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Chaucerian ConflictLanguages of Antagonism in Late Fourteenth-Century London$
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Marion Turner

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780199207893

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199207893.001.0001

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Discursive Turbulence: Slander, the House of Fame, and the Mercers’ Petition

Discursive Turbulence: Slander, the House of Fame, and the Mercers’ Petition

(p.8) 1 Discursive Turbulence: Slander, the House of Fame, and the Mercers’ Petition
Chaucerian Conflict


Oxford University Press

London texts of the 1380s betray an insistent anxiety about the power and effects of linguistic conflict. Statutes, proclamations, petitions, and poetry dwell on slander, careless talk, spying eavesdroppers, and verbal sparring. This chapter examines the Mercers' Petition, Geoffrey Chaucer's poem House of Fame, and some proclamations made in 1380s London. It focuses on the idea of surveillance and on attempts to control what can be said, and discusses the way that violence was played out through language in the 1380s. The chapter also considers the extent to which discourse can rebel against political control. The Mercers' Petition and the House of Fame are both concerned with social antagonism and problems: surveillance, tyranny, the need for private space, and conflict between different points of view are key issues in both texts. However, Chaucer's poem is more open than a document like the petition could be about revealing both the inevitability of tyrannical rulers, and the perennial nature of social conflict, subversive behaviour, and antagonistic voices.

Keywords:   London, poetry, Geoffrey Chaucer, slander, social antagonism, social conflict, tyranny, proclamations, surveillance

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