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Wounds, words, worlds : injury in Middle English satire, c.1250-1534.

Parsons, Ben (2008) Wounds, words, worlds : injury in Middle English satire, c.1250-1534. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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Abstract

The thesis explores the role of violence and wounding in English satire before the Reformation. From the analysis of medieval commentary on Juvenal and Horace, and depictions of wounding in medieval culture, a new understanding of satiric aggression is derived. It is suggested that satire and mutilation are connected by their common sense of ambivalence. During the Middle Ages both were invested with two distinct functions: each could enforce a given system of standards and definitions, or be used to dissolve such a system. While this dualism makes disfigurement a natural emblem for satire, it also means that wounding invariably brings to light discrepancies when it is portrayed in satiric texts. Its flexibility serves to exacerbate the tensions present in the mode. The thesis thus treats injury not only as a central motif in satire, but as a point at which implicit conflicts emerge most clearly. Wounding is used as a means of distinguishing points of friction in the literature. These ideas are applied to the two main traditions of Middle English satire, anticlericalism and antifeminism. In both cases, the ruptures in texts are closely analysed. These in tum are used to identify inconsistencies in medieval culture more widely. The thesis seeks to redress two critical oversights. Firstly, the dual nature of medieval satire has never been explicitly theorised. While the genre's two facets have been examined individually, their coexistence has never been fully investigated. Secondly, vernacular satire is itself an under-explored field. Although several studies of Middle English satire exist, these often conflate the literature with unrelated types of text, or reduce English works to echoes of twelfth-century Latin satire. This study treats medieval vernacular satire as an art-form in its own right, with its own unique concerns and complexities.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Arts and Humanities (Sheffield) > School of English (Sheffield)
Other academic unit: Department of English Literature, Language and Linguistics
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.487612
Depositing User: EThOS Import Sheffield
Date Deposited: 11 Sep 2019 13:52
Last Modified: 11 Sep 2019 13:52
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/21809

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