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Title: Writing reform in fourteenth-century English romance, from the agrarian crisis to Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
Author: Reed, Kaylara Ann
ISNI:       0000 0004 7655 0770
Awarding Body: University of Hull
Current Institution: University of Hull
Date of Award: 2017
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This thesis investigates five fourteenth-century Middle English romances—Sir Isumbras, The King of Tars, The Earl of Toulouse, Geoffrey Chaucer’s Wife of Bath’s Tale, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight—for their resonances with fourteenth-century reformist ideology. The fourteenth century witnessed the emergence of Middle English complaint writing and also culminated in two reformist movements in the 1380s: the Peasants’ Revolt and Lollardy. Each romance considered in the thesis share resonances with reformist ideology and complaint poems—like William Langland’s Piers Plowman—as well as texts relating to the Peasants’ Revolt and Lollardy. Such evidence suggests that romance and complaint shared ideologies and both types of texts may have contributed to reformist activities—writing, acting, or both—throughout the century. Sir Isumbras is explored in relation to the Agrarian Crisis, related complaint texts such as The Simonie and The Song of the Husbandman, and the penitential philosophy it shares with Piers Plowman. Isumbras shows landowners causing peasant suffering, and problematises orthodox penitential prescriptions. The King of Tars is read in relationship to complaint texts like The Sayings of the Four Philosophers and with later Lollard writing. Tars reforms nations by highlighting the consequences of immoral kingship—both Christian and Saracen—and replacing it with an ethically superior woman. The Earl of Toulouse, examined alongside texts relevant to the Peasants’ Revolt, represents armed revolt as a means of stopping obstinate tyranny and envisions that heroic men—even to the point of breaking the law—will insist upon truth and justice. The Wife of Bath’s Tale shares resonances with an array of Middle English Lollard writings, from its stance on execution, nobility, poverty, the power of sermons, and female autonomy and power. Finally, I analyse Sir Gawain and the Green Knight alongside Ricardian complaint texts, illuminating tyrannical character traits in Arthur and his negative influence on Gawain.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: English