Middle Scots humorous narrative verse
Wells, Robert Preston
Examining diverse narrative poems in the Middle Scots literary tradition (c. 1450 -1590), the thesis explores the nature of medieval humour (risible tales, satires, parodies, etc.) in relation to genre, literary conventions, comic techniques, intended audience, and function (the moral or didactic purpose, the relationship between entertainment and edification), with special reference to the kind of narrative each poems represents, the many varieties of story or mimetic transcript. I argue for a distinction between stories (basically, character-determined plots) and what I call mimetic transcripts. Briefly, mimetic transcripts may have many or all of the appurtenances of stories (e.g. characters, dialogue, action, sequential episodes) but lack a distinct peripeteia and often anagnorisis. Many satires, dream - visions, burlesques, and song -like or "situational" poems (debates, complaints, laments, etc.) are mimetic transcripts; most fabliaux, comic romances, and fables- -even when incorporating satiric, parodic, or didactic materials --are stories. Narrative kind is closely bound up with a poet's purpose and techniques, and helps to account for poets' qualitative differences. For example, Henryson's major poems are all stories, broadly edifying. Dunbar and Lindsay almost never write stories but rather mimetic transcripts, which, usually peopled with characters who are animated by thematic instead of dramatic considerations, better lend themselves to topical satire. A large number of the extant humorous poems in Middle Scots are satiric mimetic transcripts.