Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Lazamon's 'Brut' and the Anglo-Norman Vision of History

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Lazamon's 'Brut' and the Anglo-Norman Vision of History

Article excerpt

Kenneth J. Tiller, Lazamon's 'Brut' and the Anglo-Norman Vision of History (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2007). x + 229 pp. ISBN 978-0-7083-1902-4. £65.00.

Kenneth J. Tiller's book usefully summarizes recent critical thinking on twelfthcentury historiography and applies it to La3amon's Brut. Chapter 1 argues that Anglo-Norman historiography is characteristically 'providential' and that Lazamon 'challenges' the hegemony of this tradition by showing significantly less commitment to illustrating the workings of providence than his predecessors writing in Latin or French (p. 82). The next chapter asserts that 'the historiantranslator necessarily assumes a masculinist position over a feminized source text' (p. 100); and on that basis offers an account of Lazamon's 'power and gender dynamics'. Then comes an analysis of the depiction of Brutus, Hengest, Æthelstan, and Augustine of Canterbury as agents of 'conquest and translation' (p. 129). The final chapter discusses the way in which 'transformation of people and of their rulers' is expressed 'in the form of physical capture and physical transformation of the body' (p. 175) - particularly the body of the king.

Some of Tiller's arguments seem very forced - for example, the suggestion that, in contradicting Bede, Geoffrey of Monmouth 'interweave[s] historiographic conflicts with military conflicts' in such a way as to establish 'a parallel between territorial conquest and temporal conquest, accomplished by gaining control of historiographic narrative' (p. 72); or the notion that 'repeated acts of naming and renaming . . . for Lazamon come to signify the process of insular history' itself (p. 30). Tiller frequently writes as if Lazamon must necessarily have shared his own critical preoccupations, arguing, for example, that 'the process of compiling and translating sources' is one that Lazamon 'links to conquest and colonization' - when it is surely Tiller himself who is doing the linking (whether validly or not). …

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