Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2018

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

William Kuskin

Second Advisor

Tiffany Beechy

Third Advisor

David Glimp

Fourth Advisor

Paul Hammer

Fifth Advisor

A. S. G. Edwards

Abstract

Fifteenth-century poet John Lydgate holds the distinction of being both prolific and popular in his own time. Unfortunate comparisons to his literary forbear, Geoffrey Chaucer, dampened his early reputation, and Lydgate spent centuries out of favor with literary critics. In the past decade, he has enjoyed a resurgence of critical attention; this project considers why this may be and also why he remained in the critical shadows for so long. To answer these questions, I turn to Lydgate’s approach to his readers and the manuscripts and early printed books with which his early (and enthusiastic) audience would have been encountering his works. This project argues that Lydgate’s encouragement of readers to participate in the work, to correct him where they find fault, is sincere. He undertakes a system of literary creation that deliberately does not enforce a hierarchical approach to authority; instead of literary authority remaining with the poet, Lydgate attempts to bestow it upon those among his readers who would prudently and earnestly correct his work. In examining the manuscripts and early printed books of the works, I am able to determine those places where communication between Lydgate, the bookmakers, and the readers concerning this issue were most visible, and most able to elicit readerly interactions.

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