Isumbras (c. 1350) has been studied for its intertextualities with saint’s lives and hagiographical romances. This paper argues that Isumbras also shares intertextualities with plowman literature of the day. In two key scenes ‘plowing’ is referenced in conversations with peasants and blacksmiths. Isumbras’ morality and actions are impacted by these interactions. Plowmen existed in the 14th and 15th centuries as literary voices that called for leadership reform both spiritual and feudal. This paper reads Isumbras’ relationships with Piers Plowman and other plowman poems, arguing that these intertextualities may indicate a conversation between romances and plowmen literature of the 14th century.
The origination of the Findern manuscript (Cambridge University Library MS Ff.1.6) amongst the gentry of south Derbyshire is well known, and the female readers of the manuscript have been well documented. The contents of the manuscript indicate that the women using Findern had a wide range of reading interests, including work by Chaucer. Whilst conducting a study of the somewhat overlooked women associated with manuscripts of the Canterbury Tales, the possibility of a network of women involved in book circulation in Derbyshire and neighbouring Staffordshire has arisen, of which the early owners of Findern could have been a part. By using the Findern manuscript as a starting point this paper hopes to explore the network of women in 15th century Derbyshire and Staffordshire, their potential for circulating the Canterbury Tales in particular and the implications of this network on the book market of the time.
This paper will examine the complexities of the late medieval lexicon of activity and inactivity. Language is constantly evolving to suit the context of its users. The nuances words hold for us today can be quite different than the subtleties of such words as they were understood by the late-medieval community. Using extracts from a variety of 14th and 15th-century Middle English texts across a mix of genres, this paper will compare the value judgements placed on words such as work, swink, and idle in order to understand how medieval man viewed different actions or inactions. Language has long been used as a signifier of social difference. What can this tell us about the medieval understanding of the active life in its many varied forms?