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Mingling kings and clowns: carnivalesque politics of the fifteenth-century King and Commoner tradition

Truesdale, Mark David 2015. Mingling kings and clowns: carnivalesque politics of the fifteenth-century King and Commoner tradition. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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Abstract

This thesis analyses the political ideologies of the fifteenth-century King and Commoner tradition. This critically neglected yet widespread tradition occupied a unique political and cultural space in the literature of the later Middle Ages, leaving an indelible mark on British culture. Its influence and study impacts on outlaw literature, romance, and Shakespearean drama. This thesis provides the first detailed critical history and close textual analysis of the King and Commoner tradition as a whole. Drawing on Bakhtinian and Foucauldian methodologies, it examines this material’s amalgamation of carnival rituals with late-medieval complaint literature and insurgent demands. The Introduction traces King and Commoner analogues across other cultures, insular romance and chronicles. Chapter One focuses on King Edward and the Shepherd (c. 1400), arguing that this ‘bourde’ utilises the commoner’s carnivalesque poached feast and anti-noble complaints to invert social norms and deconstruct hierarchical boundaries. The King emerges here as a proto-panoptical spy, while the court is identified with corruption, oppression and alterity amid the commoner’s containment. Chapter Two explores this carnival inversion in John the Reeve (c. 1450), arguing that this text repeatedly stages a carnivalesque violence directed at the social body, culminating in John’s insurgent storming of the court. Chapter Three focuses on Rauf Coilȝear (c. 1460) and A Gest of Robyn Hode (c. 1500), contending that the tradition’s carnivalesque elements allow it to interact with both the worlds of Carolingian romance and outlaw literature in these hybrid texts. Chapter Four examines the King and Commoner ballads and chapbooks of the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries, arguing that this conservative, pro-monarchic material self-consciously contains and remediates the tradition. The Appendix to Chapter Four also identifies King and Commoner influenced drama from the sixteenth century onwards, highlighting the tradition’s absorption into an array of cultural narratives, from Robin Hood plays to national histories.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: English, Communication and Philosophy
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Last Modified: 31 Mar 2018 01:30
URI: http://orca.cf.ac.uk/id/eprint/82347

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