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Monstrous words, monstrous bodies: irony and the walking dead in Walter Map's De Nugis Curialium

Gordon, Stephen ORCID: 2015. Monstrous words, monstrous bodies: irony and the walking dead in Walter Map's De Nugis Curialium. English Studies 96 (4) , pp. 379-402. 10.1080/0013838X.2015.1011891

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This article analyses the function of the tales of the walking dead found in Distinction II of Walter Map's De Nugis Curialium (c.1182). Map's sole surviving work, the “Courtiers’ Trifles” is a collection of historical narratives, wonder stories, witty asides and anecdotes collated during his employment at Henry II's court. The satirical nature of the De Nugis has been noted by previous scholars; however, this has yet to be discussed specifically with regard to the tales of the undead. Following a discussion of the twelfth-century traditions of satirical literature and the ways in which medieval authors approached the trope of irony, the second part of the narrative will examine how Map, a master of the “art of lying”, deconstructed the conventions of wonder stories. It will be argued that as well as using these tales to satirise the historiographical function of mirabilia, they were also used to critique the reality of court life and, on a deeper level, the literary function of ambiguity itself. The inherent irony of the walking dead, the dissonance between physical form and metaphysical intent, meant that they could be inscribed with multiple, parallel meanings.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Published Online
Status: Published
Schools: English, Communication and Philosophy
Publisher: Taylor and Francis Group
ISSN: 0013-838X
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 27 March 2023
Last Modified: 07 Nov 2023 04:09

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