Call for Papers: The Making of Thomas Hoccleve, University of Manitoba, July 6-8, 2018

In a 2014 Chaucer Review essay, Larry Scanlon argues this is ‘a good time for taking stock’ of critical approaches to Hoccleve and of the future of Hoccleve studies, ‘in part because of Hoccleve’s success, in part because historicism’s influence now seems on the wane’.  Thanks to his topicality and partisanship, Hoccleve’s engagements with politics and power have been explored in some detail in the last twenty-five years, and his place in Middle English studies is now well established.  As scholarship has moved beyond old and new historicisms toward fresh horizons, recent scholars have begun to identify other, less familiar Hoccleves: curial, priestly and clergial Hoccleve, for example, as well as Hoccleve the pacifist or an ascetic self, comparable to Julian of Norwich.  What other Hoccleves will hold the attention of criticism in coming decades?

It is fitting that this question should be the focus of the first conference to be hosted by the International Hoccleve Society ( The aim of the society and of the conference is to map and inspire future directions of research into the making of Thomas Hoccleve by bringing together established and emerging scholars.  We are delighted that Amy Appleford (Boston), Vincent Gillespie (LMH, Oxford), and Stephanie Trigg (Melbourne) will share plenary talks and that Nicholas Watson will respond to the conference as a whole. We now invite papers that consider Hoccleve as a maker of texts and of manuscript books as well as papers that examine the making of his critical reputation. Scanlon argues that Hoccleve offers ‘a wonderful test case for the relation between poetry and ideology’, but which ideologies might be most relevant and most illuminating? We seek papers that will critically examine current positions and break new ground by placing Hoccleve in new cultural contexts and reading his texts from different theoretical perspectives.

We therefore invite scholars to explore a range of questions about Thomas Hoccleve and his making. For example, how might we set his poetry, which is often celebrated for its idiosyncrasies and individuality, in broader frameworks? How might we re-examine its relationship to literary history?  Hoccleve’s closeness to Chaucer is well known but what other early influences, in English, French and Latin, shaped his writing?  Why do he and Lydgate, both writing for the same Lancastrian patrons, each studiously avoid reference to their rival?  Hoccleve is a key early-adopter of Chaucerian language, style, versification and metrical practice.  But Hoccleve also refuses much of Chaucer’s potential legacy (for example the genre of dream-vision, the mode of courtly allegory, narratives of cities of the pagan past such as Troy and Thebes) when Lydgate does not.  Where do those refusals leave Hoccleve in relation to English poetic history and what motivates them?  Did he influence Middle Scots makers, alongside the works of Chaucer, Gower and Lydgate?  What happens to the Lancastrian Regiment of Princes, a popular text surviving in whole or part in nearly fifty manuscripts, during the rule of the House of York?  What can this substantial corpus of manuscripts tell us about the reading of poetry and of political advice in the fifteenth century?

Hoccleve played an active role in the making of his own books as well as the translation of a range of texts drawn from several languages and traditions. Is Charles R. Blyth right that Hoccleve was not ‘widely read’, when his source-texts can be diverse and surprising?  Where and in what forms did Hoccleve encounter these source texts?  What linguistic theories and intentions underpin his translations of orthodox religious writing (especially given the context of Arundel’s Constitutions)?  And what about the diverse audiences for Hoccleve’s own poetry?  Hoccleve wrote not only for fellow civil servants but also for London citizens and members of the ecclesiastical hierarchy.  Some works might serve the antifeminist world of ‘London club culture’ (as Derek Pearsall has named it), but other works respond to the interests and reading habits of noblewomen, while Nancy Bradley Warren has put the Regiment in the hands of female monastics in the early sixteenth century. How can Hoccleve studies take account of such diversity while offering a coherent account of this author?  How might new approaches inform our understanding of Hoccleve in this context?

Hoccleve inhabits a middle position between ‘clerical’ and ‘lay’ literary and intellectual cultures, a middle position also characteristic of many of the most interesting cultural and artistic exchanges, relationships and texts of this period.  To make and remake Hoccleve’s literary reputation, as this conference will aim to do, is to also reach new understandings of the uncertain and rapidly changing cultural position of English poetry in the fifteenth century.

We invite proposals for complete sessions and individual presentations. Proposals for complete sessions may take a variety of forms: a set of three, twenty-minute presentations; several position papers, seminar discussions, etc. Proposals for individual presentations should describe a twenty-minute presentation. We ask that all prospective participants (whether members of a complete panel or individual presenters) submit a proposal that describes your contribution that does not exceed 150 words (including the title); we also ask that each participant submit a 100-word explanation of how coming to the conference might contribute to your work. Proposals should be sent by August 31, 2017 to Jenni Nuttall and David Watt via the email address Earlier submissions are welcome.

The International Hoccleve Society is committed to ensuring that students and scholars who wish to present at the conference can be accommodated. We are seeking external support to fund as much of this conference as we can. This is why we are asking for both a very short proposal and an explanation of how this conference might contribute to your work. Although it may not be possible for us to cover all costs for all participants, we hope to secure enough funding to ensure that participation in this conference is not limited for financial reasons. As an additional measure to help overcome financial barriers for students and scholars alike, we have scheduled the conference to take place during the weekend prior to the meeting of the New Chaucer Society in Toronto. This way, scholars from far afield will be able to attend both conferences on a single trip to Canada.


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