Shaping Romance: Interpretation, Truth, and Closure in Twelfth-Century French Fictions

Shaping Romance: Interpretation, Truth, and Closure in Twelfth-Century French Fictions

Shaping Romance: Interpretation, Truth, and Closure in Twelfth-Century French Fictions

Shaping Romance: Interpretation, Truth, and Closure in Twelfth-Century French Fictions

Synopsis

Examines a set of five twelfth-century romance texts--complete and fragmentary, canonical and now neglected, long and short--to map out the characteristics and boundaries of the genre in its formative period.

Excerpt

This is a book about shapes and shaping in twelfth-century French romance fictions. I use the term "romance fictions" here to include both romances as normally designated and the short stories, contes and lais, which use the same kinds of materials and operate in the same context for medieval writers and their public. Both types of narrative are clearly perceived as fictions, unbounded by certain principles of reality and yet related in some way to the lived experiences of their public. If romances and stories frequently overlap in the medieval context, they nevertheless retain a kind of distinctness that helps the modern reader appreciate better the specific character of each, as well as the considerable play in their variations, which link as much as they distinguish the two types of fictions. I have analyzed the very particular and complex patterns that give shape to five different works, each one chosen for its distinctly different shape within the range of twelfth-century narratives. They are all roughly datable from the latter half of the twelfth century, the period when romance has reached beyond its initial form in the romans antiques (the Old French "translations" from Latin epics) and has begun to assume the many forms, sizes, and shapes that will be played out and transformed in succeeding centuries. Surely one of the most impressive aspects of the twelfth-century Renaissance is the explosion of literary works in the vernacular, and that explosion is nowhere more noticeable than in the popular appeal of romance, with its gift for experimentation in form and its taste for a wide array of materials combined through intergeneric mixing of all sorts.

What I offer in the following chapters is by no means an exhaustive or systematic survey of twelfth-century romance, but rather a small sample of works that crystallize some of the most brilliant moments of romance writing in the period. Each of the chapters represents an experiment in close reading, in which I analyze the many-faceted and subtle patterns of five romance fictions, in order to show the depth of complexity woven into their designs, their resistance to any monolithic or reductive conception of what romances may do or be. If I were to characterize in a nutshell the main critical issue that animates the book throughout, I would point to the role played by repetition and its variations, the values and . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.