Arguing that outlaw narratives become particularly popular and poignant at moments of national ecological and political crisis, Sarah Harlan-Haughey examines the figure of the outlaw in Anglo-Saxon poetry and Old English exile lyrics such as Beowulf, works dealing with the life and actions of Hereward, the Anglo-Norman romance of Fulk Fitz Waryn, the Robin Hood ballads, and the Tale of Gamelyn. Although the outlaw's wilderness shelter changed dramatically from the menacing fens and forests of Anglo-Saxon England to the bright, known, and mapped greenwood of the late outlaw romances and ballads, Harlan-Haughey observes that the outlaw remained strongly animalistic, other, and liminal. His brutality points to a deep literary ambivalence towards wilderness and the animal, at the same time that figures such as the Anglo-Saxon resistance fighter Hereward, the brutal yet courtly Gamelyn, and Robin Hood often represent a lost England imagined as pristine and forested. In analyzing outlaw literature as a form of nature writing, Harlan-Haughey suggests that it often reveals more about medieval anxieties respecting humanity's place in nature than it does about the political realities of the period.
Table of Contents to come
Outlaws in Literature, History, and Culture examines the nature, function, and context of the outlaw and the outlawed — people, spaces, practices — in the pre-modern world, and in its modern representations. By its nature, outlawry reflects not only the outlawed, but the forces of law which seek to define and to contain it. Throughout the centuries, a wide and ever-changing, and yet ever familiar, variety of outlaw characters and narratives has captured the imagination of audiences both particular and general, local and global. This series seeks to reflect the transcultural, transgendered and interdisciplinary manifestations, and the different literary, political, socio-historical, and media contexts in which the outlaw/ed may be encountered from the medieval period to the modern.