The Wheel of Language

by David Coley

In The Wheel of Language, David Coley explores representations of speech in English poetry of the later Middle Ages, proposing that the spoken word, both within Ricardian and Lancastrian poetry and within late medieval English culture, was understood as an efficacious, powerful medium. Representing speech in the poetic text was always a political act, one that enabled authors to criticize and comment upon the social, economic, religious, and institutional changes occurring in England in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Coley examines the work of Chaucer, Gower, Hoccleve, and the anonymous author of Saint Erkenwald to show how writers manipulated cultural understandings of speech to engage with the crises that defined the later Middle Ages. Ultimately, The Wheel of Language uses the spoken word within the written text to map the complicated and shifting relationships among language, literature, politics, and power.