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Title:Late medieval authorship and the prophetic tradition
Author(s):Fonzo, Kimberly
Director of Research:Barrett, Robert W.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Barrett, Robert W.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Camargo, Martin; Fresco, Karen L.; Staley, Lynn
Department / Program:English
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
John Gower
Christine de Pizan
William Langland
Margery Kempe
Mirour de l’Omme
Vox Clamantis
Confessio Amantis
Mutacion de Fortune
l’Advision Cristine
Le Ditié de Jehanne d’Arc
Piers Plowman
Abstract:Tracing the emergence of the author function in the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries, during which writers began to name themselves and their other works in their own texts, this project examines the hitherto ignored role that prophetic self-representation played in the construction of medieval authorial personae. Building upon already established connections between classical authorship and prophecy, medieval authors exploited the prophetic subject position in order to clarify their function as mediators between subject and audience. More than a mask from behind which to safely advance political critiques, the persona of the prophet allowed medieval authors to define the nature of their authority and their relationships to their readers. The first half of this project examines the works of two authors, John Gower and Christine de Pizan, who use prophecy to assert their superior analytical skills. Although both authors draw heavily from the tradition of the prophet Daniel, a prophet known for his inspired interpretive abilities, they claim their inspiration from entirely different sources. Gower represents himself as being prophetically inspired by the public voice, which under the maxim, Vox populi, vox Dei, is divine. Gower consistently represents himself as the public prophet of England in the Mirour de l’Omme, the Vox Clamantis, and the Confessio Amantis. Christine de Pizan, on the other hand, promotes her career in the traditionally masculine fields of literature and politics by implying that her gender gives her prophetic intuition. In Le Livre de la Mutacion de Fortune and Le Livre de l’Advision Cristine, Christine represents her “third sex” role as widow as the sources of her analytical prowess, while in L'épistre de Othea a Hector, Le Chemin de long estude, Le Livre de la cité des dames, and Le Ditié de Jehanne d’Arc, she uses the Sibyl to highlight the authority of feminine marginality within the traditionally masculine world of politics. Both Gower and Christine depict themselves as model readers, who can best uncover the meaning of a text. The second half of this project looks at the work of two authors, William Langland and Margery Kempe, who represent themselves as struggling interpreters of prophetic truth in order to model how their audiences should approach the task of understanding their work. Langland exploits the ambiguity of political prophecy in Piers Plowman, citing predictions that could either refer to an ideal earthly ruler or the second coming of Christ. Through Will’s struggles to comprehend the incomprehensible, Langland reminds his readers to focus on their individual salvation, which they can control. While Langland represents himself as someone who must learn to accept what he cannot know, Kempe represents herself as someone who must learn to trust what she does know. Portraying Margery as skeptical to a fault, Kempe reminds her audience of the pitfalls of disbelief.
Issue Date:2013-08-22
Rights Information:Copyright 2013 Kimberly L. Fonzo
Date Available in IDEALS:2013-08-22
Date Deposited:2013-08

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