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Reading the Past:
Essays on Medieval and Renaissance Literature
John Scattergood


The Year’s Work in English Studies 77
‘A most welcome addition to the ongoing revitalization and re-historicization of late medieval literature is John Scattergood’s Reading the Past: Essays on Medieval and Renaissance Literature, which brings together a selection of the author’s articles and essays on various topics, along with two new pieces. The essays demonstrate the breadth as well as the depth of John Scattergood’s scholarship, covering topics from the twelfth to the sixteenth centuries and authors as diverse as William FitzStephen, George Ashby and John Skelton. Holding all the material together is the strongly engaged historical insight which is characteristic of all Scattergood’s work. A number of key themes emerge, reflecting the author’s enduring interest in Chaucer, the Ricardian court and the manuscript contexts of Skelton’s poems. Essays on ‘The Originality of the Shipman’s Tale’, ‘The Manciple’s Manner of Speaking’, ‘Perkyn Revelour and the Cook’s Tale’, the Balade de Bon Conseyl, the Envoy to Scogan, Lak of Stedfastnesse and the Complaint of Venus address Chaucer directly, but his work and influence crop up elsewhere in supporting roles. Another fruitful point of focus is the influence of the capital upon English literary production. A previously unpublished essay, ‘Misrepresenting the City: Genre, Intertexuality and William FitzStephen’s Description of London (c.1173)’, opens up a rich vein of ideas and material which is further mined in ‘Chaucer in the Suburbs’ (which also looks at the poetics of suburbanity more generally), ‘The London Manuscripts of John Skelton’s Poetry’ and ‘The Early Annotations of John Skelton’s Poems’. Two further essays cover George Ashby’s poems, while others discuss ‘Fashion and Morality in the Late Middle Ages’, ‘Revision in some Middle English Political Verses’, ‘Adam Day’s Dreams and Edward II’ and ‘Courtliness in some Fourteenth-Century English Pastourelles’. Taken together these essays ably demonstrate the range and significance of John Scattergood’s contribution to scholarship in medieval studies, particularly on the political and cultural contexts of poetry written between the mid-fourteenth and early sixteenth centuries. It is thus very useful to have them gathered together in a single volume. Given that they only constitute a sample of the author’s output, however – major pieces on Skelton’s Magnyfycence and Replycacion are, for example, not included here – it is very much hoped that a second volume will follow in the near future’ The Year’s Work in English Studies 77.

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