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Expressing the middle English I

Davis, Isabel (2009) Expressing the middle English I. Literature Compass 6 (4), pp. 842-863. ISSN 1741-4113.

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1741-4113.2009.00643.x

Abstract

This article surveys the rich ways in which Middle English authors used the word I, considering what it can tell us about the medieval conceptualizations of subjectivity. It argues against the idea of a sharp break between medieval and early modern accounts of selfhood, and in favour of a more sensitive understanding of the genres of medieval first-person writing, suggesting reasons why those genres don't easily correspond to categories of modern life-writing. This article considers allegory, the rhetorical device of the persona, and spiritual and allegorical 'autobiographies' in Middle English in order to arrive at an account of how medieval authors revised the influential accounts of subjectivity that they inherited from late Antique writers like Boethius and St Augustine and dramatized the subject as a site of competing psychological faculties which were in constant dialogue and distress. This article gathers its evidence from, and offers specific readings of a range of Middle English literature by Geoffrey Chaucer, John Gower, Thomas Usk, Thomas Hoccleve, Osbern Bokenham, Margery Kempe, Julian of Norwich, the York dramatist and, of course, Anon.

Item Type: Article
School or Research Centre: Birkbeck Schools and Research Centres > School of Arts > English and Humanities
Depositing User: Administrator
Date Deposited: 22 Dec 2010 11:36
Last Modified: 17 Apr 2013 12:19
URI: http://eprints.bbk.ac.uk/id/eprint/2648

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