Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Medieval Romance, Medieval Contexts

Medieval Romance, Medieval Contexts

Volume: 14
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 208
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Medieval Romance, Medieval Contexts
    Book Description:

    The essays in this volume take a representative selection of English and Scottish romances from the medieval period and explore some of their medieval contexts, deepening our understanding not only of the romances concerned but also of the specific mediev

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-839-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-vii)
  4. Contributors
    (pp. viii-viii)
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-x)
  6. Introduction: Romance and its Medieval Contexts
    (pp. 1-8)

    No literature exists in a vacuum. Meaning is generated through context, or rather contexts, since there will always be several that apply at any one point and these will change and multiply over time. This is no less true of medieval romance than of any other genre of literature, and no single study is likely to address all of the relevant contexts for a genre as widespread and popular – in sheer numbers and variety of readers – as medieval romance. The aim of the present collection of essays is to take a selection of English and Scottish romances from...

  7. 1 The Pleasure of Popular Romance: A Prefatory Essay
    (pp. 9-18)

    This piece aims to provide a particular context for the essays that follow by revisiting an essay on Middle English popular romances that I published nearly fifty years ago.¹ It is an essay that has been frequently cited, though in a manner that is instructive of historical change. In early years, it was quoted with sometimes enthusiastic approval, but in recent years it has been increasingly singled out for criticism as an example of an outdated mode of approach. A recent scholar, writing on Havelok, is representative: she quotes one of the essay’s many caustic criticisms of popular romance and...

  8. 2 Representations of Peasant Speech: Some Literary and Social Contexts for The Taill of Rauf Coilyear
    (pp. 19-34)

    This essay offers some fresh contexts for reading The Taill of Rauf Coilyear, one of many late medieval narratives that sit uneasily, and therefore intriguingly, within the generic category ‘medieval romance’. Preserved in a printed edition of 1572, the tale is nevertheless ‘medieval’: its composition is generally dated to the later fifteenth century, and scholars regularly extend the boundary of medieval Scots poetry well into the sixteenth.¹ Rauf Coilyear’s claims to the designation ‘romance’ include the appearance of the cyclical romance hero Charlemagne among its characters, the adaptation of an alliterative stanza form shared by a subset of English romances...

  9. 3 ‘As ye have brewd, so shal ye drink’: the Proverbial Context of Eger and Grime
    (pp. 35-46)

    At first glance, the Older Scots romance Eger and Grime seems to be a stereotypical medieval tale about prowess, revenge and love. Perhaps this is why Eger and Grime has not been extensively studied. In general, medieval romances entertain, and this is certainly true of Eger and Grime. However, romances also convey, strengthen and uphold social bonds, opinions, prejudices, hopes and fears. In this they function very much like proverbs. Proverbial sayings ‘propose a world of moral implications to those who pause to consider them’.¹ By pausing thus over the proverbs deployed in romances, one may gain a better understanding...

  10. 4 Ekphrasis and Narrative in Emaré and Sir Eglamour of Artois
    (pp. 47-60)

    The worlds created by Middle English romances are frequented by important objects (often gifts), by exchanges of tokens and promises, and by protagonists who are regularly both party to and subjects of exchange. One way of reading these objects and exchanges is to categorize them as narrative clutter: a naïve or aspirational fascination with luxury materials, or clumsy plot devices that rely on formulaic social actions. Another is to assign symbolic or associative meaning to them: in these readings, objects and exchanges provide structural or psychological motifs denoting a larger arena of meaning.¹ While not discounting such approaches, this essay...

  11. 5 What’s in a Name? Anglo-Norman Romances or Chansons de geste?
    (pp. 61-76)

    Whilst many Middle English romances were derived from Anglo-Norman texts in the form of chanson de geste, there is a long established view that there was no such thing as an Anglo-Norman chanson de geste.¹ The Anglo-Norman versions of Horn and Boeve de Haumtone, both described by Dominica Legge as ‘romances in chanson de geste form’,² are usually discussed with the other so-called ‘ancestral’ romances such as Gui de Warewic, Waldef, Havelok and Fouke Fitz Warin.³ Anglo-Norman redactions of continental chansons de geste have been labelled ‘chansons de geste’ but these are generally seen as ‘mere adaptations’ and given little...

  12. 6 ‘For Goddes loue, sir, mercy!’: Recontextualising the Modern Critical Text of Floris and Blancheflor
    (pp. 77-90)

    The extant manuscripts of the Middle English Floris and Blancheflor present certain challenges both to modern editors and to the scholars who rely on their critical editions. Presented in most modern editions – and, thus, behind most modern studies – is the relatively straightforward tale of two young lovers, separated by both class and faith: Floris is a prince and Blancheflor is a slave’s daughter; Floris is a heathen and Blancheflor a Christian. The two are forced apart by Floris’s father but eventually reunited, at which point Floris converts to Christianity and the two are wed. This simple tale is...

  13. 7 Roland in England: Contextualising the Middle English Song of Roland
    (pp. 91-104)

    British Library MS Lansdowne 388 is a composite volume formed by the convenient binding together of a number of quite unrelated smaller manuscripts of different dates. One of these (now folios 381–95) contains the unique Middle English text known as The Song of Roland. The incomplete manuscript copy has no title or running head – The Song of Roland is the title given to this fragmentary medieval poem by its first modern editor.¹ The Catalogue of the Lansdowne Collection describes it as follows: ‘Item 21. A fragment of an old romance, in alliterative metre, on the gests of Charlemagne...

  14. 8 Romance Baptisms and Theological Contexts in The King of Tars and Sir Ferumbras
    (pp. 105-120)

    While romances may be secular narratives, they make frequent use of religion to entertain their audiences. Characters often engage in prayer or pilgrimage, and masses, marriages and baptisms regularly appear. Although it is not particularly helpful to sift romance depictions of religious ceremonies for evidence about liturgical practices, it is intriguing to reverse the process and consider the ways in which romances engage the cultural ideas of their day. This essay examines how late medieval theological understandings of baptism are taken up in two fourteenth-century English romances, The King of Tars and Sir Ferumbras. Theological and romance depictions of baptism...

  15. 9 Modern and Medieval Views on Swooning: the Literary and Medical Contexts of Fainting in Romance
    (pp. 121-134)

    The most famous literary swoon in insular literature is probably Troilus’s, in Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde. Although I do not wish to make this swoon the principal focus of my look at fainting in romances, it is instructive to start with it, because recent reactions to it have been polarised and as a result might perhaps skew our attitudes to other fainting men and women in medieval literature. In my necessarily incomplete investigation of when and why medieval fictional people faint, and who do so, I have primarily used examples from insular romances in Anglo-Norman and English, and have sought...

  16. 10 Walking (between) the Lines: Romance as Itinerary/Map
    (pp. 135-148)

    As Georges Perec observes, our personal experience of the world is lamentably finite. As much – or as little – as one seeks to travel, one will never experience the entire world. The only way we can know the world outside of our personal experience is necessarily at a remove. Our geographical knowledge of the overwhelming majority of the world is thus mediated through text, image, narrative. No less true for the modern age, this was particularly the case during the medieval period, where the geographical radii of peoples’ lives, as well as their exposure to geographical media, were commonly...

  17. 11 Romances of Continuity in the English Rous Roll
    (pp. 149-160)

    Both romance and genealogy depend on the idea of continuity: romance because it is narrative, obviously, and genealogy because its function is to connect the present with the past, to make links and trace lineage. In both romance and genealogy, continuity – fictive or historical – may be constructed or foregrounded when issues of identity or inheritance are at stake. In late medieval England, especially, the interests of chivalric romance and of genealogy converged powerfully;¹ certainly they did so in the work of a fifteenth-century Warwickshire chantry priest, John Rous, whose armorial rolls pressed both romance and genealogy into the...

  18. 12 ‘Ex Libris domini duncani / Campbell de glenwrquhay/ miles’: The Buik of King Alexander the Conquerour in the household of Sir Duncan Campbell, seventh laird of Glenorchy
    (pp. 161-174)

    The Buik of King Alexander the Conquerour (hereafter BKA) is one of two surviving Older Scots Alexander romances.¹ In a little over nineteen thousand lines, this romance offers a full biography of Alexander’s career, conquests and death. It supplements its main source, the second recension of the Latin Historia de Preliis, by drawing not only upon the Old French Roman d’Alexandre, and interpolations to it such as the Voeux du Paon and Voyage au Paradis,² but also upon the pseudo-Aristotelian Secreta Secretorum and several pieces of otherwise-independent Older Scots conduct literature.³

    BKA is extant in British Library Additional MS 40732...

  19. 13 ‘Pur les francs homes amender’: Clerical Authors and the Thirteenth-Century Context of Historical Romance
    (pp. 175-188)

    The Anglo-Norman romances offer a welcome exception to the widespread anonymity of insular romance. Since Legge’s seminal work,¹ these romances have been confidently associated with the milieu of the Anglo-Norman baronial class, and with places and events close to their world. Legge sees them as ‘ancestral’, others, such as Crane, as more generally representing the tastes and interests of the baronial class.² Something is known, and more persuasively speculated, about their patrons, and many of their authors are named. The argument as to whether or not these romances can be read as ‘ancestral’ has long focused interest on patronage, as...

  20. INDEX
    (pp. 189-196)
  21. Back Matter
    (pp. 197-198)