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Boundaries in Medieval Romance

Boundaries in Medieval Romance

Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    Boundaries in Medieval Romance
    Book Description:

    Medieval romance frequently, and perhaps characteristically, capitalises on the dramatic and suggestive possibilities implicit in boundaries - not only the geographical, political and cultural frontiers that medieval romances imagine and imply, but also more metaphorical demarcations. It is these boundaries, as they appear in insular romances circulating in English and French, which the essays in this volume address. They include the boundary between reality and fictionality; boundaries between different literary traditions, modes and cultures; and boundaries between different kinds of experience or perception, especially the "altered states" associated with sickness, magic, the supernatural, or the divine. CONTRIBUTORS: HELEN COOPER, ROSALIND FIELD, MARIANNE AILES, PHILLIPA HARDMAN, ELIZABETH BERLINGS, SIMON MEECHAM-JONES, ELIZABETH WILLIAMS, ARLYN DIAMOND, ROBERT ROUSE, LAURA ASHE, JUDITH WEISS, IVANA DJORDJEVIC, CORINNE SAUNDERS

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-613-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-vii)
  4. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. viii-ix)
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. x-x)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)
    Neil Cartlidge

    The boundaries addressed in this volume are of various kinds. They include not only the geographical, political and cultural frontiers that medieval romances imagine and imply, but also more metaphorical demarcations, such as the boundary between reality and fictionality; boundaries between different literary traditions, modes and cultures; and boundaries between different kinds of experience or perception, especially the ‘altered states’ associated with sickness, magic, the supernatural or the divine. All of the essays in this volume demonstrate in one way or another how medieval romances frequently, and perhaps characteristically, capitalize on the dramatic or suggestive possibilities implicit in all such...

  7. 1 When Romance Comes True
    (pp. 13-28)
    Helen Cooper

    The romances that form the subject of this paper were not written by famous named authors, or by identifiable poetic masters. Almost all are anonymous, and so do not lend themselves to the kind of traditional criticism that one can apply to writers who have a known life and context; and since the dates of composition and the intended audiences for some are uncertain, and others are translations of works originally written within different political circumstances and a different social and linguistic culture, it is not at all easy to historicize them in the new or the old senses. They...

  8. 2 The Curious History of the Matter of England
    (pp. 29-42)
    Rosalind Field

    The discussion of several of the texts central to our understanding of insular romance habitually employs the familiar term ‘Matter of England’. The familiarity has encouraged a comfortable sense of the meaning and value of the term; this paper aims to investigate whether such confidence is well-founded and to trace the development and use of the term, and its effect on the perception of the romances associated with it.

    The term ‘Matter’ is modelled on Bodel’s famous classification of the subjects of narrative into the three Matters of France, Rome and Britain, a genuine, and rare, glimpse into the medieval...

  9. 3 How English Are the English Charlemagne Romances?
    (pp. 43-56)
    Marianne Ailes and Phillipa Hardman

    In 1879 the Early English Text Society published its edition ofSir Ferumbras,the first volume in a series collectively entitled ‘The English Charlemagne Romances’. Ten more texts appeared in the series, including both verse romances and prose translations.¹ This collective treatment was not given to any other body of works related purely by subject matter – there was no series entitled ‘The English Romances of Antiquity’, or ‘The English King Arthur Romances’, for example, though plenty of texts were available in the Society’s publications for either grouping. Intrigued by this unique treatment, we propose to investigate the extent to which...

  10. 4 The Sege of Melayne – A Comic Romance; or, How the French Screwed Up and ‘Oure Bretonns’ Rescued Them
    (pp. 57-70)
    Elizabeth Berlings

    The deliberate mixture of the comic and the serious is perhaps characteristic of medieval culture; for it appears in marginalia, hagiography, the drama, thechansons de gesteand romances. Yet the comic dimensions of theSege of Melaynehave gone unrecognized, and the poem continues to puzzle readers.¹ While commentators have focused onMelayne’s ‘serious’ aspects and have sought to explain its oddities by relating them to other genres, the poem actually contains far more oddities than have been noted, and when all its unusual features are viewed together, the dominant pattern appears to be one of comedy.

    In addition...

  11. 5 Romance Society and its Discontents: Romance Motifs and Romance Consequences in The Song of Dermot and the Normans in Ireland
    (pp. 71-92)
    Simon Meecham-Jones

    One of the most important developments in the continuing rehabilitation of the often neglected and critically derided genre of romance over the past twenty years is the increasing acceptance of romance not as a literary ‘walled garden’, divorced from the expression of political struggles of medieval Europe, but as a witness for the cultural preoccupations and psychological tensions of their time of production. Indeed, the extensive production and wide circulation of romance in medieval Europe might encourage expectations that the romance form – reckoned by Pearsall to be ‘the principal secular literature of entertainment of the Middle Ages’¹ – should offer a...

  12. 6 England, Ireland and Iberia in Olyuer of Castylle: The View from Burgundy
    (pp. 93-102)
    Elizabeth Williams

    The Hystorye of Olyuer of Castylleis a late prose romance known only from a single copy now in the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York.¹ The title is editorial, and it is derived from the colophon of that copy, since the title-page is missing.² The romance was printed by Wynkyn de Worde in 1518; and it is a close translation by Henry Watson of a French original written by Philippe Camus in the court of Philip the Good of Burgundy some time in the 1450s.³ Nothing else seems to be known about Camus, and not much about Watson, except...

  13. 7 The Alliterative Siege of Jerusalem: The Poetics of Destruction
    (pp. 103-114)
    Arlyn Diamond

    Unlike many of the romances medievalists work on, the alliterativeSiege of Jerusalemhas been the object of a number of thought-provoking articles in recent years, after a long period of the kind of neglect still common to most of the other alliterative romances. An entire book has been devoted to a careful summary of scholarship on the poem and after seventy years there is a new edition.¹ And yet, the critics who have worked on it, while acknowledging its poet’s literary skills, have not been led to see in it hitherto unnoticed virtues, as usually happens to those of...

  14. 8 The Peace of the Roads: Authority and auctoritas in Medieval Romance
    (pp. 115-128)
    Robert Rouse

    The fourteenth-century romanceHavelok the Danebegins with a depiction of the ideal state of royal rule that was enforced within England under King Athelwold.¹

    It was a king bi are-dawes

    That inhis time were gode lawes

    He dede maken an ful wel holden. –

    Hym louede yung, him louede holde

    Erl and barun, dreng andþayn,

    Knict, bondeman, and swain,

    Wydues, maydnes, prestes, and clerkes,

    And al for hise gode werkes.

    He louede God with al his micth,

    And Holi Kirke, and soth and ricth.

    Ricthwise men he louede alle,

    And oueral made hem for to calle.

    Wreieres of...

  15. 9 The Hero and his Realm in Medieval English Romance
    (pp. 129-148)
    Laura Ashe

    The point of departure for this paper is the fact that, for the authors of Anglo-Norman and Middle English romance, there was no available word unambiguously denoting the concept of the ‘hero’. Both the classicalherosand the GermanicHeld/hæleðhad always implied a range of different meanings, but the vernacular writers of post-Conquest England worked with languages in which no direct descendant of either of them continued to be in common usage. The diagram below is a simplified illustration of this development.

    The classical Latinheroshad its own ambivalences. Associated with ancient demigods on the one hand, it...

  16. 10 ‘The Courteous Warrior’: Epic, Romance and Comedy in Boeve de Haumtone
    (pp. 149-160)
    Judith Weiss

    InBoeve de Haumtone,the earliest version of the Bevis story,¹ there is a line that praises the hero as: ‘li pruz e li sené, li curteis guerer’ (the valiant and wise, the courteous warrior, line 2791). These terms, especiallycurteisandguerer,provoke questions about generic boundaries and, in particular, about the extent to which early insular romance might be said to escape the generic boundaries of ‘romance’ more generally. We might relate this issue to Horace’s concept of decorum: characters should speak and behave appropriately according to their rank and the genre to which they are allotted, and...

  17. 11 Rewriting Divine Favour
    (pp. 161-174)
    Ivana Djordjević

    Tangible manifestations of divine favour abound in popular romances. Visible and invisible heavenly messengers offer advice, warning and admonition, and otherwise intervene in the affairs of the hero. At times unsolicited and even unwelcome, such interventions are more often the result of a direct request for assistance from above. Like many other elements of the popular romance, the hero’s plea for divine help tends to be formulated in fairly conventional terms. It elicits a response that is invariably positive but can assume a variety of forms, the variability helping to maintain narrative tension in a genre that needs to make...

  18. 12 Bodily Narratives: Illness, Medicine and Healing in Middle English Romance
    (pp. 175-190)
    Corinne Saunders

    Among the motifs that approach, call into question and transgress the boundaries of romance are illness, medicine and healing. They can mark dramatic narrative shifts and elicit new modes of understanding, recalling the fragility of the human, but also proving individual strength, and gesturing towards the boundary between life and death. They also stand at the boundaries of romance in their links to other discourses: natural philosophy, medical writing, theology and other literary genres, in particular devotional writing and hagiography. The limits to human intervention in illness in this period, and the enigmatic nature of sickness and cure, illuminate the...

  19. Index
    (pp. 191-198)
  20. Back Matter
    (pp. 199-199)