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Medieval Romance and Material Culture

Medieval Romance and Material Culture

Copyright Date: 2015
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    Medieval Romance and Material Culture
    Book Description:

    Materiality and the material are important in medieval romance. The essays here focus both on the physical forms of romance texts (manuscripts, verse form, illustrations and visual portryals), and on how romances themselves inhabit and reflect on the material culture of the Middle Ages. Specific themes discussed include social, historical, and physical space; bodies and gender politics; and romance illustrations in manuscripts, and in other media. Nicholas Perkins is University Lecturer and Tutor in medieval English, University of Oxford. Contributors: Siobhain Bly Calkin, Nancy Mason Bradbury, Aisling Byrne, Anna Caughey, Neil Cartlidge, Mark Cruse, Morgan Dickson, Rosalind Field, Elliott Kendall, Megan Leitch, Henrike Manuwald, Ad Putter, Raluca Radulescu, Robert Rouse,

    eISBN: 978-1-78204-433-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. List of Contributors
    (pp. xi-xi)
  5. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xii-xii)
  6. Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  7. 1 Introduction: The Materiality of Medieval Romance and The Erle of Tolous
    (pp. 1-22)

    The essays in this book explore how medieval romances respond to material culture, but also how romance itself helps to constitute and transmit that culture. In this introductory chapter I shall touch on how romances do this and why it might be important, but I should like to start with a very material example to provide a way of thinking about the theme of the collection.

    Folio 2 recto of Oxford, Bodleian Library MS Ashmole 45 is the title page for a copy of the romanceThe Erle of Tolous(plate I).¹ The title ‘The Story of the Erle of...

  8. 2 Courtly Culture and Emotional Intelligence in the Romance of Horn
    (pp. 23-40)

    TheRomance of Horn¹ is widely admired as one of the most impressive Insular romances of the twelfth century, ‘a neglected masterpiece’, ‘an astonishing and unprecedented—and perhaps unmatched—achievement’.² Despite its quality and importance, however, it has received comparatively little close attention. It is recognized as an important piece of evidence for our understanding of the wider political and cultural context within which Anglo-Norman romances were written—as in Laura Ashe’s important chapter—and appears regularly in discussions of the Horn story across two vernaculars and three centuries. But remarkably few studies have given attention to the detailed fabric...

  9. 3 Emplaced Reading, or Towards a Spatial Hermeneutic for Medieval Romance
    (pp. 41-58)

    To take a spatial approach to the study of medieval texts is to emphasize the importance of reading textsin place; a critical practice of context-driven interpretation which places an interpretive weight upon the geography of the place in which a text is consumed, producing what one might call anemplacedreading of a given text. This chapter is an experiment in just such a practice of reading: an attempt to reconstruct what a particular narrative may have meant to a community of readers in a particular place at a particular time. What I am interested in attempting here is...

  10. 4 Devotional Objects, Saracen Spaces and Miracles in Two Matter of France Romances
    (pp. 59-74)

    Caroline Walker Bynum argues inChristian Materialitythat the period between 1100 and 1550 is marked by a ‘prominence of holy matter’ in western Christian devotion.¹ ‘Issues of how matter behaved, both ordinarily and miraculously, when in contact with an infinitely powerful and ultimately unknowable God were key to devotion and theology’, she states, and these issues frequently manifested themselves as debates surrounding devotional objects.² In late-medieval England, one of the cultural debates that erupted most violently was that surrounding images and relics. Firmly enshrined in orthodox theology and ritual, these devotional objects came under attack from Wycliffite writers who...

  11. 5 The Werewolf of Wicklow: Shapeshifting and Colonial Identity in the Lai de Melion
    (pp. 75-90)

    This essay is an analysis of the implied cultural geography of theLai de Melion, an anonymous Old French narrative lay now extant only in a thirteenth-century manuscript in the Bibliothèque d’Arsenal in Paris.¹ What is argued here is that the Irish landscape in which Melion’s adventures are set is actually much more solidly and precisely imagined than is generally assumed; and that the complexity of the particular political and ethnic identities associated with this landscape is visibly figured in the bodily metamorphoses of the werewolf who is theLai’s eponymous protagonist.²

    Initially at least, this is not a text...

  12. 6 ‘Ladyes war at thare avowing’: The Female Gaze in Late-Medieval Scottish Romance
    (pp. 91-110)

    Throughout the canon of late-medieval Scottish secular writing, love and sex are frequently seen either as trivial distractions from the hero’s main business of achieving military victory, or as an active threat to his wellbeing. This is apparent in texts ranging from the history epicsThe Bruce(c. 1375) andThe Wallace(c. 1471–79), in which women and love endanger the heroes’ defence of the nation, to the 1460Buik of King Alexander the Conquerour, in which Alexander’s amorous adventures threaten his mission of conquest. In other Older Scots romances and romance-derived texts, the challenge of love is absent...

  13. 7 The Evolution of Cooperation in The Avowyng of Arthur
    (pp. 111-128)

    The Avowyng of Arthuris a materially and economically minded poem. Its monstrous boar of Carlisle, for instance, is a very material creature. ‘Masly made’ and exuding overpowering ‘smelle other smekis’, the boar is almost too much matter for Arthur to manage.¹ Tusks ‘of thre fote’ (191) and armour-like hide break apart flesh, vegetation and spearshaft until the king matches matter with matter. He drives his sword ‘inne atte the throte’ (249) and butchers the boar into more manageable body parts. Later and less violently, we see ‘mete’ and feeding help Baldwin to win contests at home and abroad. The...

  14. 8 Ritual, Revenge and the Politics of Chess in Medieval Romance
    (pp. 129-146)

    In theStanzaic Guy of Warwick, a prince and a sultan’s son begin a game of chess in which the contest rapidly expands beyond the bounds of the chequered board: one strikes the other in the face with a chess piece, before being bludgeoned to death by the chessboard in turn. In William Caxton’sThe Foure Sonnes of Aymon, the game of chess similarly offers the material for revenge and sociopolitical rupture. Here, the French vassal Renaud is provoked by Charlemagne’s nephew Berthelot during a chess match, and slays him with the chessboard—in this case, instigating a blood feud...

  15. 9 Adventures in the Bob-and-Wheel Tradition: Narratives and Manuscripts
    (pp. 147-164)

    In his annotated bibliographyEnglish Versification, 1570–1980, Terry V.F. Brogan delivered a damning verdict on the discipline of Middle English:

    In comparison with the study of OE verse, which is a discipline relatively coherent in its terms and its methods, our understanding of ME verse is far less advanced. One wonders why those departments charged with the study of the English language and its poetry have allowed this situation to persist […] Much work needs to be done. The study of ME verse may be as much as a century behind that of Old English.¹

    Since this was written,...

  16. 10 Reading King Robert of Sicily’s Text(s) and Manuscript Context(s)
    (pp. 165-182)

    The earliest known extant copies of the Middle English pious romanceRoberd of Cisyle(henceforthRobert)¹ survive in the compendious Vernon manuscript (Oxford, Bodleian Library MS Eng. poet. a. 1) and its sister, the Simeon manuscript (London, British Library Additional MS 22283), both dated to around the last decade of the fourteenth century.² OverallRobertis extant in ten manuscripts dated from the end of the fourteenth to the end of the fifteenth century.³ Its length in these witnesses ranges from 79 to 516 lines, with the ‘standard’ version being 444 lines (in Vernon and Simeon). The distribution of the...

  17. 11 The Circulation of Romances from England in Late-Medieval Ireland
    (pp. 183-198)

    The fifteenth century saw a striking upturn in the number of texts from foreign vernaculars that were translated into Irish. Indeed, one might go so far as to speak in terms of a ‘translation trend’ in Ireland during the mid- to late fifteenth century. A notable feature of this trend is that a particularly high number of these Irish translations are of romances; contextual and textual evidence suggests that the original exemplars for many of these translated texts appear to have come from England, though not all of them were necessarily in English. Irish translations of eight romances have survived...

  18. 12 The Image of the Knightly Harper: Symbolism and Resonance
    (pp. 199-214)

    This essay explores the symbolism and material contexts of a number of knightly figures who play the harp in twelfth-century Insular texts. Tristan is perhaps the best known of the harpers, and Horn is close at his heels, followed by the more problematic Hereward. The texts in which these figures appear differ significantly in form, and they find striking parallels in other twelfth-century works, including chronicles and saints’ lives.¹ Both Horn and Tristan either harp or refer to their harping in the course of their narratives and this particular attribute of the hero, reinforced by the stories of historic harpers...

  19. 13 Carving the Folie Tristan: Ivory Caskets as Material Evidence of Textual History
    (pp. 215-232)

    Secular carved ivories complement manuscripts in so far as they too testify to the overall ‘life’ of stories in the Middle Ages. In particular, the close connection between ivories and romance has been widely discussed.¹ Nonetheless, the relationship between word and image remains opaque. Even if an ivory can be clearly associated with a specific story, there is still the epistemo logical problem that the modern viewer is dependent on its written transmission in order to identify the story. The medieval viewer, by contrast, may have known variants of the story (circulating in written or oral form) that are now...

  20. Plates
    (pp. None)
  21. 14 Romancing the Orient: The Roman d’Alexandre and Marco Polo’s Livre du grand Khan in Oxford, Bodleian Library MS Bodl. 264
    (pp. 233-252)

    The oldest textual tradition of Marco Polo’s account of his travels in Asia between 1271 and 1295 survives in nineteen Old French manuscripts or fragments copied between the early fourteenth and the early sixteenth centuries.¹ Twelve copies—eighty percent of those whose original contents are known – are compilations, and across these twelve manuscripts a total of twenty other texts accompanies Polo’s account. Striking for their variety, these cotexts encompass numerous genres (a crusade chronicle, aroman d’antiquité, first-person travel accounts), historical periods (biblical and Greco-Roman antiquity, the 1320s) and personages (Alexander the Great, Franciscan monks, Prester John). Equally noteworthy are...

  22. 15 The Victorian Afterlife of The Thornton Romances
    (pp. 253-274)

    This essay takes its impetus from the thriving discipline of ‘book studies’ with its dual emphasis on the book as material object and as cultural force.¹ Of the five ‘events’ in the life of a book defined in a foundational article by Thomas R. Adams and Nicolas Barker—publication, manufacture, distribution, reception and survival—I limit my discussion to just two, publication and reception, in the life ofThe Thornton Romances, a volume edited by James Orchard Halliwell and published in London in 1844 by the Camden Society.¹ While studies of the literary sources for Victorian medievalism most often focus...

  23. Index
    (pp. 275-286)
  24. Back Matter
    (pp. 287-288)