Session Title

Fools on the Premodern Page and Stage

Sponsoring Organization(s)

Special Session

Organizer Name

Angela Heetderks

Organizer Affiliation

Oberlin College

Presider Name

Joel Benabu

Presider Affiliation

Univ. of Toronto

Paper Title 1

"Jesters do oft prove prophets": Holy Foolishness and the Prophesying Jester of Chrétien de Troyes's Perceval

Presenter 1 Name

Jennifer Lopatin

Presenter 1 Affiliation

Indiana Univ.-Bloomington

Paper Title 2

Robert of Cisyle, King Turned Fool

Presenter 2 Name

Angela Heetderks

Paper Title 3

Madness and the Fool in King Lear and Titus Andronicus

Presenter 3 Name

Lauren Liebe

Presenter 3 Affiliation

Texas A&M Univ.

Start Date

12-5-2016 1:30 PM

Session Location

Sangren 1740

Description

Near the end of the Middle English romance Robert of Cisyle, the eponymous king—who has been punished for his pride by being made to serve as his own court’s fool—acknowledges the error of his former ways: “For he ys a fole [. . .] / That turneth hys wytt unto folye” (CUL Ff. 2. 38, ll. 398–9). Such condemnations of fools and folly—in Robert of Cisyle, underwritten by the pope and an angel—in no way served to stem the tide of medieval and early modern interest in fools and folly. Literary evidence shows that many premodern writers and their audiences “turn[ed their] wytt vn to folye”: fools filled the stage and page, pervading multiple literary genres.

Recently, scholars have begun to renew their interest in fools and folly in premodern European literature: books by Ralph Lerner (2009), Ruth von Bernuth (2009), Robert H. Bell (2011), Tim Prentki (2011), and Richard Preiss (2014) have all turned a new critical lens on the figure of the fool. The preponderance of this previous work has examined fools in early modern literature, particularly drama. This session seeks to enlarge the scope of current scholarship on fools and folly by eliciting new work on specifically the fools across medieval and early modern literatures. The session will take up such questions as: How is the fool portrayed across multiple premodern literary genres—poetry, prose, and drama? How would an enlarged understanding of the fool in poetry and prose enrich traditional critical accounts of the relationship of the Vice in medieval morality plays to the fools in early modern drama? How do literary characterizations of the fool influence religious and secular discourses on folly? What new accounts need to be given of how literary fool traditions across Europe inform and disagree with each other? How is the relationship between folly and madness variously delineated in medieval literary portrayals? How do contemporary critical theories of disability, class, and gender now inform our scholarly understanding of the fool, and what work needs to be done to expand our analytical vocabulary for discussing fools and folly?

This session will enhance scholarly understanding of the rich tradition of premodern fooling. Its investigation of multi-generic accounts of fools and folly will bring crucial new insights to an area of medieval and early modern literature that is ripe for new exploration.

Angela Heetderks

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May 12th, 1:30 PM

Fools on the Premodern Page and Stage

Sangren 1740

Near the end of the Middle English romance Robert of Cisyle, the eponymous king—who has been punished for his pride by being made to serve as his own court’s fool—acknowledges the error of his former ways: “For he ys a fole [. . .] / That turneth hys wytt unto folye” (CUL Ff. 2. 38, ll. 398–9). Such condemnations of fools and folly—in Robert of Cisyle, underwritten by the pope and an angel—in no way served to stem the tide of medieval and early modern interest in fools and folly. Literary evidence shows that many premodern writers and their audiences “turn[ed their] wytt vn to folye”: fools filled the stage and page, pervading multiple literary genres.

Recently, scholars have begun to renew their interest in fools and folly in premodern European literature: books by Ralph Lerner (2009), Ruth von Bernuth (2009), Robert H. Bell (2011), Tim Prentki (2011), and Richard Preiss (2014) have all turned a new critical lens on the figure of the fool. The preponderance of this previous work has examined fools in early modern literature, particularly drama. This session seeks to enlarge the scope of current scholarship on fools and folly by eliciting new work on specifically the fools across medieval and early modern literatures. The session will take up such questions as: How is the fool portrayed across multiple premodern literary genres—poetry, prose, and drama? How would an enlarged understanding of the fool in poetry and prose enrich traditional critical accounts of the relationship of the Vice in medieval morality plays to the fools in early modern drama? How do literary characterizations of the fool influence religious and secular discourses on folly? What new accounts need to be given of how literary fool traditions across Europe inform and disagree with each other? How is the relationship between folly and madness variously delineated in medieval literary portrayals? How do contemporary critical theories of disability, class, and gender now inform our scholarly understanding of the fool, and what work needs to be done to expand our analytical vocabulary for discussing fools and folly?

This session will enhance scholarly understanding of the rich tradition of premodern fooling. Its investigation of multi-generic accounts of fools and folly will bring crucial new insights to an area of medieval and early modern literature that is ripe for new exploration.

Angela Heetderks