Voice And Meaning: Writing Authority In Late Medieval England And Iberia
My dissertation tells the story of how the separation of voice and meaning in discursive structures became bound up with legitimating the fifteenth-century conquest of non-Christian lands. This is because the possibility of extending secular dominion into lands outside traditional legitimating practices necessitated a new rethinking of the use and discourse of authority. At the center of this change in meaning and voice were the Iberian translations of John Gower's Confessio Amantis that joined two different modalities of questioning the presentation of authority through writing: a Castilian approach, which disassociated the experience of reading from the verisimilitude of narration, and an English one, which undermined the possibility of speech to communicate truth. This synthesis justified colonialism because it gave sovereigns the means to speak with authority in a place outside universal language and law. The Iberian and English traditions which influenced Gower's translation into Portuguese, therefore, support the idea that there was a growing disconnect between the power of their ideas and the ways in which they were conveyed. The most disseminated examples of Castilian historiography and English translation separated what they meant from how they said it. They made spaces for understanding which were outside of communication-spaces which proved that signs could divorce their social uses from their ability to signify while still retaining their ability to change the world. These spaces, in being taken up by the Portuguese translations of Gower's Confessio, helped Europe fashion a concept of sovereignty applicable outside the boundaries of Western discourse. My project, therefore, works as a new comparative study of medieval literatures and of the effects of medieval culture in contemporary discussions of post-colonial agency. It does this first by providing an analysis of legal discourse and the use of metaphors to vindicate colonial authority in the fourteenth and fifteenth century. Second, it shows how the cross-cultural interchange of two medieval discursive traditions that are usually read separately-those of Iberia and of England-were synthesized in ways that paralleled this legalistic discourse. The result is the first comparative study of England and Iberian literature as it bears on larger questions of fifteenth-century political agency.
sovereignty; Spain; England; Middle Ages; discourse
Galloway, Andrew Scott
Murray, Timothy Conway; Kennedy, William John
Ph.D. of Comparative Literature
Doctor of Philosophy
dissertation or thesis