Help with Hoccleve – Second Unessay

What exactly are you looking at, aren’t they just regular annotations?

They aren’t entirely “normal” annotations. I’ll explain this. I tried to make a group of annotations using Hypothesis that could help people in the future while reading Hoccleve’s Complaint. Hypothesis is an extension that people can use to annotate a text online. The extension can annotate any page that has text on it. There are “private” annotations, only viewable to yourself, and “public” annotations that are viewable to everyone. One of the downsides to the “public” annotations is that a reader can’t make a “group” of annotations separate from everyone else. To combat this, I made public annotations with the tag “RenLit2021” so people can click the tag and look at all the annotations.

My goal was to explain things that might seem confusing, hypothesize as I read it, and give people food for thought, as well as potentially relate Hoccleve’s Complaint to the real world. Below are some snippets of some of the annotations. I tried to veer away from my own “feelings” ie: not swear a bunch of times and get incredibly angry at the text for talking shit about having a chronic illness. I tried to make it a space where people could feel free to think more about Hoccleve’s Complaint – potentially disagreeing with me as well.

Here is the link to said annotations (I think you need to have the Hypothesis extension installed): [Link]


59 mins ago


which had once been green and of vivid brightness, and had dyed them the colour of yellowness and thrown them down under foot, that change sank down to the very bottom of my heart.


The leaves sound like they could be a metaphor for Hoccleve himself. He’s also noticing the yellowing of the leaves in particular, which notes something negative rather than positive.


58 mins ago


However wealthy or lucky in life someone is, it will not last — they will lose it. Death will trample them down under foot: that will be everyone’s ending

Everyone is equal in a morbid, depressing way. Nihilism?


57 mins ago


however rich they are now, strong, vibrant, fresh or lively

The quick repetition of these ideas of “wealth” and “livelihood” make it seem as though he’s talking about something that happened to himself.


8 mins ago


‘Rather you should think in your heart like this and say, “To you, Lord God, I have done wrong: I must suffer so painfully for my offences. Just as I deserve, I am destroyed, unless you will grant your mercy to me. I am very sure you cannot deny it to me. Lord, I repent and I beg mercy from you.”’


This line of thinking is incredibly toxic. Even when one did nothing wrong, they feel as though they must have done something wrong to deserve their horrible situation. This kind of thinking also keeps people in abusive situations.


7 mins ago


Goodbye to my sorrow, I throw it to the birds! With patience, I think to unpick the lock of such melancholic disease and sorrow from now on, and let out those things which have made me sick. Our Lord God may, if it please Him, make all my former friendships return in the future, and I will comfort myself with the hope of that.


This is reiterating what I mentioned earlier about Hoccleve putting his entire being into God.


3 mins ago


He gave me a mind and He took it away when He saw how I used it wrongly, and gave it to me again just as He pleased. He allowed me to repent my sins and afterwards to be aware of his divinity, to do His bidding and to improve my sinful way of life. [407-413] Glory and honour and thanks be to you, Lord God, who are a medicine for all misfortune! Thank you for my well-being and for my adversity. Thank you for my growing older and my sickness. And thanks be to your infinite goodness for all your gifts and benefits, and to your mercy and your grace I call out.


The idea that Hoccleve went through everything so that he would be a “good religious boy” is incredibly upsetting. With this mindset, someone would be stuck in terrible situations because they believed they somehow deserved it. Hoccleve’s Complaint shows us how victim blaming can create a toxic mindset for the victim.

Why is this important to literature?

It’s no secret that annotations can be incredibly helpful for a reader – they’re a place one can look back at their thoughts from when they read it compared to after the fact. It makes it easier to write papers or have discussions with other people. It can also make it easier to organize one’s thoughts and make better sense of a text. Unfortunately, some people don’t know how to take annotations. Even if they know how, sometimes it can be hard for them to make annotations. My annotations for Hoccleve’s Complaint are a bit more detailed than my typical annotations because I’m not going to be explaining them in a class. Instead, they’re there for future people to look at and contemplate. Maybe my annotations will spark an argument or a scholarly paper for something. That’s the entire goal of me trying to write detailed, somewhat scholarly annotations for this text. 

I believe it’s also important to utilize any tools a reader has at their disposal. In this case, my project is showing one of the many ways Hypothesis can be used in a classroom. One could also make groups of annotations based on certain aspects of a text such as religion, disability model, sexism, etc. My biggest hope is that this project helps someone in the future – even if it’s only a little bit.

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One thought on “Help with Hoccleve – Second Unessay

  1. I have used Hypothesis in past classes and found it immensely helpful in the texts I’ve had to read. Most of the texts we read are so confusing that I don’t even know where to start to try to understand what the author is saying. I loved using Hypothesis because I got to see what my classmates were thinking while reading and if they were thinking the same thoughts as me about the reading or different. Great post!

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