William Dunbar is a poet whose virtuosity is often praised, but rarely analyzed. This first major study of his work to be published in over ten years examines his view of himself as a major poet, or "makar," and the way he handles various poetic genres. It challenges the over-simplified and reductive views purveyed by some critics, that Dunbar is primarily a moralist or no more than a talented virtuoso. New emphasis is placed on the petitions, or begging-poems, and their use for poetic introspection. There is also a particularly full study of Dunbar's under-valued comic poems, and of the modes most congenial to him--notably parody, irony, "flyting" or invective, and black dream-fantasy. Taking account of recent scholarship, Priscilla Bawcutt explores the complex literary traditions available to Dunbar, both in Latin and the vernaculars, including "popular" and alliterative poetry as well as that of Chaucer and his followers. This original, learned, and critically searching book is set to become the leading analysis of one of the most fascinating and accomplished of medieval poets.
`Dunbar the Makar should become a much-consulted resource for anyone doing work on Dunbar or Middle Scots literature in general ... Dunbar the Makar is indispensable, and Bawcutt's consistently sensible and thoroughly informed readings are always valuable ... impressive in the breadth and force of its scholarship and sound in its readings.'
Studies in the Age of Chaucer
`This detailed, practically encyclopaedic, study of Dunbar's complete poetry supersedes previous book-length studies. ... illustrative quotations are splendidly chosen ... it is a crucial reference for any future study of Dunbar and should be acquired by libaries serving upper-division undergraduates, graduate students, researchers, and faculy' D.B. Harrington, Humanities
'a welcome new study focussing on how the poems are made'
'This is a penetrating study of Dunbar's skilled use of language, his varied genres, and the complex literary traditions behind his work. But Priscilla Bawcutt also has much to say about his social context and his audience, which is directly interesting to folklorists. Priscilla Bawcutt is an expert guide, thorough in scholarship and gifted with a clear style and a sharp eye for detail. Anyone wanting to explore this fascinating period should read her
Jacqueline Simpson, Folklore, 104 (1993)
'The detailed readings of individual poems which make up the bulk of the book never dazzle but at their best ... they practise a quiet systematic analysis under which detail after detail gleams into relief'
Donald MacKenzie, Scottish Literary Journal, Supplement No. 37, Winter 1992
'... deserves a warm welcome as a learned and sensitive reading of a major poet.'
Review of English Studies, Vol. 45 No 180, Nov '94
'it is the critical study that Dunbar enthusiasts have long awaited and no doubt will become the essential critical book on Dunbar during the next several years. Bawcutt, has proved herself an outstanding scholar of Middle Scots literature many times. Now she has succeeded in writing a scholarly book worthy of Scotland's very great poet.'
Studies in Scottish Literature. Vol XXVII
`Priscilla Bawcutt's study of Dunbar has been long and eagerly awaited; the book offers an authority and breadth that will not disappoint. It is a capacious, patient, affectionate authorial study - and a chef d'oeuvre - of a kind now uncommon in literary studies, at least on this side of the Atlantic. Bawcutt's careful attention to Dunbar's textual tradition is, though unassumingly presented, one of the cornerstones of the book's achievement.'