This essay suggests that the narratorial "I" in medieval romance is a signifying transaction continually being constructed by being opposed to a series of linguistic, social, and psychological "you's," including the audience (real and implied), characters within the romance, narrators in other medieval romances, and even the author. It proposes a tripartite model that accommodates the art of medieval romance composition as well as more modern notions of subjectivity, especially the theorizing of French linguist Émile Benveniste on the linguistic construction of the subject. Such a paradigm suggests that narratorial interventions should be construed as the sites of concurrent multi-directional readings. Specifically, interventions should be read in terms of one another or sequentially, as interpolations that must be contextualized, and inter- and extratextually. When this model is applied to the fifteenth-century Middle English romance Partonope of Blois, a freely adapted version of an Old French poem, inconsistencies and contradictions among the various narrative interventions are found. The only way to resolve these inconsistencies is to stop conceiving of the narrator-subject constructed within different interventions as the same entity. Because the narrator-subject is constructed by external factors and because these external elements are themselves constantly being added, deleted, or modified, the "I" of each intervention has meaning only within the specific intervention in which it is being pronounced. Consequently, the narrator-subject is discontinuous and constructed exclusively within interventions; what we conceive of as a text's narrator is actually a composite of these different constructed sites.


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pp. 381-408
Launched on MUSE
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