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Theory and the Premodern Text

2000
Author:

Paul Strohm

Theory and the Premodern Text

A major reconsideration of relations between new theories and old texts.

Insisting on the imaginative multiplicity of the text, Strohm finds in theory an augmentation of interpretive possibilities-an augmentation that sometimes requires respectful disagreement with what a work says-or seems to want known-about itself. Coupled with this strategic disrespect is a new and amplified form of respect-for the text as a meaning-making system, for its unruly power and its unpredictable effects in the world.

Theory and the Premodern Text will have direct appeal not only to established scholars, but, more importantly, to new graduate students and senior undergraduates, who could learn much from Strohm’s delicate and yet plausible use of contemporary literary theories, his careful organization, and his clear, lucid prose.

Arthuriana

Medieval Studies/Literary Theory

A major reconsideration of relations between new theories and old texts.

The work of Paul Strohm allies the most distinguished traditions of medieval study with the most challenging and innovative of theoretical approaches. These features, working together to revise and expand our understanding of both medieval texts and contemporary critical practice, are apparent in full and compelling force in this collection of essays, most now in print for the first time. In a range of theoretical engagements with late medieval texts, dealing with social practice, time, and narrative, this volume proposes a "practical" relation between the text and the theory that illuminates it.

Insisting on the imaginative multiplicity of the text, Strohm finds in theory an augmentation of interpretive possibilities-an augmentation that sometimes requires respectful disagreement with what a work says-or seems to want known-about itself. He thus defines theory as "any standpoint from which we might challenge a text’s self-understanding." Coupled with this strategic disrespect is a new and amplified form of respect-for the text as a meaning-making system, for its unruly power and its unpredictable effects in the world.

In this spirit, Strohm offers new and illustrative readings of Hoccleve’s "Male Regle" and Regiment of Princes, Ricardian coronation documents, Chaucer’s "Cook’s Tale," Capgrave’s chronicle, the Gesta Henrici Quinti, records of the king’s bench, Malory’s "Knight of the Cart," and other later medieval texts. Throughout, Strohm traverses categories of "literary" and "non-literary" in the service of a more comprehensive understanding of texts and the resourcefulness with which they accomplish their social work.

Medieval Cultures Series, volume 26

Translation Inquiries: University of Minnesota Press

Theory and the Premodern Text

Paul Strohm is J. R. R. Tolkien Professor of English Language and Literature at the University of Oxford. He is the author of many books, including England’s Empty Throne: Usurpation and the Language of Legitimation, 1399-1422 (1998) and Social Chaucer (1989).

Theory and the Premodern Text

Theory and the Premodern Text will have direct appeal not only to established scholars, but, more importantly, to new graduate students and senior undergraduates, who could learn much from Strohm’s delicate and yet plausible use of contemporary literary theories, his careful organization, and his clear, lucid prose.

Arthuriana

This series of thirteen short studies shows Strohm at his best, as a virtuoso in the reading of the texts of late medieval England against the grain of disciplinary tradition and in the light of modern critical and cultural theory.

Derek Pearsall, Gurney Professor of English, Emeritus, Harvard University

Resolutely theoretical, brilliantly practical, Paul Strohm presents an ever-unfolding world available in, around, through, and despite medieval English texts. Theory and the Premodern Text is something like a workbook of theory in historical practice, offering astutely formulated problems, well-chosen examples, razor-sharp explications, and a persistent view that among its various functions theory allows the practice of history to be ethical.

Carolyn Dinshaw, author of Getting Medieval: Identities and Communities, Pre- and Postmodern