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STUDIES IN THE AGE OF CHAUCER sources together with the postcolonial discourse about ‘‘orientalism,’’ what is surprising is how little attention is paid to the circulation and exchange of secular narratives and secular ethics and the entrepreneurial creativity of storytellers. Brenda Deen Schildgen University of California, Davis Geraldine Heng. Empire of Magic: Medieval Romance and the Politics of Cultural Fantasy. New York: Columbia University Press, 2003. Pp. xii, 521. $45.00. In this provocative study, Geraldine Heng defines romance capaciously as a genre that stages the collision of history with cultural fantasy. In her view, romance is a kind of performative cannibal that ‘‘coalesces from the extant cultural matrix at hand, poaching and cannibalizing from a hybridity of all and any available resources, to transact a magical relationship with history, of which it is in fact a consuming part’’ (p. 9). In Heng’s view, historical trauma, tension, travail, and transition all leave their mark and seek amelioration within the desirous stagings of romance; in one of her metaphors, history is the irritant pearled and rendered pleasurable within romance’s oyster, in a ‘‘graduated mutating of exigency into opportunity’’ (p. 3). Heng seeks to correct previous scholarship’s overidentification of romance with chivalric romance and instead proposes a five-headed typology of romances: historical, popular, chivalric, family, and travel. This widening of the social sphere of romance is both provocative and strategic , serving Heng’s need to treat romance as a barometer for the desires of whole cultural moments rather than as indices of the situated interests of particular groups, notably the gentry or the clergy. To buttress the idea of romance as legible and performative zeitgeist, Heng sidelines the traditional romance-studies focus on authorship and authority in order to treat romance as a sedimentation of culture, enterprised and consumed by many in burgeoning textual traditions, disseminated in a variety of manuscript (and eventually print) cultures, and consumed by a diversity of audiences. Although she offsets her chosen texts with a formidable array of primary sources, she focuses on five central works or PAGE 318 318 ................. 11491$ CH13 11-01-10 14:02:34 PS REVIEWS textual clusters: Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia; the century-spanningly popular Richard Coeur de Lion; the Alliterative Morte Arthure; the Constance romance exemplified by Trevet’s Cronicles, Gower’s exemplum from the Confessio Amantis, and Chaucer’s Man of Law’s Tale (with a side excursion to The Clerk’s Tale); and finally Mandeville’s Travels. What joins together this far-flung constellation of texts is Heng’s consistent focus on crusade as romance’s origin and ongoing obsession; she traces the haunting of romance by the crusading hunger for empire over four centuries. Crusade allows Heng to connect issues of nation and empire, race and religion, family and gender, and place and travel in provocative and original ways, and, throughout, she maintains a Foucauldian attention to the entwining of power, knowledge, and desire within these cultural projects. In her view, romance processes the ongoing trauma of crusade, from the threat of Islamic difference and the originary cannibalism at Ma’arra, through the conquest and loss of Jerusalem , Acre, and the other crusader kingdoms, to the exhilaration and disgrace of the Latin sack of Constantinople, to the depredations of the Genoese and Venetian profit-mongers, to the fourteenth-century efflorescence of crusade propaganda, and the debacle at Nicopolis. Within crusade, Heng returns to two concerns: the first is cannibalism, which she treats as both originary trauma and textual pleasure. Cannibalism works across chapters as an entry point into the texts and an orientation for Heng’s readings. The second concern is Constantinople as a continuing locus of desire and cultural negotiation. Heng traces the shadows of Byzantium where I had never seen them before, and, in so doing, suggestively reconfigures the textual topographies she treats. Chapter 1, ‘‘Cannibalism, the First Crusade, and the Genesis of Medieval Romance,’’ argues that Geoffrey of Monmouth inaugurates medieval romance in his Historia Regem Britanniae by powerfully modeling how the trauma and sense of cultural pollution resulting from reports of crusader cannibalism at Ma’arra can be processed and turned toward more desirable fantasies of empire. The Historia...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1949-0755
Print ISSN
0190-2407
Pages
pp. 318-321
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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