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Theses Doctoral

Animal Speech and Political Utterance: Articulating the Controversies of Late Fourteenth-Century England in Non-Human Voices

Fulton, Sharon Ann

This dissertation analyzes the function of animal speakers in political poetry by William Langland, Geoffrey Chaucer, and John Gower, and it claims that late fourteenth-century poets describe the marginalized voices of emerging politicians by using animal expressions and noises. These writers invent a playful yet earnest poetics of acknowledgment in comparing politicians’ calls to animal cries. In unveiling novel interpretations of Langland’s mouse, Chaucer’s goose, and Gower’s jay, I argue that the speeches of animals contribute to significant argumentative strains within several late fourteenth-century poems, which remain obscure if the reader ignores the signal contribution of the animal. Finally, I study the use of animal speech in the Lancastrian poem, Richard the Redeless, to understand the ways in which the anti-Ricardian regime appropriated this malleable animal imagery to pursue its own political agenda.

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Academic Units
English and Comparative Literature
Thesis Advisors
Crane, Susan
Degree
Ph.D., Columbia University
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