Thomas Hoccleve

BookThomas Hoccleve

Thomas Hoccleve

Religious Reform, Transnational Poetics, and the Invention of Chaucer

Exeter Medieval Texts and Studies


May 31st, 2018

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This book explores the work of the late-medieval English writer Thomas Hoccleve. It highlights Hoccleve’s role, throughout his works, as a religious writer: an individual who engages seriously with the dynamics of heresy and ecclesiastical reform, who contributes to traditions of vernacular devotional writing, and who raises the question of how Christianity manifests on personal as well as political levels.
It suggests a role for Hoccleve as a poetic mediator, capable of mediating between the increasingly militant English church and an incipient English literary tradition, and it highlights Hoccleve’s role in transforming the figure of Chaucer in the first decades of the fifteenth century. It argues that the version of Chaucer presented in Hoccleve’s Regiment of Princes – august, devout, and conspicuously religious – is not a pre-formed artifact, but rather a Hocclevian invention; and it indicates the ecclesiastical, political, and literary contexts that make this version of Chaucer both possible and necessary.
This study also situates Hoccleve’s accomplishments in a transnational poetic context – offering French and Italian precedents for Hoccleve’s moralization of Chaucer, while examining the influence of contemporary French poetry on Hoccleve’s work. It positions us to reconsider Hoccleve’s role within English literary tradition, and to better understand the way heresy and religious reform surface in late medieval poetry; and it affords us a more nuanced context for Chaucer’s positioning as a literary 'father' figure in this period.

‘For nearly 40 years Thomas Hoccleve toiled at the Privy Seal, a professional scribe stooping and staring ‘upon the sheepes skyn’ […] Langdell convincingly moves his rehabilitation forward with this thoughtful, wide-ranging and learned reassessment.'

Jane Roberts, The Review of English Studies

‘The emphasis on Hoccleve’s influence in the conclusion, while quickly spelled out here, is of great importance and will hopefully serve to inspire other scholars; in particular, using Hoccleve’s religious identity to connect him with Lydgate—specifically to the Life of Our Lady—is a promising avenue of research that many others may want to pursue, and thank Langdell as they do.’

R. D. Perry, Speculum 

Author Information

Sebastian J. Langdell is Assistant Professor at the Department of English, Baylor University. He is a founding member of the International Hoccleve Society, and has previously held lectureships at three Oxford colleges. He is currently at work on a new critical edition of Thomas Hoccleve's shorter poems for the Exeter Medieval Texts and Studies series.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
List of Abbreviations7
1. ‘What world is this? How vndirstande am I?’: Reading and Moralization in the Series21
2. Vice, Virtue, and Poetic Mediation in the Epistle of Cupid45
3. ‘What shal I calle thee? What is thy name?’ Hoccleve, Chaucer, and the Architectonics of Fame74
4. Reforming Thought: The Making of ‘Thomas Hoccleve’110
5. Hoccleve’s Eucharist148
Conclusion: The Matter of Hocclevian Influence186