Title Background

The Generation of 1399.

The Generation of 1399.

The essay investigates texts from the “first generation” (Gower’s Cronica tripartita, Richard the Redeless, Mum and the Sothsegger) after the deposition of Richard II, arguing that they share a common concern in contemporary political events and that they adopt textual strategies that “cut across . . .formal boundaries.” This “recognizable ‘Lancastrian’ style” draws particularly from the “bureaucratic and legal culture . . . of parliamentary reportage, legal instruments, chronicles, and records” that form the context for the literary texts; these last may be measured against “a control-group, predisposition analogues” consisting of PPl in the case of the alliterative poems and the Vox clamantis for the Cronica. Significantly, none of these poems is a dream vision and Gower and the Richard-poet respond similarly to the pressure of having to resist literary genealogy and generic pressure. They achieve the “authorial immanence characteristic of the dream-vision” by representing the events of the poems as contemporaneous, still unfolding— they “[write] in medias res.” All three poets “mindful of the . . . relationship between political events and political poetry” turn to “documentary discourse” in an attempt to remake “text and genre in the Lancastrian image,” although the degree of Lancastrian loyalty varies in each text. Gower and the Richard-poet may be seen as broadly supportive of dynastic change, whereas the Mum-poet presents the aftermath of 1399 more skeptically.

Volume

The Letter of the Law: Legal Practice and Literary Production in Medieval England. Ed. Emily Steiner and Candace Barrington. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2002. 202–29.

Author

Grady, Frank.