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A Mixed-Form Tradition of Literary Theory and Practice

A Mixed-Form Tradition of Literary Theory and Practice

(p.232) Conclusion A Mixed-Form Tradition of Literary Theory and Practice
Practicing Literary Theory in the Middle Ages
Eleanor Johnson
University of Chicago Press

The Consolation of Philosophy ushered in the reevaluation and experimentation that brought forth the more modern forms of protreptic and prosimetrum. These two modes—one ethical, the other aesthetic—are, according to Boethius, necessary in order to model a transformation of the human soul. The works of Chaucer, Gower, Usk, and Hoccleve, all purport that the transformation of the narrator is potentially a remedy or tonic for a reader. Their works brought forth a mixed form tradition of the theory and practice of literature. Each one reinvented the mixed-form method in such a way that the literary learning that the narrative offered in its reading might be exportable to the imagined reading audience as protrepsis. In reinventing the mixed form, then, the notion that aesthetic experience could produce or result in ethical learning, is called into question. This chapter concludes, however, that readers' meditation on the aesthetic experience could indeed possibly prove to be transformative.

Keywords:   consolation of philosophy, protreptic, prosimetrum, boethius, chaucer, gower, usk, hoccleve, mixed-form method, ethical learning

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