A Postmodem Look at a Medieval Poet: The Case of William Dunbar

Goldyn_Targe - William DunbarA Postmodem Look at a Medieval Poet: The Case of William Dunbar

Joanne S. Norman

Studies in Scottish Literature: Vol. 26: Iss. 1. (1991)


Recently, Umberto Eco, that well-known postmodemist critic/writer, has lamented that “‘postmodem’ is a term bon atout jaire. I have the impression that it is applied today to anything the user happens to like. Further, there seems to be an attempt to make it increasingly retroactive in the last twenty years, then gradually it reached the beginning of the century, then still further back. And this reverse procedure continues; soon the postmodern category will include Homer.,, Although I do not share Eco’s negative response to this development, I do agree with his observation and, indeed, intend to take the “postmodem” term back in time, not to Homer, but at least to fIfteenth-century Scotland.

It is true that I happen to “like” the poetry of William Dunbar, but I also believe that postmodemism offers more than a chic term of approbation to be used carelessly across the literary spectrum. If modem readers/critics are applying the concepts of postmodemism to an ever-increasing range of literary and non-literary works, the reason may be that such concepts offer a model of interpretation that liberates the text to provoke new readings, new responses.

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