Towards a Material Allegory: Allegory and Urban Space in Hoccleve Langland, Langland, and Gower
This essay develops a new account of late medieval allegory by examining the representation of crowds and urban space in Hoccleve, L and Gower. It begins with Walter Benjamin’s argument, which emerges in his treatment of the flaneur, that allegory is born in the hermeneutic challenge of making meaning out of the unknown faces in a city crowd. It then turns to readings of Hoccleve ‘La Male Regle,’ PPl, and the initial Visio in Gower Vox Clamantis to establish both the surprising frequency with which late medieval English allegory described such crowds as well as the particular narrative structures generated out of the attempts to represent urban space in these three poets. The essay thus extends Knapp’s more theoretical reading of Benjamin in ‘Benjamin, Dante and the Modernity of the Middle Ages,’ Chaucer Review 48:4 (2014) into a more narratological analysis of these three poets, hoping to ground their allegorical work in the historical context of urban life and the semiotics of the medieval crowd.