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172 letters in canada 2002 university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 1, winter 2003/4 Graham Sumner removed the contradiction in the evidence much more convincingly than Barrett when he suggested that Claudius confused his avus the triumvir with his abavus, the grandfather of the triumvir, the great orator M. Antonius who is one of the main interlocutors in Cicero=s De Oratore. (TIMOTHY BARNES) R. Andrew McDonald, editor. History, Literature, and Music in Scotland, 700B1560 University of Toronto Press. xx, 238. $45.00 A decade or so ago, a slim miscellany of specialized essays on medieval Scotland might have seemed timely and practicable; now, few publishers indeed, even Scottish ones, would commit themselves to such a project. Undaunted, the title of this book sweeps dramatically across disciplines and centuries. History, Literature, and Music in Scotland does not, significantly, point out a thematic path along which readers may negotiate ruggedly unfamilar Scottish terrain. Rather than establish such a theme in the introduction to the volume, the editor celebrates the recent burgeoning of historical research and writing about medieval Scotland, and offers this collection of essays as instances of the vitality and diversity of Scottish historiography today. Taken together, the editor declares, these essays exemplify the critical assemblage of disparate sources. Any reader not already comfortably ensconced within the discipline of Scottish history may be forgiven for being unconvinced by such assertions of cohesion. Not often enough do these essays take into account the possibility that the reader may be unfamiliar with the material: convolutions of chronology and topic frustrate the reader not already at home with the specific topic. Too often, a review of the state of the question about the authorship and transmission of quite abstruse texts obviates any more enabling and inviting presentation of the important topics broached in the essays themselves. The editor has not articulated a dynamic for the book beyond its serving as a showcase for Scottish studies. Consequently, the writing often lacks cohesion: crowded background instead of significant focus. Some of the essays in this book hesitate between general and specialized interest, and end up neither good introductions nor especially groundbreaking studies. Promising an effectively tight focus on the depiction in saga and legend of St Magnus of Orkney, George M. Brunsden=s >Earls and Saints= leads its reader through a cluttered review of events and sources. R. Andrew McDonald sets out in >Soldiers Most Unfortunate= to identify the sources and significance of regional hostility towards the pro-Norman Scottish monarchy of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, but surveys the opposition of the MacHeths and the MacWilliams to the Canmore dynasty. Margaret McIntyre reviews historians= criticisms of Margaret Tudor before alluding to Louise Fradenburg=s trenchantly revisionary studies of the humanities 173 university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 1, winter 2003/4 controversial queen; Fradenburg=s attention to literary depictions of Margaret is unfortunately not reflected here. Here, involved contexts substitute for specific findings. Several essays in the collection purport to develop connections between literature and history in medieval Scotland. At the start of >The Scottish Gaze,= Benjamin T. Hudson promises to identify the >literary flavour= to the historical tradition founded in Iona and continued at Dunkeld; specific literary qualities B sobriquets, archaisms, refrains, and ethical comment B only begin to emerge at the end of this essay. In >Off quhat nacioun art thow?= B studying the assertion of national feeling in Hary=s Wallace B Richard J. Moll draws deeply on R. James Goldstein=s The Matter of Scotland but insufficiently on recent research into Lowland attitudes towards Gaelic language and culture. The recurrent derivativeness of the work seems at times inadvertent: in >Carnival at Court,= on William Dunbar=s dream vision >Off Februar the fyiftene nycht,= Mary E. Robbins indicates no awareness of the by-now standard Bakhtinian readings of Dunbar by Deanna Evans and Joanne Norman, and surveys ground thoroughly covered already. It is thus a pleasure to come upon Elizabeth Ewan=s >Many Injurious Words.= Subtly contextualized, skilfully paced, and rich in implication, this essay advances our understanding of the motives and provocations for latemedieval Scottish women=s recourse to verbal and physical assault. Likewise, Andrea Budgey=s...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 172-173
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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