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Ripe for Conversion

Paul Strohm: Chaucers’s voices, 11 July 2002

Pagans, Tartars, Muslims and Jews in Chaucer’s ‘Canterbury Tales’ 
by Brenda Deen Schildgen.
Florida, 184 pp., £55.50, October 2001, 0 8130 2107 3
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... Othering’, a favourite gerund in current academic-literary discussion, has yet to enter the dictionaries, but it shouldn’t have long to wait. Its status is well earned, if the measure of a word’s popularity is what you can do with it, or the kinds of discussion and analysis it enables. I first encountered it in a 1986 essay on travel writing and descriptive ethnography by Mary Louise Pratt, in which she points to ‘a very familiar, widespread and stable form of “othering”’ whereby ‘the people to be othered are homogenised into a collective “they” ...

Buckwheat Porridge, Three Miles Thick

Paul Strohm, 21 June 2001

Dreaming of Cockaigne: Medieval Fantasies of the Perfect Life 
by Herman Pleij, translated by Diane Webb.
Columbia, 544 pp., £23.50, June 2001, 0 231 11702 7
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... Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival, having raised the siege of Belrepeire, finds its inhabitants gripped by famine. They have slack skin, ashen complexions and sunken bellies. Parzival knows what must be done to avoid the frenzied scenes which would otherwise ensue now food is again available: ‘Faultless Parzival proceeded as follows. He first shared out the victuals neatly himself … He did not wish them to gorge themselves on empty stomachs, so he gave them enough and no more, and they were pleased to follow his advice ...

Take that, astrolabe

Tom Johnson: Medieval Time, 19 October 2023

Alle Thyng Hath Tyme: Time and Medieval Life 
by Gillian Adler and Paul Strohm.
Reaktion, 247 pp., £20, March, 978 1 78914 679 0
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... is time?’ St Augustine wondered. ‘Provided that no one asks me, I know.’ Gillian Adler and Paul Strohm explore the many answers proposed by writers, artists and visionaries in the Middle Ages. ‘Medieval people’, they write, were ‘more keenly aware of simultaneous and contending temporalities than we are, and more skilled at entertaining a ...

Lancastrian Spin

Simon Walker: Usurpation, 10 June 1999

England’s Empty Throne: Usurpation and the Language of Legitimation, 1399-1422 
by Paul Strohm.
Yale, 274 pp., £25, August 1998, 0 300 07544 8
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... in Westminster Hall and claim it as his own. Richard’s empty throne stands at the heart of Paul Strohm’s fine study of the textual consequences of the Lancastrian usurpation. It is both a material presence, a space to be occupied and defended by the victorious Henry, and a permanent void, a metonym for the legitimacy that the early Lancastrian ...

Nayled to the wow

Tom Shippey, 7 January 1993

The Life of Geoffrey Chaucer 
by Derek Pearsall.
Blackwell, 365 pp., £19.95, September 1992, 1 55786 205 2
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A Wyf ther was: Essays in Honour of Paule Mertens-Fonck 
edited by Juliette Dor.
University of Liège, 300 pp., June 1992, 2 87233 004 6
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Hochon’s Arrow: The Social Imagination of 14th-Century Texts 
by Paul Strohm.
Princeton, 205 pp., £27.50, November 1992, 0 691 06880 1
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... of inconvenient ones, including the figure so clearly presented by the wretched Life Records. Paul Strohm’s Hochon’s Arrow: The Social Imagination of 14th-Century Texts by contrast takes one straight into the bitter faction-fighting milieu of Chaucer’s real life. In late 1384 Nicholas Brembre, later to hang, had the election for mayor of London ...


Ardis Butterfield: Who was Chaucer?, 27 August 2015

... I have delayed and fussed, despaired and dithered, and rewritten the first half several times. Paul Strohm, to whom I went for advice early on, has written and published his own in the interim.1 But perhaps at last the mist is clearing. How does one write a literary biography of a figure from the long past? My slowness has been fostered by a jumble of ...

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