, "Be more strange and bold: Kissing Lepers and Female Same-Sex Desire in The Book of Margery Kempe" he examines the queerness that Kempe exhibits throughout her book. He recognizes that she is a married woman and that she is a mother to multiple children, but when she negotiates a way to get out of "marital duties" from her husband, she embraces her love for Christ, and moves to live more for him. Hsy, however, is not examining specifically just the love of Christ, but the displays of "external desires" that get expressed as queer. Specifically, he examines her interactions with other women. Kempe is unlike many of her contemporaries because she did not express a need to stay from lepers, but rather actively seeks them out. When she is able to make contact with a leper as an act of charity, in the style imitato cristo, she is told she can only kiss a female leper. The sin of leprosy, a disease that is contagious through fluid exchange, is often seen as a sign of indiscretion, and also a sign of giving into desires. This is one reason, Hsy argues, is why Margery's desire to kiss a female leper is worrying: It is not the possibility of contagion, but rather bringing out the desire in Margery. Hsy's argument comes directly from the text when the encounters are described as "temptations" and "horrible thoughts." By examining Margery and her encounter with the female lepers, it touches upon the idea that female desire is a contagious thing. We have often seen through the texts in class the way that female desire can motivate a male hero or it tear down legacies. Kempe, expressing her desires in such a manner, with another female, as an act of piety, can be taunting for someone who examines Margery's writing, and only looks at the woman who considers herself the bride of Christ. This type of transgression allows for us to read the Kempe as a different type of figure: Not just a bride of Christ, but also someone who is actively interested in female companionship. This argument is one that I never considered or even thought to take a double take on. Like many other medieval scholars, I saw Kempe's desire to pilgrim to Jerusalem and end her physical relationship with her husband as a complete devotion to Christ, but I never considered that there can also be an additional element in which this would give her room to explore her own queerness. Hsy recognizes that this is not a new or even innovative discussion that we see of Margery, but it is one that can open our understanding further about who she was and why she did what she did. This also shows us how bold Kempe is, by openly equating female-female relationship to that of Christ, something that is often not seen in other medieval texts.
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perdomo
Sep 07, 2018
In Heroes, Saints, & Lovers
In Diane Speed's article, she focuses on the role that the Saracens play within the Romance of Horn. Throughout the article, Speed tries to figure out who the Saracens were and breaks it down by looking at where their homeland is, who the leaders were, the representation of the giant, their appearance, their religion, and their journey. She wanted to compare the King Horn tell to that of a the French chansons de geste, which is Old French for "song of heroic deed," and is a medieval narrative, an epic poem, in Medieval French literature. She did a lot of comparing King Horn to multiple medieval French texts, such as the Song of Roland and Doon de Maience. She argues that there are strong parallels to multiple stories, such as being heroic poems, and heroes who were scarcely affected by the interest of courtliness and fin amor, which became trademark for medieval tales later on in the 12th century (591). In showing these parallels, we can see where it is that King Horn, fits in the role of Medieval Romances. According to Speed, by examining the Saracens, who she points out are only one group of characters, would allow for further examination of other characters. Through her examination of the Saracens, Speed focused on the ways that this story was primarily a chansons de geste, a literary technique that was already in full use during this time, as well as the beginnings of what would eventually become Medieval Romances. It was difficult to read her article, as it seems that she was trying to use the Saracens to address a different point of the text (primarily how it fits as a chansons de geste and a Medieval Romance) but it seems she lost the way since these two ideas were not as strongly linked as they could have been. This article was written in 1990, and it clearly shows its age, as Speed relies on information about the Saracens that we know now are not accurate. But it was interesting when she discussed why it was she decided not to focus on the very Germanic side, but it could have helped if her article had a much clearer direction. It did feel like she was moving in and out of different pockets of ideas and never fully settling onto one, until halfway through the article when she started discussing the Saracens. While it was an interesting article, I did find myself having to read and reread this a few times in order to try to grasp what was happening and what she was trying to prove.
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perdomo
Sep 03, 2018
In Heroes, Saints, & Lovers
In her article, "Culture, Ethnicity, and Assimilation in Anglo-Norman Britain: The Evidence from Marie de France's Lais" Marianne Fisher uses the Lais to show that Normans embraced and took on the identity of their new home in Britain. She discusses how records show that Normans, English, French, Bretons, and Flemings were separate ethnical factions, other evidence suggests that there was ethnic indifference (198). This meant that a flexibility existed within the culture and society that made it easy to assimilate. This was also an indication of the Norman tradition. They were successful invaders and the Normans were always willing to "adopt from and adapt to local culture" (199). This reveals both the success and the failures of the Normans and the Norman culture. Fisher points to several lais in order to demonstrate her point. She starts with Lanval, a story about isolation, but with social status comes a way to reconnect again with kin. Fisher also points to several lais when examining the location where certain actions take place, such as Chevrefoil, where the main action takes place in Celtic Cornwall, and Eliduc, which is set in the neighboring Devon. Fisher suggests that these locations, as well as a reference to Breton sources, points to a unified cultural heritage spanning both sides of the Channel (200). This is an interesting examination into Marie's work, some of the connections that Fisher makes struggles to be evident. She relies on information and details that are minimal, it almost appears that she is stretching to find a connection. But, I do think that Fisher is onto some thing, especially when she looks at the phrasing and language that Marie uses. My biggest struggle with Fisher's argument is that she doesn't look closer at language and at the materials that make up a culture, but rather she looks at pieces that can struggle to fit together. Marie's work has always been interesting and has always been something that is up for scholarly debate, because so little of Marie is known, and so little of what the lais tries to achieve is unavailable to us. And because of this, Fisher tries to fill in the gaps without sufficient evidence, where I would have liked to have seen more connections and a tighter argument.
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perdomo
Aug 24, 2018
In Heroes, Saints, & Lovers
In Wendy A. Matlock's essay, "Law and Violence in the Owl and the Nightingale," she focuses her efforts on the legality and violence that the two birds bring up during their disagreements. In the poem, an owl and a nightingale are overheard by the narrator having a dispute, which does not end with any resolution, except with the acceptance of going to a one Nicholas of Guildford, who is a fair and wise mediator for the two. The disputes that the two birds have range from subjects about love and marriage, asceticism, pleasure, religion and worship. The poem does not end with clear victor, which Matlock states frames the persistent message that she details throughout her article: legal channels provide the best resolution for a dispute, and not violence. She addresses this issue when examining the legal issues that were present at the time of the work's publication. While she makes clear that there is no set known date, they range that the publication is around the late 12th century to the early 13th century, in the Kentish region. Matlock points out that the audience that could most relate and understand this message are those in the Kent area, as the county is described as the "second worst" in all of England (the first being Warwick). Matlock uses legal research to demonstrate that many people in Kent faced violence, because they had a difficult time getting suitors into the courtrooms in order to resolve disputes. And because suitors would rarely come to resolve disputes through the legal channels, violence was a constant throughout much of Kent. Matlock asserts, as such, that this poem is meant primarily for the Kent audience and shows that decision at the end, for the birds to go to Guildford, had been the proper action. I do appreciate Matlock's argument and I also believe she helped her case when she made clear that the birds, who are meant to personify people, are not always innocent from violence. She does address the fact that throughout their exchanges both the owl and the nightingale made threatening remarks to each other and were almost violent with each other, but it never got to the point of action. While she recognizes that violence is a very real action and emotion faced by people (and birds) it is not always the answer. I had trouble, though, agreeing to or following her historical background. To me, her argument fell short, and was often repetitive in unnecessary ways. She also discusses how, "using legal vocabulary and principles, the poem constructs a judicial domain that exists outside of official legal culture to endorse that official culture, especially law's ability to mediate between violence and order" (447). She examines the language and argues that they present a legal vocabulary, but she never pulls actual examples from the text that were clear for me, readers that are familiar with the text. I do believe her argument was going into an excellent location, especially when she made her connection to Kent, but she never really reached it and it did fall short.
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perdomo
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