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Anglicising Romance

Anglicising Romance: Tail-Rhyme and Genre in Medieval English Literature

Volume: 9
Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 284
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  • Book Info
    Anglicising Romance
    Book Description:

    Tail-rhyme romance unites a French genre with a continental stanza form, so why was it developed only in Middle English literature? For English audiences, tail-rhyme becomes inextricably linked with the romance genre in a way thatno other verse form does.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-609-0
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-viii)
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-xii)
  6. Introduction Tail-Rhyme Romance and English Literary History
    (pp. 1-12)

    Despite the heavy dependence of Middle English romance throughout its history on the romance and chanson de geste traditions in French and Anglo-Norman literature,¹ the tail-rhyme romance is, as far as we know, unique to Middle English. But in Middle English literature, tail-rhyme becomes inextricably linked with the romance genre itself in a way that no other verse form does. This offers some justification for the critical tradition of treating them as a coherent group in a way that couplet romances, for example, are not.² The thirty-six romances written wholly or partially in tail-rhyme account for just over a third...

  7. 1 Stanza Origins
    (pp. 13-31)

    Meaning and significance are not innate to verse form: they can only be acquired through habitual usage. There is nothing inherently funny in the metrical structure of a limerick, for example, although the built-in anticipation of its final rhyme-word happens to lend itself well to comic effect. The limerick stanza could, in theory, be used for serious material, but any previous experience of the form will lead people to expect comedy as soon as they recognise its familiar rhythm, so the likely result would be confusion. It is a rather more complex business to establish what expectations might have been...

  8. 2 The Anglo-Norman and Early Middle English Inheritance
    (pp. 32-65)

    Latin Victorine sequences may have been influential in developing the tail-rhyme stanza, but it is a tremendous leap from Latin hymnody to secular romance, even for a poet familiar with both traditions. A more immediate context for the genesis of the Middle English tail-rhyme romance was the much more varied and flexible tradition of tail-rhyme poetry that developed in Anglo-Norman and earlier Middle English literature. A better understanding of this may help to solve the mystery of why the authors of the first Middle English tail-rhyme romances decided to reject the metrical forms previously employed for romance or chanson de...

  9. 3 Manuscripts, Scribes and Transmission
    (pp. 66-92)

    Chapter one investigated the origins of the tail-rhyme stanza itself – where it might have come from, and what kinds of texts used it initially – while chapter two surveyed the tail-rhyme poetry of Anglo-Norman and earlier Middle English literature in order to get a sense of the immediate literary context for the birth of tail-rhyme romance. This chapter focuses on a different aspect of the history of the tail-rhyme romance: the role of scribes and scribal practices in shaping the tail-rhyme romance. The study of ‘transmission’ has often been caught up with the traditional (if misleading) dichotomy between oral...

  10. 4 The Auchinleck Manuscript and the Beginnings of Tail-Rhyme Romance
    (pp. 93-125)

    One cannot go far in the study of Middle English romance without encountering the Auchinleck manuscript. Although it does not contain the earliest surviving examples of Middle English romance (the couplet romances of King Horn, Havelok and Floris and Blauncheflur exist in earlier copies), it is by far the earliest of manuscripts containing Middle English material to foreground the genre: roughly three-quarters of its bulk is taken up by its seventeen romances.¹ And of course it does contain the earliest examples of tail-rhyme romance. This fact alone would make the study of it inevitable in a history of the origins...

  11. 5 The Geography of Tail-Rhyme Romance
    (pp. 126-150)

    The main purpose of this chapter is to provide a narrative gloss for the Survey of Provenance in the Appendix, to which readers should refer for the background to any comments made here on the provenance, date or or manuscript record of a given tail-rhyme romance. One question which this survey might be expected to answer is the most literal version of the question underlying this entire volume: where did tail-rhyme romance come from? Was it, as Trounce argued, originally the product of a single, local literary community? Underlying Trounce’s proposal of a geographic centre of origin is an assumption...

  12. Appendix The Survey of Provenance
    (pp. 153-242)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 243-262)
  14. Index of Manuscripts Cited
    (pp. 263-264)
  15. General Index
    (pp. 265-272)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 273-273)