Queer Times: Richard II in the Poems and Chronicles of Late Fourteenth-Century England.

Author/Editor
Federico. Sylvia.

Title
Queer Times: Richard II in the Poems and Chronicles of Late Fourteenth-Century England.

Published
Federico, Sylvia. "Queer Times: Richard II in the Poems and Chronicles of Late Fourteenth-Century England." Medium Aevum 79.1 (2010): 25-46. ISSN 0025-8385.

Review
Federico examines the "idea of royal queerness" in English literature produced between the mid-1380s and the early 1390s (i.e., before the Lancastrian propagandists), exploring how details of literature by Chaucer, Gower, Walsingham, and Henry Knighton "uncannily predict[s]" Lancastrian depictions of Richard II. By disturbing our ideas of past, present, and future, Federico suggests, the literature can be seen to participate in "queer historicism" (26). Used by Lancastrians, but not invented by them, the "discourse of the king's perversion" has “Edwardian precedents” that “brought the word 'sodomite' into the later fourteenth-century narrative of failed kings” (33). Subsequently, Federico argues, no pre-Lancastrian writer actually accused Richard of sodomy, but they engaged the “cultural discourse of sexual misrule . . . as a kind of code with which to speak about unnatural politics” (33), Chaucer doing so in "The Miller’s Tale," Maidstone in his "Concordia," and Gower in Book VII of CA, where Lechery is postponed as a topic and Politics takes its place temporarily. Warnings against womanish behavior recur in Book VII, and in the plough imagery and oblique reference to unnaturalness in lines 4215-25, Gower “seems to warn against the specifically queer type of lust we have come to associate with Richard II” (40). Furthermore, Federico suggests, Gower’s seriatim revisions to CA, while not indicating that he was a “closet Lancastrian,” show that he “entertained the desire for another,” duly fulfilled when Richard was replaced by Henry, a “less legitimate but preferable man” (41). [MA.Copyright. John Gower Society. eJGN 27.1].

Date
2010

Gower Subjects
Confessio Amantis