This collection responds to the critical legacy of Penn R. Szittya, the recently retired former chair of Georgetown University’s English Department. Inspired by Georgetown’s Lannan Center for Poetics and Social Practice and its statement that poetry “traverses the fields of aesthetic, social, political, and religious thought,” this work investigates how medieval poetic language reflects and also shapes social, political, and religious worlds. At a moment in contemporary culture when poetry finds its value increasingly challenged, Medieval Poetics and Social Practice looks to the late Middle Ages to assert the indispensability of poetry and poetics in the formation of social structures, actions, and utterances. The contributors offer new readings of canonical late-medieval English poetic texts, such as Langland’s Piers Plowman and Chaucer’s Parliament of Fowls, and, of equal importance, explore texts that have hitherto not held a central place in criticism but make important contributions to the literary culture of the period. Introduced by Seeta Chaganti, the collection includes essays by Richard K. Emmerson, J. Patrick Hornbeck, John C. Hirsh, Moira Fitzgibbons, John T. Sebastian, Nicholas R. Havely, Kara Doyle, Anne Middleton, Jo Ann Moran Cruz, and Mark McMorris.
Seeta Chaganti is an Associate Professor of English Literature at the University of California, Davis. She is the author of The Medieval Poetics of the Reliquary: Enshrinement, Inscription, Performance.