Ricardian Communities: Thomas Usk’s Social Fantasies
This chapter examines the writings of Thomas Usk, early reader of Geoffrey Chaucer and notorious London factionalist. A man who experienced at first hand — and participated in — the treachery, self-interest, and violence of London society, Usk both fantasised about social coherence, and proved unable to sustain that fantasy. This chapter charts Usk's bids to enter political and textual communities: Chaucer's textual community, the world of city governance, and a courtly Ricardian community. In each case, his text works against his overt desires, and complicates his political and social constructs: an awareness of social antagonism seeps through the interstices of Usk's text, challenging an idea of social coherence and fragmenting his imagined community. His attempts to write himself into unified textual and political communities falter, as his text reveals the impossibility of such stability.
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