In the introduction to the extended essay on Patience in Piers Plowman in Patient Reading / Reading Patience, Ralph Hanna remarks that the many canonical authors who do not enjoy Shakespeares status as a cultural icon only survive through the accurate reading that reveals the poetic brilliancies that confer upon them merit, conjoined with an historical scholarship that seeks to mitigate the gap of history. It strikes me from reading this most erudite and meticulous of volumes that the aim of each essay, and indeed perhaps of Hannas scholarly career, is to mitigate the gap of history between medieval English literature and ourselves by assisting us to read it accurately. Patient Reading / Reading Patience is as much an exemplar of the kind of learned, skilful scholarship that Hanna suggests goes towards an accurately nuanced appreciation of medieval writing, as it is a repudiation of what he sees as a tendency of contemporary medieval scholars to reduce the historical to the concerns of post-modernity by privileging new critical analyses of identity. Writing as a professor emeritus of a UK academy that currently has to prove the impact of its Arts scholarship, by pointing out that academics who are intent on political engagement would be more pro ductive working a soup-kitchen or picketing local polluters than tweeting about their literary field, Hanna positions himself firmly amongst those who believe that endeavouring to access the medieval past accurately through what he terms historical scholarship is inherently worthwhile.
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