Mary of Guise: examining the female Scottish correspondence of the woman with ‘a hart of warre’

McDonald, Eilidh (2022) Mary of Guise: examining the female Scottish correspondence of the woman with ‘a hart of warre’. MPhil(R) thesis, University of Glasgow.

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“Mary of Guise: Examining the Female Scottish Correspondence of the Woman with ‘a Hart of Warre’” analyses how complex hierarchical social relationships between women in sixteenth century Scotland were negotiated in written communication. The corpus draws from the Scottish correspondence of Mary of Guise, held in the National Records of Scotland; spans the period from 1543 to approximately 1554; and contains 15 letters to Mary of Guise from 9 correspondents.

This thesis asks whether the content of the letters or the proximity of the writer’s relationship to Mary of Guise and social status relative to hers affect the ways in which the individual writers interact with Mary in their written communication. These variables are examined with reference to the material and pragmatic features of each manuscript; letter-writing conventions of the sixteenth century; the contemporary practices of women’s letter-writing; the lexical features of each letter and the lexical patterns of each correspondent more broadly; and the social networks that link the correspondents to each other and to Mary of Guise herself.

The thesis finds that Mary of Guise’s correspondents did not systematically utilise material pragmatic features as an element of their negotiation of politeness within their correspondence. This study reveals that relative social proximity (assessed via social network analysis in chapter three) does not appear to play a consistent role in the use of material pragmatic features; those correspondents with the closest social proximity to Mary of Guise, and those with the least proximity, vary in their use of significant space and scribal-autograph practices, with no consistent pattern across the correspondents of material pragmatic features being used to negotiate the hierarchical relationship between writers and recipient. Those from the more central ranks of Mary’s correspondents are more likely to utilise material pragmatics in their negotiation of the hierarchical relationship between themselves and their recipient. This variation across correspondents suggests that material pragmatic features were not utilised universally and uniformly in the navigation of social relationships in sixteenth century written communication. As this thesis illustrates, all 15 correspondents follow elements of ars dictaminis— the salutatio and conclusio— but also utilise features of the familiar letter such as a more narrative structure in the centre portion of the letter, or an informal tone. Individual correspondents do not appear to align with either the ars dictaminis or the familiar letter consistently as part of their communicative practice when writing to Mary of Guise; nor does each individual’s use of ars dictaminis or the familiar style seem to align with their social proximity to the Queen Regent. Correspondents also diverge from the norms of contemporary women’s letter-writing practices— although many correspondents refer to male relatives in their letters, this is usually in impersonal, unemotional contexts. Some letter-writers also discuss national and international politics, a topic of conversation outside the genres sixteenth century women might have been expected to engage with. All of Mary’s correspondents utilise elements of Scots lexis and grammar, indicating that the use of Scots was not perceived as informal or inappropriate when corresponding with social superiors.

Item Type: Thesis (MPhil(R))
Qualification Level: Masters
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0080 Criticism
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Critical Studies > English Language and Linguistics
Supervisor's Name: Smith, Professor Jeremy J.
Date of Award: 2022
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2022-82962
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 15 Jun 2022 15:00
Last Modified: 15 Jun 2022 15:00
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.82962

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