Situational Poetics in Robert Henryson’s The Testament of Cresseid

by Nickolas A. Haydock

Reviews

“All in all, Haydock’s book takes its position alongside the very best studies of Robert Henryson and eclipses most if not all of them. Situation Poetics in Robert Henryson’s Testament of Cresseid is a sophisticated and nuanced study of one of Scotland’s greatest poets and should prove engaging and invaluable to anyone studying the literature of late-medieval Britain.” – Enarratio

"Situational Poetics is a deep, cultural history of Henryson’s problematic Testament of Cresseid. Nicholas Haydock reads the poem, its contexts and its afterlife through a rich and fascinating conjunction of cultural and literary theory, while also setting the poem carefully within its historical contexts. This book offers wonderful insights throughout, from its analysis of the hybrid “dislocations and double consciousness” of late medieval Scottish literature, Henryson’s “Virgilian” career, his admixture of tragedy and satire in the Testament, and the anamorphic temporalities that link Chaucer, Henryson and Shakespeare in their telling and re-telling of the Troilus and Criseyde story. This is an utterly compelling study of Henryson’s Testament, one that promises to re-shape completely our understanding of the poem.” ––Stephanie Trigg, Professor of English, University of Melbourne

“Nick Haydock’s book is a remarkably ambitious attempt to re-situate Henryson’s Testament of Cresseid within literary history, and to recover the author’s deliberately constructed career-profile from the many accidents of transmission. Full justice is done both to Scottish exceptionalism, and to the international world of Latin humanism; while also considered, and explained, is the surprisingly large influence this Scottish poet continued to have on later English poetry, and drama. The result can claim to be the first ever view of Henryson “in the round.” ––Tom Shippey, Professor Emeritus, St. Louis University

“Nickolas Haydock’s new book on the great Scot poet Robert Henryson manages to do several things at once that seemed to the rest of us to be incompatible. He firmly places Henryson’s work in literary history, but renders him accessible and even in dialogue with new ways of thinking about literature and culture. He is respectful of Henryson’s canonical place in Scottish identity but raises questions about how literature works in making national and ethnic identities. Haydock gives us a Henryson for the twenty-first century.” ––John M. Ganim, Professor of English, University of California, Riverside.

“Massively informed both historically and theoretically, Professor Haydock’s searching study locates Henryson’s Testament squarely and understandably in the poet’s time and in our own. Where scholarship and anthologizing have often treated Henryson in passing or missed him entirely, Haydock shows how from the consideration of “genre, gender, and generations,” from concerns with scapegoating and persecution, and from tensions of “moral pathology” and poetic invigoration Cresseid emerges as a character of complex signification and lingering intensity. From an iconography of flowers and fertility, prostitution and divinity, and suffering and retribution comes a vision of a character and a poem deeply moving and richly human.” ––E. L. Risden, Professor, St. Norbert’s College, Green Bay, Wisconsin

“Why do people read criticism of their classics? Probably to get a new picture of themselves thinking over time. An author they had formed a picture of in the distant past, in the hands of a reader other than themselves, is critically recast as the readers are recast too, both the early and the late! The book may prove a consequential re-envisioning of the entire Anglo-Scots fifteenth century, with all that entails. After this Henryson, James I, Dunbar, Douglas, and even Chaucer or Caxton will never again make the same kind of reductive—read “literary historical”—sense they have been making for at least the last century.” ––Stavros Deligiorgis, Professor Emeritus, University of Iowa

“The appearance of Haydock’s study is serendipitous, coming as it does on the heels of a new translation of Henryson by Seamus Heaney and a new edition of the complete works by David J. Parkinson. Haydock offers a thorough reading of the Testament, its sources, and its several contexts— literary, political, and social. His study makes a case for a (re)consideration of the poet and his works on their own terms, successfully arguing for the importance of the Testament as the final chapter in one version of the Troy story and the prefatory text for the next.” ––Kevin J. Harty, Professor & Chair, Department of English, La Salle University, Philadelphia

“Robert Henryson deserves his exalted place in the ranks of the greatest Scottish writers, yet Professor Haydock’s book also situates Henryson in relation to English and Classical greats, worthy to be measured alongside Geoffrey Chaucer, Aesop, Boethius, and even Virgil. All in all, Haydock’s book takes its position alongside the very best studies of Robert Henryson and eclipses most if not all of them. Situational Poetics is a sophisticated and nuanced study of one of Scotland’s greatest poets and should prove engaging and invaluable to anyone studying the literature of late-medieval Britain.” ––Stefan Thomas Hall, Associate Professor of English and Humanistic Studies, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.


 

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