Good, Julian Russell Peter
The human presence in Robert Henryson's Fables and William Caxton's The History of Reynard the Fox.
PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.
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This study is a comparison of the human presence in the text of Robert Henryson’s Fables , and that of William Caxton’s 1481 edition of The History of Reynard the Fox (Blake:1970). The individual examples of Henryson’s Fables looked at are those that may be called the ‘Reynardian’ fables (Mann:2009); these are The Cock and the Fox; The Fox and the Wolf; The Trial of the Fox; The Fox, the Wolf, and the Cadger, and The Fox, the Wolf, and the Husbandman. These fables were selected to provide a parallel focus, through the main protagonists and sources, with the text of The History of Reynard the Fox. The reason for the choice of these two texts, in a study originally envisaged as an examination of the human presence of Henryson’s Fables, is that Caxton’s text, although a translation, is precisely contemporary with the Fables, providing a specifically contemporary comparison to Henryson, as well as being a text that is worthwhile of such research in its own right. What may be gained from such a study is that the comparison of the contemporary texts, from Scotland and England, with parallel or similar main protagonists, may serve to sharpen the focus on each.
The aspect of the human presence to be examined may be seen in the research question.
1. What are the functions of the different strands of human presence in the two texts?
The principal method used is the gathering of specific instances of human presence in the two texts, and the categorising or coding of such instances, with the aid of the qualitative-data computer program QSR N6. The human presence was thus categorised under the separate aspects of i) The tangible human presence (actual human characters who are actors within the narrative). ii) The human as social context, present in the social situations and behaviour of the animal protagonists. iii) The human presence as narrator, both within and outside of the narrative. iv) The human presence in the transmission and reception of the two texts. The resulting categories of human presence were used to generate a theory concerning the functions of the human presence within the texts.
The findings for the research question are as follows:
The human presence in the text serves a far more explicit moral function in the Fables than in Reynard, where it serves a primarily entertaining and satirical function. The less explicit moral function of the human presence in Reynard is found beyond the text, in the reader reception.
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