“Tradition and the Individual Hoccleve” at Kalamazoo 2012

Please join us for our inaugural sponsored session at Kalamazoo

Tradition and the Individual Hoccleve

3:30pm, Saturday, May 12, 2012

Fetzer 1005

Organizer and Presider: Sebastian J. Langdell (Oxford University)


Amanda Walling (University of Hartford) — To Know A Poem’s Heart: Fidelity and Tradition in the Letter of Cupid

Elisabeth Kempf (Freie Universität Berlin) — “That text I undirstonde thus alwey”: Hoccleve, Feminism and Metatextuality

Erica R. Machulak (University of Notre Dame) — Insomnia in Hoccleve’s Series

Cristina Pangilinan (Vanderbilt University) — Thomas Hoccleve’s Social Life


Session abstract:

In “Tradition and the Individual Talent,” T.S. Eliot writes, “No poet, no artist of any art, has his complete meaning alone…You cannot value him alone; you must set him, for contrast and comparison, among the dead.” Critics have long set Thomas Hoccleve among the dead, reading him in the light of Chaucer and — to a lesser extent — Gower. Hoccleve invites contrast and comparison with these predecessors by memorializing them in his Regiment of Princes. While we might follow Eliot by asking what the “individual Hoccleve” brings to what critics often call the Chaucerian tradition, we might also follow Eliot by asking how this English literary past is directed and altered by a Hocclevian present. For instance, how “Hocclevian” is the version of Chaucer we see depicted in the Regiment? Where does Hoccleve draw from his predecessors and where does he re-create them in his own image? Recent Hoccleve scholarship has illuminated the ways in which Hoccleve acts not as a passive recipient of literary and artistic models, but rather as an innovator and instigator: John Bowers has credited Hoccleve with creating the “first collected poems in English”; Derek Pearsall associates Hoccleve with the “invention” of English portraiture; Ethan Knapp finds in Hoccleve “the dramatic first stirrings of vernacular autobiography”; and Bernard O’Donoghue sees “the earliest and inchoate exponent of a mixed kind of writing that is found up to the early Elizabethans…drawing on conventional frameworks and apparently real experiences at the same time.” With this succession of “firsts,” a different picture of Hoccleve emerges: a Hoccleve who proves not only useful for his connection to “the dead,” but indeed capable of creating new possibilities for the composition and preservation of English poetry.

This session invites papers that explore the tension and interplay between “tradition and the individual Hoccleve”: What does the poet bring to the poetic tradition that he works to establish? How does Hoccleve “make it new”? How does the poet play the temporal against the timeless, the contemporary against the conventional? We invite speakers to draw on any of Hoccleve’s works when considering these questions and, equally, to consider Hoccleve’s various roles as scribe, poet, and Privy Seal clerk. We also invite speakers to consider how Hoccleve draws and distinguishes himself from other traditions, whether literary, cultural, artistic, or ecclesiastical. What of his connection to the French poetic tradition, for instance, and to poets like Pizan, Deschamps, and Machaut? What of the less well-charted waters of Hoccleve’s potential connections to Langland? What new literary and textual compounds catalyze, react, and materialize in the hands of an individual Hoccleve?


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