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Grant number like: FA-56438-12

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Kathryn Kerby-Fulton
University of Notre Dame (Notre Dame, IN 46556-4635)

Fellowships for University Teachers
Research Programs

[Grant products]

$50,400 (approved)
$50,400 (awarded)

Grant period:
1/1/2013 – 12/31/2013

Professional Reading Circles, the Clerical Proletariat, and the Rise of English Literature

Even Richard II, the king under whom literary giants like Geoffrey Chaucer, William Langland, and the Pearl Poet produced their mature works, owned no books in English. When he was deposed in 1399, English literary texts were still a minority interest among the educated or the social elites, as yet preferring to read in Latin or French. This was to change dramatically within a generation, and the proposed study attempts to account for the sudden rise of English literature by uncovering the earliest reading circles of this emergent national literature. Beginning in the reign of Edward III, London saw the immigration of a young, under-employed clerical population, trained or semi-trained for the church, but unable to find employment in it (and thus with complex attitudes toward it), who took jobs in the burgeoning Westminster and Dublin civil and legal services. Here London writers found their initial, most sophisticated audiences and their coteries.