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v. Importance of The Testament of Love (from my Introduction, pp. 17-18)

The importance of TL in English literary history can and should be measured from a variety of perspectives. Narrowly, it tells us something about politics and society in England in the 1380s. Also it records early, perhaps first, mentions of major contemporary works, especially Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde. More broadly viewed, it is perforce a key document in the history of the development of English prose. And it is equally an important document in our assessment of the kinds of learning or scholarship that were attainable in the 1370s and 1380s in England. (By contrast with Usk, Chaucer is not only more learned but also more conscious of what it means to be learned -- more "disenchanted," in H. Marshall Leicester's sense of the term [pp. 26-27, especially]). More broadly still, TL is witness to something like a newly emerging idea of the relationship between self, society, and writing that we experience repeatedly in other monuments of fourteenth-century English culture (Strohm [1990], [1992]; Galloway).


"The work has been dismissed as totally derivative. But though its debts are obvious, this dismissal underrates the sophistication of the work in these respects: its awareness of literary theory, its philosophical vocabulary, and the paradox at the heart of the work, which seeks to reinstate its author's good name by professing Boethian detachment from worldly fame."

  James Simpson, Cambridge University

from Medieval England: An Encyclopedia, edd. Paul E. Szarmach, M. Teresa Tavormina, Joel T. Rosenthal (New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1998), 749.


Permission is hereby granted to make use of this page and its links in any way that supplements the print edition of TL.

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