Both the edge and the centre: the politics of understanding music in middle English poetry - an interdisciplinary study

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Title: Both the edge and the centre: the politics of understanding music in middle English poetry - an interdisciplinary study
Authors: Nangle, Sarah J.
Advisor: Pattwell, Niamh
Lawrence, Frank
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Date: 2016
Abstract: This dissertation offers an interdisciplinary examination of the uses of music in Middle English poetry through analysis of numerous allusions to music in texts from the late-thirteenth to early-fifteenth century, with particular focus on the works of Geoffrey Chaucer. The position of music as a cornerstone of philosophic thought, perceived as a reflection of the divine harmony of the universe and as sounding number made it central to medieval life. However, music’s abstract connotations also permitted it to inhabit the margins of the medieval universe – the boundaries between human and animal, rational and irrational, nature and artifice, sense and the ineffable. Music was thus both at the edge and the centre of the medieval imagination.The role of music in discourses concerning creativity, religion, and society in Middle English poetry will be considered in relation to the spiritual, social, and artistic implications of “knowing” or making rational judgment – what I term “the politics of understanding”. I divide consideration of the politics of understanding music in dream visions, complaints, bestiaries, religious texts, and romances into three sections: philosophical, spiritual, and political. This division allows me to examine a broad range of texts, beginning with consideration of the literary and philosophical tradition inherited from French influences and Antiquity, then turning to spiritual devotion, moving away from aesthetic to ascetic concerns, and finally considering the secular and more immediate and practical implications.The philosophical implications of understanding music in Chaucer’s dream poems, the Book of the Duchess, House of Fame, and Parliament of Fowls are first considered. I then examine the spiritual dimensions of understanding music in London, British Library, MS Arundel 292 and in Chaucer’s Prioress’s Tale. I conclude with an exploration of the representation of kingly harpers in the romances King Horn and Sir Orfeo, and in Chaucer’s Manciple’s Tale.
Type of material: Doctoral Thesis
Publisher: University College Dublin. School of English, Drama and Film
Qualification Name: Ph.D.
Copyright (published version): 2016 the author
Keywords: ChaucerHistoryMiddle EnglishMusicPhilosophyPolitics
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Language: en
Status of Item: Peer reviewed
Appears in Collections:English, Drama and Film Theses

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