Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Shifts and Transpositions in Medieval Narrative: A Festschrift for Dr Elspeth Kennedy

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Shifts and Transpositions in Medieval Narrative: A Festschrift for Dr Elspeth Kennedy

Article excerpt

Shifts and Transpositions in Medieval Narrative: A Festschrift for Dr Elspeth Kennedy, ed. Karen Pratt (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1994)· xxi + 206 pp. ISBN o- 85991-421-6. £35.00.

This collection of essays, published to mark Elspeth Kennedy's retirement, covers a wide variety of texts, genres and approaches, focusing on shifting emphases of translation, the interweaving of genres, and the reconfiguration of motifs. Emanuèle Baumgartner employs Genette's distinction between 'diction' and 'fiction' to analyse the move from roman d'antiquité to Arthurian romance, distinguishing a shift from the historic and factual to an imagined and self-referential world. This shift from epic to romance is the subject of the essay by Sara Sturm-Maddox and Donald Maddox, which examines the interweaving of elements of chanson de geste and romance in the Old French Bataille Loquifer, with specific reference to the ways that fatherhood is explored. By contrast, Sarah Kay treats the theme of motherhood, employing Freud's notion of 'family romance' to suggest that in the chansons de ¿este the mother enjoys a symbolic role, associated with the shaping of values, while the father is frequently associated with deficiency and violence. Relations between lovers form the subject of Roger Pensom's witty and acute study of the thematic and social structure of the feu d'Adam, in which food and sex are consistently equated, the carnivore male balanced by the less aggressive vegetarian female. The more courtly aspect of love is discussed by Maureen Boulton, in her analysis of the ways that the lais sung by successive lovers in the Prose Tristan echo and recall the central love story of Tristan and Iseut, introducing moments of lyricism into a text dominated by the actions of quest and adventure. Albrecht Classen reveals the ways that the motif of dream offers a similar kind of counterpoint to romance, illuminating the present or pointing to the future in ways intelligible to the audience but often not to the characters, who are caught within their own fictional presents. Similarly too, the inset stories in Beowulf, as Anne Savage's essay demonstrates, reflect, and reflect on, the themes of the whole, shifting in meaning according to placement and to audience identity, and transforming a poem in which all actions ultimately become story as present becomes past. …

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