The Hero's Place
medieval literary traditions of space and belonging
Publication Year: 2012
Published by: The Catholic University of America Press
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Portions of chapter 3 were previously published as “Tristan: A Story of Precarious Belonging,” Tristania 18 (1998): 1–15. I thank the Edwin Mellen Press for graciously allowing me to revisit the material here. As anyone who has written a long work of scholarship knows, institutional support is essential to the undertaking. ...
Introduction: Place and Literature
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Space is such a fundamental part of human experience that it is difficult to imagine a spaceless reality. In everyday life, we rely continually on the concept of universally valid spatial measurements in order to read maps and exchange directions. So pervasive is the concept of space as uniform, measurable distance that we can forget that extension...
1. The Old French: Vie de saint Alexis
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Having now examined some of the contextual questions that underlie a study of spatiality and place in medieval literature, I would like to begin with an examination of the Life of Saint Alexis (ca. 1080). As we will see, spatiality and place often function interdependently in a literary work. They represent different facets of space—distinct...
2. La Chanson de Roland
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At first glance, a warrior would appear to be quite different from a saint such as Alexis. War involves a resolute engagement with the real spaces of this world and the values attached to them. Alexis would surely have considered such engagement antithetical to his saintly calling...
3. Tristan and Iseut before the Potion
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The legend of Tristan and Iseut has reached us through multiple, sometimes fragmentary, textual manifestations and wide-ranging poetic and linguistic traditions. Because of this textual diversity, I will take a broader approach with this medieval legend than I have done with the Life of Saint Alexis and the Song of Roland. ...
4. After the Potion
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The unlawful, magically induced love shared by Tristan and Iseut is the legend’s most apparent and powerful locus of belonging. And yet, if we consider that belonging is typically associated with values such as stability, community, and identity, we see that their love, like so much else in the legend, represents yet another deficient form of belonging. ...
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As we have seen, in western thinking since Kant, human subjectivity and its categories of understanding are seen as ineluctable filters for all perception, including that of space. Epistemologically speaking, we have no guarantee that our perceptions of the world are identical with the world. This centrality of the human subject...
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Page Count: 320
Publication Year: 2012