Essays in this volume argue for a powerful reassessment of John Lydgate's poetic projects. The preeminent English poet of his own century, Lydgate (ca. 1370-1449) addressed the historical challenges of war with France, looming civil war in England, and new theological forces in the vernacular. He wrote for household, parish, city, monastery, church, and state. Although an official poet of sorts-perhaps the first major official poet in the English poetic tradition-he was not by any means a merely celebratory or sycophantic writer. Instead, he drew on his authority both as poet and as monastic historian to shape a challenging literary space and to underline the treacherousness of history. Despite his exceptional cultural significance, Lydgate has, for different reasons, been marginalized by many literary historical movements since the sixteenth century. John Lydgate: Poetry, Culture, and Lancastrian England is energized by the challenge of a substantial oeuvre in need of reevaluation. Each essay makes a decisive contribution to an aspect of Lydgate's work and opens fresh perspectives for further investigation.
Contributors write about Lydgate from a variety of critical perspectives and emphasize the diversity of the poet's writings beyond the city-state tragedies of Troy and Thebes. Genres discussed include beast fable, mumming, hagiography, devotional poetry, and civic pageant. The essays also reassess crucial themes in the field of Lydgate studies, including Lydgate's unofficial laureateship, his relations to his patrons, his syntax, and his relationship to Chaucer.