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“The Medieval Dark Horse: Challenge and Reward in the Middle English Lyric” explores the genre’s history and literary merits while addressing the question of why this valuable and extensive body of literature has largely gone untapped by scholars.

The introductory sections detail the historical and modern contexts of the lyric, including the state of scholarship, manuscripts, editions, dating issues, purpose, audience, types of lyrics, and themes. This background informs a discussion of the genre’s difficulties and offers solutions with which to counter them. Close readings of eight poems are included to exemplify the lyric’s thematic range, stylistic diversity, and literary worth.

The goal of this study is to demonstrate that, despite its inherent challenges, the lyric is an important part of the Middle English corpus. While Chaucer continues to enjoy a plethora of scholarly attention, the lyric offers tremendous complexity and depth that is no less valuable and should not be ignored.


A Thesis Submitted to the School of Graduate Studies in Partial Fulfillment of the requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts, Southern Connecticut State University, New Haven, Connecticut, December 2012.



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