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Hoccleve and the Convention of Mixed-Form Protrepsis

Hoccleve and the Convention of Mixed-Form Protrepsis

(p.202) Chapter Six Hoccleve and the Convention of Mixed-Form Protrepsis
Practicing Literary Theory in the Middle Ages
Eleanor Johnson
University of Chicago Press

Thomas Hoccleve emerged in the 1380s and early 1390s as a public bureaucrat exposed to the literary oeuvres of both Chaucer and Gower as they composed their reengagements with and reinventions of prosimetrum. This spirit of revision of prosimetrum and protrepsis reaches its apogee in the late works of Hoccleve. His two poems, “The Complaint” and “The Dialogue”, are often read “straight” by critics, as a means through which Hoccleve desired to justify and vindicate his mental health before his peers and imagined detractors. This chapter suggests that together the two poems enact a literary meditation whose formal execution is anything but “straight.” Both these poems constitute a practice of mixed-form protreptic writing, and also engage literary theory in a supple and comical manner. The chapter then goes through the process of finding and expounding on the protreptic form that each poem seemingly possesses.

Keywords:   reinventions of prosimetrum, chaucer, gower, thomas hoccleve, the dialogue, the complaint, prosimetrum, protrepsis, protreptic writing

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