Impolitic Bodies: Poetry, Saints, and Society in Fifteenth-century England : the Work of Osbern Bokenham

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Oxford University Press, 1998 - Literary Criticism - 236 pages
With this witty and elegant new book, one of our leading medievalists breaks new ground in fifteenth-century scholarship, a critical site of cultural study. Delany examines the work of English Augustinian friar Osbern Bokenham, a figure never before written on at any length, and fully explores the relations between history and literature in a particularly turbulent period in English history, a period extending from the "War of the Roses" through the "Hundred Years War." Delany focuses on Bokenham's major work, Legends of Holy Women--the first collection of all female saint's lives in any language--composed between 1443 and 1447. Organizing the book around the image of the body--a medieval procedure becoming popular once again in current attention to the social construction of the body--she looks at a number of major concerns. One is Bokenham's relation to the body of English literature, particularly Chaucer. Another is the entire genre of saints's lives, particularly female saints's lives, with their striking uses of the body of the saint to generate their meaning. Yet another is the image of the body politic and its importance in the political and dynastic crises of fifteenth century England. Delany draws these diverse strands together to create an innovative and readable portrait of Bokenham's work and its larger cultural and political importance, offering a host of new insights into this unjustly neglected period in English literary history.

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I Introductions
2 The Literary Corpus
3 The Friar as Critic
Head Feet Face Womb
Tongue Mouth Language
Breast Genital Gut and All
7 The Body Politic
8 SexualTextual Politics
9 Last Things and Afterlives

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About the author (1998)

Sheila Delany is Professor of English at Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC.

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