Academic journal article Medium Aevum

History on the Edge: Excalibur and the Borders of Britain, 1100-1300

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

History on the Edge: Excalibur and the Borders of Britain, 1100-1300

Article excerpt

1300 (MInneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000). xiv + 302 pp. ISBN 0-8166-3491-2. (English pound)24.50 There is obvious good sense in applying postcolonial theory to medieval Arthurian literature and its cultural and political context, as Michelle Warren has done here. Questions of such matters as dominion, legitimacy, and selfidentity are of great importance in approaching the literary history of medieval Britain and France, as has been made abundantly clear in recent work by such scholars as Ian Short, Francoise Le Saux, and Jean Blacker.

The danger inevitable in focusing on a particular concept (in Warren's case, the concept of 'border') is that some concepts are quite elastic; and here, sadly, the concept is extended so far as to become virtually meaningless. The borders can be geographical, cultural, social, ethnic, linguistic, literary, moral; Oxford is a border city, the Grail is a border object, killing a giant is reimposition of borders, the use of prose is a crossing of borders. To link all these together within the theme of 'border' is an interesting exercise, and one which is carried out with great skill by Warren: but if everything is a border, the significance of 'border' is reduced to vanishing point and we are left, in Warren's own words, with 'a world of borders - and, paradoxically, a borderless world' (P. …

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