WiSe 16/17: S-Literatures of Medieval Britain II: The Makars
The label makar, ‘maker’ or ‘poet’, is generally applied to the Scottish poets of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, particularly to the most outstanding poets of the Middle Scots era, Robert Henryson and William Dunbar.
Robert Henryson’s name is primarily associated with the delightful fable collection he wrote, which is full of sharp comments upon human foibles and medieval Scottish society, without lacking the compassion for those experiencing the tight grip of misfortune. Apart from selected fables and minor works, we will also read his moving romance the Testament of Cresseid. The latter is frequently regarded as a compelling sequel to Geoffrey Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde. His stunning talent for realistic detail and for the vivid description of the tragic and humorous aspects of human existence cannot but draw the listener or reader into his poetical narratives, always reminding him of the frailty of human life.
In contrast, Dunbar’s poems frequently abound in satirical attacks of the glitter of courtly life. He delights in comedy, the grotesque and bawdy, but also reveals a profound interest in philosophical and devotional concerns of his time. Apart from a remarkable versatility of style, technical brilliance, and a virtuosic mastery of the Middle Scots language, his work is not just characterized by a highly pictorial language, but also by an abundance of performative features typical for his time. His poems excel in coloured and vivid descriptions, frequently emblematic of the divine or of his own demonic imagination.
The works of Robert Henryson and William Dunbar are available as TEAMS editions (www.lib.rochester.edu/camelot/teams.htm). References to other editions and a select bibliography will be provided in the first session.
Language of instruction: English. Required language level: C1-C2.
Assessment: Each week poems will be earmarked for study at home and discussion in class. The final mark will be based on participation in class, a brief presentation, and a 4000-word final essay.close
16 Class schedule