My research specialism is Older Scots literature, particularly Older Scots romance and the history of the book.
The label Older Scots literature refers to the surviving body of literature written in Lowland Scots between c. 1375 and 1700. Its margins therefore span what we would think of as the Middle English, Early Modern, and even Restoration periods of English literature, and as a result, the body of literature which survives is unsurprisingly both rich and diverse. It ranges from The Bruce andThe Wallace, epic tales of the Anglo-Scots Wars of Independence by John Barbour and Blind Harry, to the varied work of the chameleonic poet William Dunbar, who wrote poems both praising and criticising the aureate court of James IV and his wife, Margaret Tudor.
Historical chronicles chart the development of the Scottish nation, romance literature scrutinises the kingship and knighthood of the great courts of King Arthur and Alexander the Great, dream visions and allegories reflect on the nature of love, and religious lyric extols the Virgin and Trinity in language which aspires to be worthy of its objects of praise. Two related themes in particular stand out: Sovereignty - both of the nation and individual- and Good Governance - how best to rule the public realm and the private body of the self.
My D.Phil. thesis offers the first book-length study of the entire corpus of Older Scots romance. Building on recent developments in Middle English romance scholarship and Older Scots book history, it contextualises the surviving corpus of Older Scots romances in light of their unique material witnesses and contemporary cultural milieu.
My monograph, The Trojan Legend in Medieval Scottish Literature begins in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries. During the Anglo-Scots Wars of Independence and subsequent Anglo-Scottish diplomatic exchange, Scottish writers developed an already nascent origin myth to counter that of the English who - following Geoffrey of Monmouth - traced their ancestry via King Arthur to Brutus and the Trojans. The English-Trojan origin myth was seized upon by Edward I and II to bolster their claims to lordship and ownership of Scotland. To counteract this, and instead prove Scotland’s independence and sovereignty, Scottish historians traced their nation’s origins to a Greek prince, Gaythelos, and his Egyptian wife, Scota. This appeal to an originally Irish origin legend enabled the Scots to derive their origins from a parent race at least as old as, if not older than, the Trojan remnant. That parent race was, moreover, most crucially victorious against the ancestors of the English in the Trojan War. My monograph sets out to discover how Older Scots writers represented and responded to the Trojan legend and their own Greek origin myth in the wake of this ‘war of historiography’.
It provides comprehensive and detailed analysis of a range of Older Scots texts that engage, either as a whole or in part, with the Matter of Troy. It seeks to determine whether there is a specifically Scottish response to the Trojan legend, and, if so, what form that response takes. It considers the way in which Scottish texts interact with English counterparts, and examines the extent to which the Scottish response to the Trojan legend develops over time. I began my project suspecting that Scottish writers might well adopt a hostile attitude towards the Trojan legend, but this assumption soon proved false. I have instead discovered that the Trojan legend was actively and successfully re-appropriated by Scottish writers and used increasingly not only as an origin myth and metaphor for Anglo-Scots political relations, but also as a locus through which poets might explore broader issues of good self and public governance and also questions of literary tradition, authority, and the nature of poetic truth.
New research projects
Reading and Writing Scotland's Royal Women c. 1424-1587
How did Scotland's queens and princesses use the written word? What role did books and literary texts play in the lives of these women as they married into and out of the Scottish royal family? To what extent did Scotland's royal women function as patrons of literary culture and agents of cultural transmission? Was their connection to literary and artistic culture a private or public (and political) phenomenon? How do the women from this one dynasty form part of a wider European network of female cultural patronage?
I am currently exploring these questions, and more, as I research and write a new monograph on the books and texts associated with the female members of Scotland’s medieval royal family. My work will be distinguished by its cross-border and cross-period approach - it adopts a ‘European’ approach to the study of literary history and examines a range of texts and individuals from across the traditional medieval/early modern divide. The monograph will consider the books and texts written, read, owned by and associated with a series of Scottish royal women from c. 1424-1587. It will compare and contrast the literary interests and textual representations of the female members of the Stewart dynasty and assess how these compare too with those of their English and European royal counterparts. It will also - and most significantly - evaluate the extent to which Scotland’s medieval queens and princesses functioned as agents of cultural transmission and change. By offering substantial historically- and materially-informed new research this book will function both as a discrete case-study of literary activity concerning Scotland’s royal women across the fifteenth and sixteenth century and as a leading example of the kind of future book-length work that might be undertaken on the literary activities of collective groups of women - royal or otherwise - in contemporary English and European dynasties.
Six Scottish Pieces: Courtly and Chivalric Poems Including Lyndsay's Squyer Meldrum, ed. Rhiannon Purdie and Emily Wingfield , TEAMS Middle English Texts Series (Kalamazoo: Medieval Institute Publications, forthcoming 2017-18)
An edition offering detailed individual introductions, glossed texts, textual and explanatory notes for the following: Sir David Lyndsay's 'Historie of Squyer Meldrum', 'Testament of Squyer Meldrum' and 'Answer to the Kingis Flyting' (ed. Purdie) and 'The Talis of the Fyve Bestis'; 'Ane ballet of the Nine Nobles'; 'Lament for the dauphinoise Margaret' (ed. Wingfield). Inc. 80,000 words of Introductory and explanatory material, split equally between editors.
I am also writing articles on culture at the court of David II of Scotland and his wife Queen Joan; Andrew of Wyntoun as a vernacular writer; and Robert Henryson and the literature of medieval Dunfermline.