English Literature

Acts of Recognition: Essays on Medieval Culture by Lee Patterson

By Lee Patterson

This quantity brings jointly Lee Patterson’s essays released in a number of venues during the last twenty-seven years. As he observes in his preface, “The one power reputation that emerged from writing those in a different way relatively disparate essays is that regardless of the textual content . . . and whoever the folk . . ., the values at factor stay relevant to modern life.” dialectics are at paintings during this publication: that among the prior and the current and that among the person and the social, and either have ethical value. the 1st chapters are methodological; the 1st is at the historic realizing of medieval literature and the second one on how one can deal with the inseparability of truth and price within the lecture room. the following 3 chapters soak up 3 “less-read” past due medieval writers: Sir John Clanvowe, Thomas Hoccleve, and John Lydgate. each one is used to light up a social phenomenon: the character of courtroom tradition, the event of town, and Henry V’s act of self-making. the subsequent bankruptcy explicitly hyperlinks previous and current via arguing that the bearing of the English aristocrat comes from a practice starting with Beowulf and later reinvoked in accordance with nineteenth-century imperialism. the following 3 chapters are the main literary, facing Chaucer and with literary conventions in terms of a few texts. the ultimate bankruptcy is at the guy Patterson considers probably the most vital of our medieval ancestors, Francis of Assisi.

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Nor should this be a matter for lament, as English professors sometimes seem to think. The penetrating analysis of texts is a difficult but crucial competence for young men and women entering an economy whose rewards are increasingly reserved for a professional and managerial class skilled in verbal analysis. Whether or not we like the way the global economy is developing, part of our job as teachers must be not merely to credential our students but to prepare them to compete successfully in a harsh economic world from which many of us (myself included) are institutionally shielded.

36 On the contrary, the best a careful rhetorical analysis can finally provide is the “negative knowledge” that “it is not . . ” By “independence of mind” he meant the capacity to pursue an intellectual project to its conclusion, regardless of its implications, and the ability to recognize that just as life choices are distinct from (although hardly irrelevant to) intellectual endeavors, so too specialized knowledge can provide little guidance in making them. For Weber, this independence could be accomplished only through a focused effort — through specialization—that made possible the skill and knowledge required for cogent results.

While the lecturer will visit these sections on occasion, my own policy is merely to observe so as to offer the graduate assistant whatever pedagogical advice might be helpful. A largely hands-off role is important to ensure the intellectual independence of the graduate assistants, who function best when they bring to the material viewpoints slighted by or opposed to those of the lecturer and so model intellectual independence for the students. There are other, structural means by which the imbalances of the lecture system can be ameliorated.

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