Middle Dutch Arthurian Romances: New Readings

By Johnson, David F. | Arthuriana, January 1, 2007 | Go to article overview

Middle Dutch Arthurian Romances: New Readings


Johnson, David F., Arthuriana


The Summer 2005 issue of this journal took as its theme, 'Middle Dutch Arthurian Romances: What are They and Why should We read Them?' That was the first of two issues of Arthuriana proposed to me by its editor, Bonnie Wheeler. This second issue dealing with Middle Dutch Arthurian literature is devoted to readings by experts in other national traditions who have (with one notable exception) no previous knowledge of the Middle Dutch romances. The idea was straightforward: what would readers with expertise in Arthurian literature in general make of romances from this 'lesser' tradition that they had never read before? Colleagues who had published on the English, French, German, and/or Latin traditions were asked to choose one or more of five of the interpolated romances1 in the Lancelot Compilation (The Hague, Koninklijke Bibliotheek MS 129 A 10), and have at it. You have the results before you.

The first contribution here, Thomas Kerth's 'Arthurian Tradition and the Middle Dutch Torec,' demonstrates quite thoroughly how a romance that may at first sight seem to fall outside of the Arthurian realm has in fact been heavily influenced by Chrétien de Troyes and the German romanciers who came after him.

James Morey reads the same romance partially refracted through the lens of Book One of Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene in 'Torec, Cosmic Energy, and Pragmatism,' while Lucy Perry looks at characterization in 'Masculine Excess, Feminine Restraint, and Fatherly Guidance in the Middle Dutch Walewein ende Keye,' and provides a reading of that romance's central character, Walewein-'der aventuren vader' [The Father of Adventures]. Both of these essays shed new interpretive light on their subjects and represent fresh perspectives on the Torec and Walewein ende Keye.

Ad Putter's contribution, 'Walewein ende Keye and the Strategies of Honor,' achieves the same result for Walewein ende Keye, in this case by his brilliant application of Pierre Bourdieu's 'symbolic economy' of honor in the romance.

In '"Seldom does anyone listen to a good exemplum": Courts and Kings in Torec and Die Riddere metter Mouwen,' SÎan Echard reads 'outsider' characters in Torec and the Riddere metter Mouwen by comparing them to the Latin romances Historia Meriadoci and De Ortu Waluuanii, exposing the nature of Arthur's court and showing 'how both the Latin and Dutch traditions can make of this most famous of courts a useful exemplum.

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