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Political Protrepsis: Usk and Gower

Political Protrepsis: Usk and Gower

(p.166) Chapter Five Political Protrepsis: Usk and Gower
Practicing Literary Theory in the Middle Ages
Eleanor Johnson
University of Chicago Press

Chaucer's influence—in the troping and reinventing of the mixed-form protreptic and its metapoetic investments—has expanded far and wide. Not excluded from this influence are Thomas Usk and John Gower-Usk: the former a devotee of Chaucerian poetry and the latter a personal friend of Chaucer. The difference with these two Middle English authors, however, is the notion that self-awareness is closely linked to a political agenda—where in Usk and Gower's case the narrator functions as a springboard for launching a sociopolitical critique. This protreptic frame evidently has two functions for these authors: first as a justification for fiction and second as a mask through which the author can pursue potentially incendiary political ends. This chapter explores these political agendas ushered in by Usk and Gower in their fiction, and studies how well the protrepsis functions within this framework.

Keywords:   mixed-form protreptic, chaucer, metapoetic investments, thomas Usk, john gower, chaucerian poetry, troilus, sociopolitical critique, justification for fiction

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