|The Idea of the Exotic in Middle English Narrative Texts of the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries|
|Kathleen Ann Kelly|
|University Of North Carolina At Chapel Hill, 1990|
PhD dissertation at the University Of North Carolina At Chapel Hill.
"'The Idea of the Exotic in Middle English Narrative Texts of the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries' examines how exotica (rare and precious gems, spices, textiles, animals, and other products) function as metaphors and as components of a conscious metonymic style in ME texts. I have narrowed my focus to lyrics and narrative texts because it is in these works that ME poets employ exotica most often and with the greatest consistency of purpose. Exotic gems and spices used as similes and metaphors are predominantly found in lyric poetry; exotic animals mainly appear in narrative texts in similes that serve as the vehicle for abstract qualities. Middle English poets are alert to the metaphorical meanings attached to certain exotic animals and products elaborated upon in medieval herbals, bestiaries, lapidaries, and biblical commentaries. The strange peoples, exotic flora and fauna, rare products, and other oddities are significant controlling images, epitomizing the lands of the Orient as seen by English poets. Chapter One, 'The View from Medieval England: the Shaping of the Medieval European Conception of the World,' surveys medieval Western European geographical lore, trade, and commerce. Though the period 1250-1350 was one of unprecedented economic and cultural interchange between Europe and Asia, the actual experiences of diplomats, merchants, missionaries, and other travelers seem to have done surprisingly little to alter the misconceptions embedded in traditional lore. The end result was a widely agreed-upon lore of the remote. Chapter Two, 'Exotic Animals: Beasts 'of propre kynde' and Exemplary Beasts,' examines how exotic animals function metonymically or synecdochically and in metaphors and similes. I also examine how the unicorn and the phoenix function as symbols of perfection--both secular and sacred--in ME poetry. Chapter Three, 'Cloothes of golde wroght of Saresynes and Other Goods,' discusses the 'public meanings' that medieval readers inferred from a metonymic or synecdochic pattern that incorporated references to exotic foods and beverages, buildings, furnishings, clothing, and decorative textiles. Chapter Four, 'Him thought he was in paradyse: Gardens and Paradises, Earthly and Celestial,' examines exotica as indispensable ingredients of ME descriptions of Paradise." - abstract