Chaucerian Polity: Absolutist Lineages and Associational Forms in England and Italy

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Stanford University Press, 1997 - Literary Criticism - 555 pages
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Chaucer's encounters with the great Trecento authors - Dante, Boccaccio, and Petrarch - facilitate the testing and dismantling of time-honored terms such as medieval, Renaissance, and humanism. The author argues that no magic curtain separated "medieval" London and Westminster from "Renaissance" Florence and Milan; as a result of his Italian journeys, all sites were interlinked for Chaucer as parts of a transnational nexus of capital, cultural, mercantile, and military exchange. In his travels, Chaucer was exposed to the Trecento's most crucial material and ideological conflict, that between a fully developed and highly inclusive associational polity (Florence) and the first, prototypically imperfect, absolutist state of modern times (Lombardy). The author's articulation of "Chaucerian polity" - through analyses of art, architecture, city and country, household space, guild and mercantile cultures, as well as literary texts - thus opens sightlines through the Henrician revolution to the writings of Shakespeare. In the process, this innovative study of Chaucer's poetry and prose is invigorated by an engagement with approaches gleaned from modern Marxist historiography, gender theory, and cultural studies.

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