Postcolonial Fictions in the 'Roman de Perceforest'
The ‘Roman de Perceforest’ was composed about 1340 for William I, Count of Hainaut. The vast romance, building on the prose romance cycles of the thirteenth century, chronicles an imaginary era of pre-Arthurian British history when Britain was ruled by a dynasty established by Alexander the Great. Its story of cultural rise, decline, and regeneration offers a fascinating exploration of medieval ideas about ethnic and cultural conflict and fusion, identity and hybridity. Drawing on the insights of contemporary postcolonial theory, Sylvia Huot examines the author's treatment of basic concepts such as 'nature' and 'culture', 'savagery' and 'civilisation'. Particular attention is given to the text's treatment of gender and sexuality as focal points of cultural identity, to its construction of the ethnic categories of 'Greek' and 'Trojan', and to its exposition of the ideological biases inherent in any historical narrative. Written in the fourteenth century, revived at the fifteenth-century Burgundian court, and twice printed in sixteenth-century Paris, ‘Perceforest’ is both a masterpiece of medieval literature and a vehicle for the transmission of medieval thought into the early modern era of global exploration and colonisation. SYLVIA HUOT is Reader in Medieval French Literature and Fellow of Pembroke College, Cambridge.
Subjects: Language & Literature
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