Gender and History in Medieval English Romance and Chronicle

Gender and History in Medieval English Romance and Chronicle

Gender and History in Medieval English Romance and Chronicle

Gender and History in Medieval English Romance and Chronicle

Synopsis

"This reading of canonical texts of medieval English literature - Sir Gawain and the Green Night and Chaucer's Man of Law's Tale - alongside Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia regum Brianniae and other Anglo-Norman and English chronicles offers a broader context for reading the romance narratives and re-evaluates romance conventions in light of the genealogical priorities of these chronicles. By arguing that maternity is featured as a position of power, Gender and History in Medieval English Romance and Chronicle adds to our understanding of women and sovereignty, and the ways gender and authority were rhetorically linked to medieval texts." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

odern culture draws a clear distinction between the categories of fiction and history. The post-Romantic notion of the creator- poet makes fiction the original work of an imaginative force. The writing of history requires systematic research to ascertain the veracity of real events before recounting them in narrative form or analyzing the data. In the later European Middle Ages, however, different conceptions of narrative were at work. Verse romance existed in the same courtly milieu as prose historiography—both recounted stories of the past, be they legendary material from Trojan or Arthurian cycles, Biblical episodes, or what we might call the historical material of classical Rome and Greece. In the Middle Ages, “history” was considered not as some independently verifiable record of the events that actually occurred, but as an account of past events that was authoritative, based on previous accounts. Or as some have put it, history was “what was held to be true.” Thus texts that dealt with the past often held some tension between their own current versions and other accounts to which they referred. For example, Geoffrey of Monmouth and other historians often refer to several different versions of an event without evaluating their accuracy as modern historians might, or explain that they cannot know about a particular event because tradition or their antecedents do not tell them. Poetic texts share this characteristic, with Chaucer often bemoaning what his books omit and characterizing his stories as coming from many somewhat contradictory sources. Both genres strove for an authoritative presentation of the European past—retelling versions of stories told many times before, and citing the textual traditions in which . . .

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