Humour, History and Politics in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages

Humour, History and Politics in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages

Humour, History and Politics in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages

Humour, History and Politics in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages

Synopsis

Although the topic of humor has been dealt with for other eras, early medieval humor remains largely neglected. The essays collected here attempt to fill the gap, examining how the writers of early medieval sources deliberately employed humor to make their case. The essays range from the late Roman empire through to the tenth century, and from Byzantium to Anglo-Saxon England. The subject matter is diverse, but a number of themes link them together, notably the use of irony, ridicule and satire as political tools.

Excerpt

Most of the papers in this volume were first presented in a series of sessions at the fifth International Medieval Congress at the University of Leeds in 1998. John Haldon's chapter, however, was first given as his inaugural lecture at the University of Birmingham and I am very grateful indeed to Professor Haldon forallowing it to be included in this volume. The success of those sessions prompted their conversion into this book of essays. I should like to thank the authors for providing a set of such stimulating and original essays and also for their patience during the long and frustrating time spent finding a suitable and responsible publisher forthe volume. In that connection I am also most grateful to William Davies and the Syndics of Cambridge University Press for rescuing the project with such enthusiasm and efficiency just when it seemed to be floundering.

Three other papers were delivered during the original conference sessions, but forvarious reasons do not appearhere:

Hugh Magennis, 'A funny thing happened on the way to heaven: comic incongruity in Old English saints' lives.'

Ivan Herbison, 'Comic subversion in Judith.' Stuart Airlie, “'With scoffing and derision”: the power of ridicule and irony in Carolingian political narrative. '

I am grateful to all three speakers for excellent, entertaining papers, which sparked interesting and equally enthusiastic debate. By putting forward ideas taken on board by the contributors to this volume, they have contributed significantly to the final version. Similarly, I would like to thank all those who attended the sessions at Leeds fortheirinterest in, and contributions to, the debate, most notably Professor Pauline Stafford forinstigating a general debate on the topic at the end of the final session. I am also grateful to Professors David Ganz and Barbara Rosenwein . . .

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