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Introduction. Reading and War from Lydgate to Malory

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 February 2013

Catherine Nall
Affiliation:
Royal Holloway, University of London
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Summary

In his ‘Address to Sir John Oldcastle’, the poet Thomas Hoccleve offered the following advice to the heretical, rebel knight:

Bewar Oldcastel & for Crystes sake

Clymbe no more in holy writ so hie!

Rede the storie of Lancelot de lake,

Or Vegece of the aart of Chiualrie,

The seege of Troie or Thebes thee applie

To thyng þat may to thordre of knyght longe!

To thy correccioun now haaste and hie,

For thow haast been out of ioynt al to longe.

Reading occupies a central place in the programme of correction and reform that Hoccleve recommends for Oldcastle. Rather than continuing to ‘Clymbe … in holy writ so hie’, Oldcastle should read stories about Lancelot, the sieges of Troy or Thebes, or a version of the late Roman military handbook, De re militari (‘Vegece of the aart of Chiualrie’). Reading is figured here as corrective, as an activity which might enable Oldcastle's ‘correccioun’. The texts that Hoccleve recommends are the textual embodiments or representatives of those things that belong ‘to thordre of knyght’, to which things Oldcastle is urged to ‘applie’ himself. Reading is here imagined as an active process, in ways which recall Grafton and Jardine's formulation of texts being ‘studied for action’, and is intimately connected to self-transformation. The reading of these texts and presumably the reading of Hoccleve's own poem will enable Oldcastle to fashion himself as the ‘manly knyght’ (line 9) he once was and will lead to his ‘correccioun’, just as his reading of ‘holy writ’ led to his error.

Type
Chapter
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Reading and War in Fifteenth-Century England
From Lydgate to Malory
, pp. 1 - 10
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2012

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