Call for Papers: “Rediscovering Hoccleve” at Kalamazoo 2020

The International Hoccleve Society is pleased to invite abstracts for a sponsored session at the 55th International Congress on Medieval Studies (May 7-10, 2020) at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, MI:

Rediscovering Hoccleve

This session proposes to explore Hocclevean discovery, broadly construed: what it means to discover and re-discover Thomas Hoccleve and his works—in all their anxieties, politics, ethics, and self-representations. Recent scholarship has seen a fruitful upsurge in approaches to Hoccleve’s work, from such theoretical lenses as disability studies and affect theory to book-length studies from David Watt and Sebastian Langdell interrogating, respectively, the poetic processes and ecclesiological investments that shape Hoccleve’s writing. New discoveries about Hoccleve’s life and literary output continue to emerge from archival research, allowing us to revisit how we read Hoccleve’s work through an autobiographical lens, specifically the intersection of the historical scribe and bureaucrat with the narrating persona that we meet in his poetry.

We therefore invite papers that take up new directions for Hoccleve studies, re-visit Hoccleve’s poetics in light of new discoveries about the poet and his fifteenth-century environment, or witness Hoccleve articulating discoveries of his own. What can emergent ideas from theoretical sites such as new and feminist materialisms or surface reading allow us to discover in Hoccleve? How might theories not often applied to Hoccleve, such as ecocriticism or postcolonial theory, engender new readings of this poetry? How does Hoccleve’s poetry itself engage with discovery and newness; how does Hoccleve make and manage his own discoveries in the literary and historical archive that situates him? And finally, how do readers and critics discover Hoccleve? How has he been read by succeeding generations leading up the present and rediscovered by scholars who have worked to rehabilitate him; how do we, in our own fraught political and ideological context, discover Hoccleve anew?

Paper proposals or questions about the session may be directed to Arwen Taylor at Proposals are due by September 15, 2019; please send a completed Participant Information Form along with your submission.

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Call for Papers: Thomas Hoccleve and his “Maistir Gower,” 2020

The International Hoccleve Society is pleased to be sponsoring a session at the Fifth International Congress of the John Gower Society, which will be held 29 June to 1 July 2020 at the University of Notre Dame.

Thomas Hoccleve and his “Maistir Gower:” Words, Books, Heritage

Near the end of the Prologue to his Regiment of Princes, Thomas Hoccleve laments the fact that Death has not only slain “my maistir Chaucer” (1962) but also “My maister Gower…whos vertu I am insufficient / for to descryve” (1975-77). Historically, critics have made much of Hoccleve’s subservient relationship to Chaucer as well as his insufficiency to describe many things. They have paid comparatively less attention to Hoccleve’s relationship with Gower. This session aims to change that.

The Fifth International Congress of the John Gower Society offers an ideal opportunity to explore Hoccleve’s relationship with the man whom Charles Blyth called “Hoccleve’s other Master.” Since the publication of Blyth’s article by that name three decades ago, there have been significant developments in the study of both Gower and Hoccleve: new documents pertaining to their lives have been discovered, the value of their poetry has been re-considered from different perspectives, and the transmission of their work has attracted much interest. This session’s aim is to bring some of these developments to bear on our understanding of any aspect of the relationship between these two authors.

The theme for the congress is “Gower in Contexts: His Words, His Books, His Heritage.” In their call for papers, the congress organizers encourage prospective presenters to understand this theme to include interpretative, linguistic or stylistic discussions of poetry; the study of publication (manuscript and print); and the identification of sources and influence.

Proposals should be no more than 250 words in length and should be sent to David Watt at the University of Manitoba ( by August 25, 2019. Please feel free to be in touch beforehand if you have any questions or suggestions.

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The International Hoccleve Society Sponsors the 5th Annual Hoccleve Recovery Day: Self-Care and Cultures of Overwork

On November 1, c. 1415, Alle Hallowmesse, Thomas Hoccleve’s period of mental illness came to an end as his wits returned to him—which allowed him to return to his twofold program of work, as a poet and at the Privy Seal. Scribal work was hard—and potentially dangerous to body, mind, soul, and pocketbook—and Hoccleve didn’t let readers of his poetry forget this. His Friend from the eponymous “Dialogue with Friend” even suggests Hoccleve may have been a victim of overwork, his mental affliction caused by his “bisy studie” (line 302).

Yet, as critics have noted, Hoccleve believed work was a sort of cure, if not for his illness then at least for his subsequent problem of alienation from his associates. He chastises his friend for his suspicions, declaring that his “Complaint” ought to be sufficient evidence of his recovery (lines 317-18).

This November 1, we face our own maddening onslaught of work, with midterms and holiday preparations, and many of us will habitually feel like we never quite get enough done. Let us remember Hoccleve and his ultimately optimistic view of scribal labor and the relationship between writing, memory and selfhood. We celebrate both Thomas Hoccleve’s work and his recovery, reflecting on how our own work seeks to recover Middle English poetry and evidence of late medieval life, and on the personal and public importance of that work.

Please join us on Recovery Day through social media by posting your thoughts or thematically pertinent medieval quotations and images to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn and our society’s website with the hashtag #Hoccleve. Look out for our own posts on our site and our Hoccleve Lyfe Coache, Twitter and Facebook feeds; and “like” or retweet items throughout the day under the #Hoccleve hashtag followed by any other tags you’d like, such as #recovery, #thisiswhataprofessorlookslike, #MiddleEnglish, or #MSilluminations. Please follow us, participate, and “like” us to stay tuned!

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Call for Papers Kalamazoo 2019

Identity in Public Contexts: Hoccleve and Langland in Conversation

While scholars often note that Hoccleve’s and Langland’s poetic personae each make the other more understandable, rarely have these poets been analyzed together in great detail. Thus, with this session, The International Hoccleve Society and International Piers Plowman Society seek to provide an occasion to do so. The Societies invite paper submissions that examine the ways interpretive discourses around Hoccleve’s and Langland’s works overlap and intersect. On the broadly-defined topic of public identity-formation, participants might consider how these poets construct identities for themselves, or for other identifiable social groups–asking: how and why might Langland and Hoccleve distinguish specifically public identities from each other and from private identity? Participants might also explore the politicization of identity, such as in late-medieval satire and advice on good governance in the context of 14th and 15th century political struggles. Other related questions might include: how do medieval depictions of writing as labor reveal interfaces between discourses of interiority and political speech? Or, how were revision and editing used by poets and scribes–like Hoccleve and Langland–as a means for their own (or others’) social/political rehabilitation? How do either or both poets position themselves in relation to religious or professional communities that are themselves enmeshed in complex public and private interconnections?

Please send 150-300 word paper proposals that engage with these topics or others that suggest ways that Hoccleve and Langland might be put into conversation with each other to Elon Lang,, by September 15, 2018. Please send a completed Participant Information Form (available on the Conference website in July 2018) along with your submission, noting your A/V requirements.

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The Making of Thomas Hoccleve (6-8 July 2016): Registration and Conference Information

The first IHS Conference is less than a month away. “The Making of Thomas Hoccleve” will be held in Winnipeg from July 6-8, 2018, and we have a great program lined up. This conference is open to other members of the society as well. How do you join, you ask? One way to join is to attend the conference. There is no fee for the conference or the society. If you plan to attend, please click here to register by June 18 so that we can confirm our catering and transportation.



Thomas Hoccleve has become increasingly prominent over the past twenty-five years, yet this conference is the first meeting dedicated solely to studying him since a conference in London in 1994. We are still finalizing some information on the program, which you can find here:  If you would like to chair a session, please let us know.

Foreign Travel

If you are a citizen of Australia or the UK and entering the UK by plane (not land or sea, for some mysterious reason), you will need an ETA. If you do require an ETA please visit this website: I believe the process is fairly quick, but please do this before departing for the airport. I believe that US citizens only require a passport. However, Rules and requirements can and do change with little warning, so we encourage you to consult this site even if you travel regularly: If you are a citizen of another country, you may need to provide biometrics, please visit this website: to find out more. Finally, if you require a formal letter of invitation, please contact Paul Jenkins, who will be happy to supply one.

Accommodation and Travel within Winnipeg

Conference presenters will be staying at the Inn at the Forks. If you take a bus or a cab from the airport, it should take around 10-15 minutes by cab (recommended) to arrive. There are many other hotel options in Winnipeg, but please get in touch with David Watt or Paul Jenkins (email addresses below) if you would like some advice about particular hotels or if you would like to stay on campus.

Please note that the University of Manitoba is not downtown. We have therefore arranged transportation between the Inn at the Forks and the U of M campus. Please be ready to join us at 8:30 a.m. outside the Inn at the Forks if you would like a ride to the U of M campus each day of the conference, but please also make sure we know you are coming.

Food and Drink

We have arranged for refreshments and lunches at the conference that will be at no cost to participants.  We are also organizing a conference dinner on Saturday night. If you would like to attend that, please let us know.

The University of Manitoba

The U of M was founded in 1877, though some of its affiliated colleges are older. Its campuses are located on original lands of Anishinaabeg, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota, and Dene peoples, and on the homeland of the Métis nation. We respect the Treaties that were made on these territories, we acknowledge the harms and mistakes of the past, and we dedicate ourselves to move forward in partnership with Indigenous communities in a spirit of reconciliation and collaboration.


This conference is generously funded by grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, Research Manitoba, the Arts Endowment fund, and the University of Manitoba Conference Sponsorship Program. It is also supported by several units at the University of Manitoba: the Institute for the Humanities; the Archives & Special Collections; the Faculty of Arts; the Department of English, Theatre, Film & Media; Mosaic: An Interdisciplinary Critical Journal; the Department of Religion; the Department of History; and St John’s College.

Other Matters

Please note that the exchange rate is approximately $1 CAD to $ 0.75-80 USD at the moment. If you have any questions about any of the above, please contact David Watt ( If you have any issues with the registration page, please get in touch with Paul Jenkins (

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Hoccleve at Kalamazoo 2018: Highlights

The Hoccleve society partnered with the Lydgate Society to sponsor a session this year. Thank you to Danielle Bradley for writing this excellent recap.

Hoccleve, Lydgate, and their Patrons (Session 172)

This year’s joint panel co-sponsored by the Hoccleve and Lydgate Societies explored the two poets within the context of one of the most powerful forces shaping late medieval poetry—patronage. The three panelists generally view Lydgate and Hoccleve taking control over their poetic content, catering to patrons while also subtly criticizing their influence and constructing alternative networks for the production and consumption of literature.

R. D. Perry’s “Naming Names: Creating an Audience in Hoccleve and Lydgate,” an extension of his piece soon to appear in Speculum, posits that these poets envisioned “coteries” comprised of significant potential patrons and other artists. Coteries function like a virtual creative space, inscribing proper poet-patron relations into the very form of a piece while harnessing the creative dynamism of a salon environment. Lydgate’s broader networks and prolificacy lent greater flexibility to his coteries, while Hoccleve necessarily played the role of the careful suppliant. Perry argues that both poets strategically name historic and contemporary writers to set the proper stage for their works, but that Hoccleve’s more intimate associations deserve attention for the great stock he set by proper names—especially that of Chaucer. Hoccleve also deploys silences strategically, for instance leaving Christine de Pizan unnamed in his “Letter of Cupid” as the composer of his source material; Perry believes this tacit nod to a well-known writer is meant to show Henry IV, who may have commissioned the piece, just how “in the know” Hoccleve was and how ideal he would be as an English version of Christine, writing for the Crown.

Leah Schwebel’s “Imperial and Literary Lineage in Lydgate’s Troy Book” also deals with poetic naming, and the significance of silences when a name goes conspicuously unuttered. Schwebel attempts to move beyond interpretive binaries that mark Lydgate as either antagonistic or sycophantic towards Chaucer, by showing that Lydgate engaged in complex naming strategies borrowed from Chaucer himself. She notes that Chaucer is both excessively present in and excessively absent from the Troy Book, and much like Chaucer “erases” his sources by declining to name them, Lydgate suggests Chaucer’s source Lollius for his Troy epic Troilus and Criseyde may be untrustworthy and thus launches into a discourse on Lydgate’s own status as truth-teller.

Mimi Ensley’s “Monuments, Memory, and Patronage in Lydgate’s Guy of Warwick” underscores the importance of poetry as a site of memory construction and dissemination in late medieval England. Lydgate curated the axe with which Guy drove the Danes from England into a religiously and militarily potent indicator of the prowess and importance of Guy’s heirs, Lydgate’s patron Margaret Talbot and the Beauchamp family. Much like a poet can immortalize and memorialize a family or political regime through a poetic genealogy, so Lydgate and his contemporaries might name their source material as an authorizing gesture.

It is clear, then, that patronage generated major opportunities as well as obstacles to Middle English poets, and while Hoccleve may have engaged in a similar balancing act as his contemporaries between assertiveness and silence, his greater precariousness impacted his formal poetic strategies. Our three panelists assert that patronage is a tool serving greater poetic ends, and as respondent Bobby Meyer-Lee pointed out, Hoccleve seems to be writing for “desired” rather than actual patrons, or even “invisible patrons” in the case of a poem like “Letter of Cupid” that may not have been officially commissioned. A vital avenue to pursue when studying these works is not simply how artists responded to patrons, but to each other, viewing other artists as audience members or even participants in the creative process who were all endeavoring to reveal themselves as heirs to a legitimate literary pedigree.

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The Making of Thomas Hoccleve, 6-8 July 2018, University of Manitoba

The International Hoccleve Society will host its first conference, “The Making of Thomas Hoccleve,” this summer. 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. The conference will 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.

In our call for papers, the Society invited scholars to consider and address 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 hope you can join us in Manitoba this summer. The tentative conference program is available below.

Tentative conference schedule:

Friday, July 6

9:15-10:45 Session 1. Form

  • Hoccleve and the Logic of Incompleteness

R. D. Perry, New Chaucer Society Postdoctoral Fellow

  • The Influence of John Walton’s de Consolatione on Hoccleve’s Metrical Style

Nicholas Myklebust, Regis University

  • Hoccleve and Suso, Revisited

Steven Rozenski University of Rochester

10:45-11:15 Break

11:15-12:30 Keynote

 “Ransakid” by Death: Body, Soul and Image in Hoccleve’s “Lerne to Die.”

Stephanie Trigg, University of Melbourne

12:30-2:00 Lunch

2:00-3:30 Session 2. Circulation

  • Friends Made Along the Way: Situating Huntington MS HM 111

Dylan Matthews, Bangor University

  • Hoccleve and Speght: Chaucer Scholars “wrytynge playne”

Cameron Burt, University of Manitoba

  • Anti-establishment Hoccleve and Resistance in the Archives

Elon Lang, University of Texas at Austin

Robin Wharton, Georgia State University

3:30-4:00 Break

4:00-5:30 Workshop 1. Making Poetry

Aditi Nafde, Newcastle University

Jenni Nuttall, St Edmund Hall, University of Oxford

David Watt, University of Manitoba

5:30-7:30 Dinner

7:30-8:45 Keynote

The noise the words make: religious aureation and orthodox reform in early fifteenth-century England

Vincent Gillespie, Lady Margaret Hall, University of Oxford

Saturday, July 7

9:15-10:45 Session 3. Belief

  • Curatorial Hoccleve: Bookishness and Saintliness in the Regiment of Princes

Ruen-Chuan Ma, Utah Valley University

  • And to that ende, here is remembrance’: Registers of Petition in ‘The Monk and Our Lady’s Sleeves’

Laurie Atkinson, Durham University

  • Holy Hoccleve

Sebastian Langdell, Vassar College

10:45-11:15 Break

11:15-12:45 Workshop 2. Digital Tools for the Study of Hoccleve

Robin Wharton, Georgia State University

Elon Lang, University of Texas at Austin

12:45-2:15 Lunch

2:15-3:45 Session 4. Language

  • Hoccleve and the Visual Force of Language

Taylor Cowdery, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

  • Speech Acts and Conversation in the Series

A. Arwen Taylor, Arkansas Tech University

  • Hoccleve as a Voice of Restlessness and Reason: The Concepts of Fortune, Poverty, and Boethian Philosophy in The Regiment of Princes 

Bradley J. Peppers, Georgia State University

3:45-4:15 Break

4:15-5:30 Keynote

Extraordinary Bodies

Amy Appleford, Boston University

6:00-8:00 Conference Dinner

Sunday, July 8

9:15-10:45 Session 5. Embodiment

  • Homosocial Hoccleve

Michelle Ripplinger, University of California at Berkeley

  • Life Could Be a Dream: Form and Affect in the Prologue to the Regement of Princes

Travis Neel, The Ohio State University

  • Hoccleve, Swelling and Bursting

Spencer Strub, University of California at Berkeley

10:45-11:15 Break

11:15-12:45 Workshop 3. Hoccleve: telling stories

Nicholas Perkins, St Hugh’s College, University of Oxford

12:45-2:15 Lunch

2:15-3:30 Response

Nicholas Watson, Harvard University

3:30-3:45 Conference Closure




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4th Annual Hoccleve Recovery Day on Social Media

As we have done for the last three years the International Hoccleve Society is very pleased to be sponsoring the 4th Annual Hoccleve Recovery Day, this November 1 on social media. We are excited to welcome you and your students to participate by posting something related to our theme (and perhaps to Hoccleve) with the hashtag #Hoccleve at least once on a major social media site like Facebook or Twitter that day. The theme this year is “Recovery and Activism” Our full call is below the line. We really hope you will participate and we look forward to seeing what you’ll post!

The International Hoccleve Society Sponsors the 4th Annual Hoccleve Recovery Day: Recovery and Activism

Politics has a tendency to be maddening, and in recent months such a connection has been distressingly literal. Public discourse is increasingly accepting and understanding of mental illness and its treatment, but at the same time the availability of services and treatments is under attack by federal budget proposals. The Hoccleve Society would like to use this year’s annual Recovery Day to view mental and other personal health initiatives through the lens of expressions of distress and recovery and their context in our politicized world.

Thomas Hoccleve situated his melancholic desolation in his “Complaint” within the context of a bustling urban environment that metonymically expressed the constraints of national politics: the “prees” of London and Westminster crowds oppressed and turned on him an overwhelming and maddening “straunge countinaunce,” reflective of the alienating and repressive cultural policies of the Lancastrian kings. Scholars argue that Hoccleve’s poems were political expressions, perhaps of complicity but more likely of resistance and a struggle for identity and purpose.

At a time when American and global politics seem to be entering a new era of repression, socially we are also entering a phase of resistance that refuses to bow to mistruths and injustice. Just as Hoccleve sought truth through writing and self-expression, we invite you to share social media posts—which might include quotations from Hoccleve or other medieval writers—about your own processes of coming to terms with and reordering a disordered world. How do you envision members of a global community using activism and self-assertion in a fight for rights and humanity, harnessing together personal and political recovery?

On 1 November 2017, post your thoughts to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn and our society’s website with the hashtag #Hoccleve. Look out for our own posts on our site and our Hoccleve Lyfe Coache, Twitter and Facebook feeds; and “like” or retweet thematically pertinent items throughout the day under the #Hoccleve hashtag followed by any other tags you’d like, such as #recovery, #thisiswhataprofessorlookslike, #MiddleEnglish, or #MSilluminations. Please follow us, participate, and “like” us to stay tuned! We will be compiling posts tagged with our #Hoccleve hashtag into a Storify page after the day for us all to use as resource and touchstone in the coming weeks and months.

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Call for Papers Kalamazoo 2018

IHS is pleased to announce that we will be sponsoring a session in partnership with the Lydgate Society at the 2018 ICMS in Kalamazoo.

Hoccleve, Lydgate, and their Patrons

There’s much to tie Thomas Hoccleve and John Lydgate together: a shared language, political life under both Ricardian and Lancastrian rule, a purported love for “father” Chaucer, and—perhaps most important—a single network of patrons and benefactors. Their poetic accounts regarding the lived experience of this common ground, however, could not be more different. As Robert Meyer-Lee has observed, Lydgate is, in social and economic terms, “the kind of poet” that Hoccleve failed to become. Where Hoccleve repeatedly describes seeking and not finding steady patronage, Lydgate managed to do so with apparent ease; where Hoccleve’s works apart from the Regiment of Princes appear to have circulated only in modest numbers, Lydgate’s verse found great favor among a variety of audiences, including merchants, craftsmen, scholars, and the nobility. This panel reassesses Hoccleve and Lydgate’s shared literary moment by focusing, in particular, on their varied relationship to patronage. Sample questions that might be explored include the following: Does Lydgate view Prince Hal in the same way that Hoccleve does? How do Lydgate and Hoccleve select or manage their patrons, particularly in light of the dangerous currents of the Lancastrian court? Why, for example, is the Fall of Princes dedicated to Duke Humphrey (in the case of Lydgate) or the Series dedicated to a shifting set of patrons (in the case of Hoccleve)? And to what extent may Lydgate and Hoccleve be said to deploy what John Burrow has termed “petitionary poetics?”

We are thrilled that Robert Meyer-Lee has agreed to serve as a respondent to the panel of papers. Abstracts addressing either or both of these poets and the question of patronage should be emailed to Taylor Cowdery ( by no later than September 15. Inquiries also welcome.

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Hoccleve at Kalamazoo 2017: Highlights

The Hoccleve society sponsored two sessions this year, which dovetailed quite well towards an investigation of the work Hoccleve does on the page and the work we do in the classroom. Thank you to Danielle Bradley for writing this excellent recap.

Hoccleve at Play (Session 473)

A panel titled “Hoccleve at Play” might seem to have little to do with work—and panelists reminded that Hoccleve himself often counters work and play in his texts—Travis Neel pointed out that poetry represents a labor output and can be considered part of a bureaucratic job that requires securing patronage, job security, and promotion. In David Watt’s words, “the work of bureaucracy never ends,” and uncertainty over pay risks leaving one’s work seeming purposeless.

Watt’s “Does this Stress Make Me Look Fat? Awkwardness in Thomas Hoccleve’s Verse” explored the awkward situations Hoccleve finds himself in due to the government’s inability to pay its employees. It is a tricky task to ask one’s employer for money, and Hoccleve’s major mode of play is that of awkwardness, belaboring the point of his own dilemmatic consternation. He creates this mood of cringe-worthy humor through rather literal play on the meaning of the word “awkward” as facing or turning in the wrong direction. In terms of form, word order causes the reader to turn forward and backward, mirroring how Hoccleve himself does not know where to turn. Awkward can also refer to misalignment between expectation and actual behavior. In “Male regle” Hoccleve understands “play” to mean drinking, merriment and verbal sparring, but not sex or manly combativeness; this reticence from a tavern-goer appears awkwardly uncomfortable to a reader. Associates in “My Complaint” turn away on the streets or contort their faces in grimace at him. Onlookers feel awkward either because Hoccleve has, in his madness, done something unexpected, or because they themselves did not meet expectations as friends; readers feel awkward because we are unsure whether this character is truly Hoccleve or a persona (and whether we should be privy to his personal revelations). Yet Watt argued that awkwardness is, ultimately, not isolating but uniting, because the mood spreads and captures others who join Hoccleve in a community with shared problems.

Travis Neel presented another way Hoccleve sustains bureaucratic community in “Convolutions H: Play, Time, Work in Hoccleve’s Ballades to Henri Somer.” Channeling Walter Benjamin, Neel commented on how work risked feeling mirthless to Hoccleve because insufficient funds for play created an unbroken labor. In his poem addressed to his feasting group the Court of Good Company Hoccleve longs for the traditional progression of the seasons—including pay days and the feast days which pay arrears threaten. Given the probably high cost of membership, Hoccleve seems willing to spend much of his wages on these opportunities for collegial revelry, and therefore this loss is significant to him. The poet contrasts the “unnatural” timescale with his own formal mastery, and Neel suggested that reading these more lighthearted and pleasurable poems alongside the more serious Series which likely dates to around the same time will move scholars to revaluate their view of Hoccleve as a “bungling bureaucrat and old misfit.” Searching for a distinct “Hocclevean Irony” leads Neel to claim that greater attention to formal elements, including Hoccleve’s playfulness and control, will show that Hoccleve deserves the same assumption of distance between author and persona that Chaucer receives in ironic readings.

Taylor Cowdery’s “Funny Money in Hoccleve’s Begging Poems” similarly found Hoccleve bemoaning unnatural materials—in this case clipped coins—and how they represent a failed covenant between government and civil servant. The poet and his Friend in the “Dialogue with a Friend” search for something for the poet to write, and the Friend determines that if he is to write for Prince Henry it must “be good mateer and vertuous” (637). Cowdery traced the meaning of “virtuous” in Middle English usage, finding that it could mean both ethically upstanding or physically strong. Words that are virtuous have both material and formal force. Hoccleve’s discourse on clipped coins in his begging poems become significant in this light, especially given the metaphorical nature of literature as a currency which spreads and forges connections. And like words, coins’ value rests in both their material and form. Hoccleve’s anger at unnatural money represents resentment towards unnatural words, whose form and meaning are out of sync. Money ought not be malleable, but slippage of meaning and puns, for instance in the ballads to Henri Somer, suggest this malleability and thus the mismatch between the wage owed and the empty pocket; and the need for Somer’s own words ordering the wages at the exchequer to be real not counterfeit. Cowdery stressed an interpretation of this poem that sees Hoccleve turning to play as a strategy for working the mechanisms of government in his favor—though he reminded that play is not always or necessarily pleasurable.

In her paper “Hoccleve Ludens: Playing With De Ludo Scaccorum in the Regiment of Princes” Amanda Walling further refined what we mean by “play” in Hoccleve’s poems, also finding an anger and a “slipperiness” rather than outright comedy. One type of slipperiness involves gameplay and the association between pieces and their rules for movement, and the categories of persons those pieces represent. Hoccleve’s Regiment draws on Jacobus de Cessolis’s De Ludo Scaccorum, a chess manual and “work of social theory” comprising regulatory play—rules to establish order—and word play useful to its narrator to discuss kings and other figures analogically as chess pieces. Hoccleve’s adaptation downplays regulation of kings but punningly criticizes the exchequer and its late payment of his wages. The wordplay might lessen the critique, but Walling argues that Hoccleve undertook this strategy out of desperation—it underscores how unfunny he thinks his financial quandary is. His treatment of one story from Jacobus comes across as awkward or perhaps unintentionally funny because “tonally inappropriate.” This tale, about a king triumphing over corrupt ministers, appears within the context of the “bureaucratic anxieties” which Hoccleve expresses in the Regiment to be more an indictment of leadership as tyrannical. Overall, Walling views Hoccleve’s manipulation of his sources as representative of his feelings of civil servants being treated as king’s playthings or pawns, and his recognition that the game of power he is implicated in lacks the clear rules of engagement that Jacobus’s does.


Teaching Hoccleve, A Roundtable (Session 401)

If our above panelists stressed Hoccleve’s deservedness of a paycheck, our pedagogy roundtable participants established Hoccleve’s place in Middle English canon and his utility for instructing college students in vernacular poetics and medieval literary culture.

Elon Lang made this point most assertively, detailing his deployment of the Regiment of Princes in an undergraduate Great Books curriculum. A Great Books course introduces students to foundational Western literature furnishing ideas vital to modern informed inquiry, and Lang claims a place for Hoccleve among them because of its theme of leadership and the relationship between civil service and government power. Hoccleve was at the heart of contemporary discourses on educated citizenship and political theory, and has important lessons to offer students regarding these issues in the present day. Lang justifies teaching the entirely of the Regiment and not just the excerpts that often appear in syllabi, because sustained contact with the text causes students to develop language and content analysis skills—the unfamiliar language forces them to slow down and read closely and collaboratively. This strategy avoids pairing the text with its long history of negative academic criticism, and Lang noted that students have no problem accepting the Regiment alongside other pillars of liberal arts education like Aquinas or Shakespeare. To better tackle a difficult text, Lang asks students to collectively create their own rewritings of the material in modern language, then assigns them a “creative reinterpretation” of the poem, a fiction cast within Hoccleve’s fiction of writing for Prince Henry.

Bill Quinn also finds Middle English poetry useful in a history of reading course for leading students toward close reading and attention to the details that would have shaped the medieval reading experience. He overcomes harsh academic judgements on Hoccleve’s metrical skills by finding in the Regiment markers of difference—Hoccleve might not be representative of the era’s most skilled poets, but this is because he had different intentions which are themselves worthy of study and provide a challenge for students of verse form. Quinn finds evidence of the Regiment as a text meant to be delivered orally, but also that Hoccleve foresaw the text being copied and moved around by various hands. For example the rhyme scheme of the envoy scene requires careful attention to the textual artifact as the rhymes would work less well orally, and there are many references throughout the poem to hands and writing but none related to mouths or speaking. Hoccleve’s lines are meant to be “heard” with the fingers, and learning this not only allows students to accept this poet as a legitimate and skilled contributor to Middle English canon, it also offers important evidence on the transition from orality to textuality and what readers wished to get out of the activity.

Nick Myklebust engages with Hoccleve’s canonicity in the literature classroom by teaching a course that pits him against Chaucer. Myklebust noted that transitional texts fit awkwardly into traditional surveys of British literature, and he wishes to capitalize on this difficulty by drawing student attention to questions of periodization and other categorization structures that give meaning to literature. His students use Hoccleve to probe what it means to be medieval or early modern, and what decisions scholars make when they place writers into relative frameworks—such as judging Hoccleve’s merits based on Chaucer’s. While Chaucer’s themes are often “ephemeral” and “slippery,” Hoccleve’s characters and purposes can be easier for students to grasp. So-called marginal literary figures can also help students see why Chaucer himself was important and transformative, as they offer more concrete samples of how literature appeared before and after.

Siobhan Calkin uses Hoccleve in undergraduate courses to illustrate issues of patronage, Lancastrian governance, and Lollardy, but also utilizes Hoccleve’s texts for teaching documentary skills. In a graduate course on medieval authorship and authority she assigns students to work with the Hoccleve Archive, a collection of manuscript images, concordances, collation tables, and other resources. She asks students to produce an edition of a stanza of the Regiment by moving through the various stages a professional editor would. Students transcribe a portion of a manuscript and check their work against crowdsourced transcriptions on the website. They research the assigned manuscript and describe key paleographic features of the scribal hand, contending with issues editors would discuss in text notes.

David Watt put the audience to work by leading them through a manuscript-centered activity he uses in the undergraduate classroom, which he has previously published about in the journal Pedagogy. The activity asks students to think about the medieval reading process by encountering a poem (a roundel from a ballad to Henri Somer) in its varying layers by means of a handout with stages: edited text, appearance in manuscript form in Hoccleve’s own handwriting, and finally context within a whole manuscript page. In this way Watt shows the importance of confronting students with actual manuscript artifacts, and the possibility of doing so when digital or archival resources are not available. Hoccleve’s marginality prevents students from approaching the text through the preconceived notions they might have of a figure like Chaucer, yet unlike anonymous texts students can actually pinpoint the poems’ historical environment.

Far from a dispassionate manuscript study, Stephanie Trigg teaches Hoccleve in a course on medieval passions and presents scenes of intense emotions—the mirror scene of the Series’ “Complaint,” for instance. Students contend with poems that do not use emotion words and whose descriptions of emotional moments are circumscribed, but in which characters are clearly experiencing and performing emotions. Trigg compares Hoccleve with Troilus and Criseyde to draw attention to scenes when a character practices emotionality—Hoccleve his facial expressions in front of a mirror, Troilus the words he wishes to say to Criseyde. Such scenes allow students to address questions of normality and exceptionality in late medieval England, and conceptions of selfhood.

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