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Reading the texts of Henryson’s Fables

Reading the texts of Henryson’s Fables

By Kevin J. McGinley

The Bottle Imp, Issue 4 (2008)

Introduction: Robert Henryson is undoubtedly one of the major figures not just of early Scottish literature, but of Scottish literature in general. His major works, The Moral Fables and The Testament of Cresseid, display an outstanding level of literary craftsmanship and philosophical depth. However, his works have come down to us in editorially unsatisfactory forms, mostly dating from late after the time of writing (c. 1480), copied from earlier versions that are now lost, and with texts that are incomplete or whose authority is far from clear. Yet what may be unsatisfactory for editors may be critically fruitful in other ways. Taking the Moral Fables as a preliminary test case, it may be possible to see that texts deemed faulty or deficient might still provide useful insights into the historical resonances and reception of Henryson’s work.

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