IMC 2004: Sessions

Session 1122: Fun and Games: Structures of Humour and Play in Middle English Literature

Wednesday 14 July 2004, 11.15-12.45

Moderator/Chair:Margaret Mary Raftery, Department of English & Classical Languages, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein
Paper 1122-aCalvary versus Candy Mountain: Axiological Contest in the Middle English Land of Cokaygne
(Language: English)
Ben Parsons, School of English, University of Sheffield
Index terms: Language and Literature - Middle English, Mentalities
Paper 1122-bSchadenfreude and Sympathy: The Rhetoric of Humour in Chaucer
(Language: English)
Christopher E. Crane, United States Naval Academy, Annapolis
Index terms: Language and Literature - Middle English, Rhetoric
Paper 1122-cProvidential Games in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
(Language: English)
Kurtis Haas, School of Humanities & Social Sciences, Mesa State College, Colorado
Index terms: Language and Literature - Middle English

session grouped by Catherine Batt (21/11/03):
Abstract paper -a:
This paper applies Cerquiglini’s conception of the fabliau as montage to the Middle English Land of Cokaygne (c.1250). ‘Cokaygne’ is considered as an arena in which priestly and demotic cultures compete. This competition is regarded as a primarily satiric manoeuvre: the totalising ideal of Heaven is relativised by the neighbouring presence of Cokaygne, its third-estate equivalent. Cokaygne in fact presents a systematic challenge to each of Heaven’s epistemic claims, exposing its verities as mere possibilities. The function of this interrogation is explored, how far it can be termed a defence of Christian eschatology, how far an unorthodox attack.
Abstract paper -b:
This paper will explore two distinct types of humor appearing in Chaucer’s poetry: that which evokes ‘schadenfreude’, the laughter of derision, and that which arouses sympathetic laughter. In addition to entertaining the audience, these two types often operate rhetorically for a more earnest purpose, either among Chaucer’s characters or between Chaucer and his audience. I will look at the relationship between this rhetoric and the structure of the humor it employs, revealing some patterns which are useful in better understanding not only Chaucer’s poetry, but also more broadly, the complex relationship between persuasion and comedy.
Abstract paper -c:
The predominance of gaming in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight has produced a wealth of interesting criticism, most of which uses modern notions of game and play – particularly Huizinga’s seminal Homo Ludens – to understand the universe of the poem. This paper will build on those insights by more carefully examining medieval notions of gaming and, particularly, its connections to medieval notions of providence and destiny. Gawain, the paper finds, is held victim by his inability to distinguish the structure of the games he plays (or is forced to play) from the structure of the divinely built world in which he lives.