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Social monsters and the walking dead in William of Newburgh's Historia rerum Anglicarum

Gordon, Stephen ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-7778-2555 2015. Social monsters and the walking dead in William of Newburgh's Historia rerum Anglicarum. Journal of Medieval History 41 (4) , pp. 446-465. 10.1080/03044181.2015.1078255

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Abstract

William of Newburgh's Historia rerum Anglicarum (c.1198) is one of the foremost literary artefacts of the late twelfth century. Contained within Book V are four narratives that detail encounters with the walking dead (‘revenants’). This article contends that the specific placement of these narratives within the Historia encourages the reader to make a metaphysical connection between the activities of the revenant and the conduct of social malcontents. The paper analyses the medieval concept of monstrousness and the cultural context of the Historia’s creation, and argues that learned theories of disease causation underscored the base narratology of the four revenant encounters. Following an appraisal of the unrest caused by Williams FitzOsbert and Longchamp, as well as the kings of England and France, the paper concludes by evaluating the ways in which their social monstrosity was encapsulated by the destabilising and destructive tendencies of the walking corpse.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Published Online
Status: Published
Schools: English, Communication and Philosophy
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
ISSN: 0304-4181
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 27 March 2023
Date of Acceptance: 12 August 2014
Last Modified: 15 Jul 2024 14:56
URI: https://orca.cardiff.ac.uk/id/eprint/157596

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