Chaucer’s Presence in Songes and Sonettes
"Cultural impact" implies many things: it suggests a widespread culture of reading that crossed boundaries of geography, class, and gender. It calls for a reassessment of the ways in which the poems of the book were models for contemporary literary practice. The chapter focuses on how to assess the contemporary cultural impact of this printer's book. The word "culture" originally connoted plant and animal cultivation. The image of the garden and the farm is central to its uses, and well into the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the term evoked far more the tillage of the field than the teachings of the classroom. These images of growth and death, of cultivation and inhumation, and of the textuality of desire, interlace throughout the volume's poems. Richard Tottel's Songs and Sonettes represents an earlier generation of literary performance: one held up as fodder for tired clowns, rather than for aspirant kings.