The Scottish Legendary

Towards a poetics of hagiographic narration

Author: Eva von Contzen

The first book-length study of the Scottish Legendary (late 14th c.), the only extant collection of saints’ lives in the vernacular from medieval Scotland, scrutinises the dynamics of hagiographic narration, its implicit assumptions about literariness, and the functions of telling the lives of the saints. The fifty saints’ legends are remarkable for their narrative art: the enjoyment of reading the legends is heightened, while didactic and edifying content is toned down. Focusing on the role of the narrator, the depiction of the saintly characters, their interiority, as well as temporal and spatial parameters, it is demonstrated that the Scottish poet has adapted the traditional material to the needs of an audience versed in reading romance and other secular genres. The implications of the Scottish poet’s narrative strategies are analysed also with respect to the Scottishness of the legendary and its overall place in the hagiographic landscape of late medieval Britain.

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‘This is an intensely exciting book due to the new methodologies it offers for understanding these texts, and the new possibilities it suggests within the study of medieval Scottish literature.'
Claire Harrill, University of Birmingham
Medievalia et Humanistica, New Series, Number 43

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