Ju ok Yoon.  An Encounter of Lyric and Epistle: Textualization of “Partyng” in Late Middle English Epistolary Love Lyrics.  page(s): 1-24


 In this essay, I want to closely examine the ways in which the theme of “partyng,” absence, or separation is textualized in three late medieval English epistolary love lyrics. Medieval English epistolary love poems are believed to have taken the form and gained currency by the late Middle Ages. It is normally assumed that the rapid spread of letters as a popular mode of written communication, alongside the development of literacy among laity and the increasing availability of paper at lower prices in place of expensive parchment, proliferated this particular literary genre in the late fourteenth and especially fifteenth centuries. In the course of elaborating the main theme, I point out that, as a peculiar body of cultural artifacts of the late Middle Ages, medieval love lyrics are less genuine manifestations of the poets’ personal affects than conventional and (near-) public performances. It is an interesting phenomenon that, against the post-Renaissance and Romantic expectations of love letters as private, secret, intimate, one salient theme that the medieval love poems feature is the separation or distance between the lover-speaker and the lady. Then, like some medievalists, I also recognize medieval letters as one (quasi-) public mode of communication, considering the medieval epistolary practices that welcome this line of interpretation. I argue that despite the predominant medieval assumption or belief of the epistle as a loyal representation of the spoken words, it cannot be denied that letters only represent and cannot be equivalent to the writer and the recipient themselves. I hope that examining the three late Middle English love lyrics will more or less showcase this idea.

Key Words
love lyrics, epistle, “partyng,” textualization, the Middle Ages