This essay attempts to contribute to the wide-ranging discussion of periodization in medieval and early modern studies through a new reading of Skelton's Garland of Laurel. The essay argues that Skelton recreates the laurel as a symbol of continuing poetic and historical service rather than of preeminent status gained as a reward for past literary work. Further, the poem's version of literary and artistic tradition requires that poetry must take its place alongside other forms of artistic representation to form a full and complex account of history. Skelton here reconceptualizes artistic tradition as continuous, inclusive, and constituted by a collaborative ethic of poetic, historical, and moral obligation. As such, the Garland may assist medievalists and especially early modernists in developing new approaches to historical periodization by providing a literary model of cultural continuity, and encouraging discussions of literary treatments of duty, labor, and moral responsibility.

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