Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Authenticity and the Border Ballads

Title page of the third edition of
Reliques of Ancient English Poetry (1775).
(Source: Wikipedia)
An essay entitled ‘In Praise of Uncertainty: The Liminal Authenticity of the Border Ballads’ by Colin Younger has been published in Border Crossings (Cambridge Scholars, 2013). Colin argues that the Reivers of the Anglo-Scots borders embody a state of in-betweenness. They are neither English nor Scots, neither slave nor master, and their national status vacillates depending where they choose to be on any given day. Colin’s exploration of the Border Ballads interrogates debates over the putative authenticity of the corpus, and suggests that the perceived barbarity and lawlessness of the Borderers resulted  precisely from their existing on a buffer zone between two warring  countries. He maintains that the ballads which emerged from this zone came also from collective experiences and a common past and are therefore exemplars of an underlying connectedness. To this end he concludes that the debate over authenticity is an expression, not of the provenance of the ballads, but of the Romantic zeitgeist in which it is expressed.


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