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Stephen Basdeo: “The Rogue and the Outlaw: Towards a Cultural History of the Early Modern Underworld”

18 May, 2017 @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm

This Thursday lunchtime programme coordinated jointly by the postgraduate-run Early Modern Discussion Group and SCEMS welcomes Stephen Basdeo, PhD candidate at Leeds Trinity University.

The poem A Gest of Robyn Hode dates from the fifteenth century. It was not printed, however, until the early sixteenth century. While many scholars have studied the Gest in its medieval context, no researcher thus far has analysed it in its early modern context. The eponymous outlaw in the Gest is viewed positively. He is a man who ‘dyde pore men moch gode’, he and his outlaw fraternity live in the forest, and their brotherhood embodies the values of truth, fellowship, and honour. While Robin Hood and his men steal from people, they do so according to a clear moral code, vowing not to take from women, husbandmen, yeoman, knights, or squires. Moreover, Robin and his men were clearly identifiable, clad in suits of Lincoln-green. Yet the Gest was first printed at a period when a new type of criminal was emerging, the rogue. A much more menacing figure, these men and woman lived in the dingy courts and alleyways of Tudor London. They knew no moral code, but would steal from people indiscriminately. While they constituted a criminal fraternity, there was no honour amongst them, and they were ever-ready to betray one another if it was to their advantage. Perhaps most worryingly of all, they were not clearly identifiable, and looked like everybody else. Using early printed copies of A Gest of Robyn Hode and Elizabethan rogue literature, such as John Awdley’s Fraternity of Vagabonds (1561), the proposed paper examines the different perceptions of criminality between rural and urban spaces. The former was the domain of the ‘good’ outlaw, while the latter was the domain of the sinister rogue.

This event is kindly sponsored by the Arts & Humanities Post Graduate Forum. From February to May, the interdisciplinary Forum meets in the Humanities Research Institute at 1.05pm.


18 May, 2017
1:00 pm - 2:00 pm
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