Retrospective Prophecy and Medieval English Authorship
Published: March 2022© 2022
Imprint: University of Toronto Press
Page Count: 200 Pages
Dimensions: 6.25 x 9.25
200 Pages, 6.25 x 9.25 x 0.50 in
The prescience of medieval English authors has long been a source of fascination to readers. Retrospective Prophecy and Medieval English Authorship draws attention to the ways that misinterpreted, proleptically added, or dubiously attributed prognostications influenced the reputations of famed Middle English authors. It illuminates the creative ways in which William Langland, John Gower, and Geoffrey Chaucer engaged with prophecy to cultivate their own identities and to speak to the problems of their age.
Retrospective Prophecy and Medieval English Authorship examines the prophetic reputations of these well-known medieval authors whose fame made them especially subject to nationalist appropriation. Kimberly Fonzo explains that retrospectively co-opting the prophetic voices of canonical authors aids those looking to excuse or endorse key events of national history by implying that they were destined to happen. She challenges the reputations of Langland, Gower, and Chaucer as prophets of the Protestant Reformation, Richard II’s deposition, and secular Humanism, respectively.
This intellectual and critical assessment of medieval authors and their works successfully makes the case that prophecy emerged and recurred as an important theme in medieval authorial self-representations.
1. The Sybil and Merlin: Political Prophecy in the French and English Royal Courts
2. William Langland’s Parodic Prophecies
3. Henry IV and the Post Facto Construction of a Prophetic John Gower
4. The Legacy of “Chaucer’s Prophecy” in The House of Fame
"In Retrospective Prophecy and Medieval English Authorship Kimberly Fonzo analyses the ways in which Langland, Gower, and Chaucer exploited the conventions of prophetic language to craft authorial identities that allowed them to address contemporary political issues. In reading historically and retrospectively, Fonzo returns us to the fourteenth-century milieu of these authors and sketches in the processes by which they acquired later and still-promulgated false identities."Lynn Staley, Harrington and Shirley Drake Professor of the Humanities in the Department of English, Colgate University
"Kimberly Fonzo rescues three fourteenth-century poets from our conviction that they mystically foretell our modernity. Langland, Gower, and Chaucer fancied themselves prophets – but not of us. Their ‘prophetic role’ responds to the political turbulence of England in their lifetimes and to their immersion in French, Italian, and Latin literatures. The prophet-poets whom Fonzo leads us to know behind our retrospective gaze turn out to be stranger writers than we imagined, and compelling for new reasons."Eric Weiskott, Associate Professor of English, Boston College
"In Retrospective Prophecy and Medieval English Authorship, Kimberly Fonzo breaks new ground by suggesting that modern scholarship has usually misunderstood the original rhetorical purpose of such literary prophecies, leading to a naive effort to ascertain how ‘accurate’ they might have been by comparing them to actual political and social upheavals from later times. This book must be read by all who wish to address this puzzling theme in the future."Robert Adams, Professor of English, Sam Houston State University