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Title: The (r)uses of poetry : a study of the works of Robert Henryson in the context of scholastic literary theory
Author: McGinley, Kevin Joseph
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1996
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The work of Robert Henryson constitutes a sophisticated critical engagement with Scholastic literary theory, embodying a deep commitment to the priorities dictated by that theory while attending closely to the problems which it presents. The works of St Augustine and other medieval thinkers provide the theoretical background to the suspicion of poetic discourse which recurs throughout Henryson's works. The common accusations that poets are liars and rouse the passions, which led in the earlier Middle Ages to a minimising of the authority afforded to poetic discourse, are founded on a consideration of how such writing destabilises meaning in resisting assimilation to a referential model of linguistic signification. Comparative analysis of the exemplative theory of Averroes and the interpretative strategies of allegoresis illustrates that the affective literary theory of Scholasticism positively reappraises literature by making it conformable to a referential view of language. Developments in late-medieval philosophy which produce a tension between Scholastic theory's idealising and affective emphases result in modifications of that theory among vernacular writers which exploit its transformative potential, as exemplified in Dante's Commedia. Henryson's work similarly enacts a process of critique and modification of Scholastic theory, providing a particularly flexible and critical deployment of its resources. The patterns of disjunction which occur in the Moral Fables are organised around the need to find a model of signification which closely addresses particular circumstances without having the destabilising forces of textuality undermine the ideal basis of meaning. Henryson's work both posits and criticises a range of literary solutions to the problems. New concepts of authorship which Henryson introduces, while suggesting affiliations with Renaissance humanism, are couched in terms which show that they derive from and modify Scholastic literary theory. The Testament of Cresseid employs these concepts in developing a perspectival mode of signification which encompasses the idealising and particularising imperatives of Scholastic theory, but which in turn problematised by the Fables' depiction of the limitations of human vision.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available