restricted access Chaucer and the Tradition of the “Roman Antique.” by Barbara Nolan (review)
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REVIEWS Finally, Bland proposes that Chaucer's decision to write in English, not French, may be partly due to his having learned latin through the medium ofEnglish, and that an English explanation oflatin grammar may underlie the odd phrase conservatyfthe soun (House ofFame 2: 847): "The only place where Chaucer was likely to hear a phrase constructed like 'conservatyfthe soun' was in a grammar school classroom in which the master gave English sentences to exemplify the latin" (p. 225). As one would infer from the titles ofthe chapters, this collection is not a comprehensive inquiry into issues and questions in manuscript studies, nor does it embody the type of focused debate among participants that can sometimes break new theoretical ground. Instead, as is common with com­ memorative volumes, it reflects the specific topics on which the contribu­ tors chose to write. Not surprisingly, much that might be germane to "the use of manuscripts in literary studies" is omitted. For instance, there is little discussion of how the new information technologies will affect literary-codicological research, a topic addressed in projects such as Biblio­ graphic Accers to Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts: A Survey of Com­ puterized Data Baser and Information Servicer, ed. Wesley M. Stevens (New York and London: Haworth, 1992; see James J. O'Donnell's review in Speculum 68 {1993]: 1118-19). But to point this out is only to acknowl­ edge that the present work reflects the eclectic nature ofmost projects ofits kind. That is perhaps as it should be, insofar as the legacy ofJudson Boyce Allen may be more appropriately reflected in these individual studies­ contributed by scholars who see themselves as working in his tradition­ than in a more comprehensive or innovative type ofwork designed to meet other goals. As a memorial offering, this is a fine tribute to a medievalist who loved manuscripts and who will long be missed. CAROLINE D. ECKHARDT Pennsylvania State Universiry BARBARA NOLAN. Chaucer and the Tradition ofthe "Roman Antique." Cam­ bridge Studies in Medieval Literature, vol. 15. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992. Pp. xv, 391. $69.95. This is a stimulating, erudite study of relationships among seven key ro­ mance texts of the later Middle Ages as part of what Barbara Nolan calls 231 STUDIES IN THE AGE OF CHAUCER the tradition of the roman antique. The seven texts under close scrutiny here, from three generations of vernacular writers, are Beno'it de Sainte­ Maure's Roman de Troie, the Roman de Thebes, the Roman d'Eneas, Boccac­ cio's Filostrato and Teseida, and Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde and The Knight's Tale. By "tradition of the roman antique" Nolan means a group of texts that manifest "a formally significant conjunction ...between a me­ dieval vernacular language and the language and matter of classical history, between modem authorial composition and ancient Latin models for writ­ ing" (p.7).The moral concerns and explorations of "hypothetical or possi­ ble rules for secular ethical conduct" (p.9) mark these texts as different from the chronicles and the chansons de geste. Other aspects ofthis tradition, which Nolan examines in chapters 2 and 3, include "systems of multiple perspective," "academically based moral questioning"---even "situational ethics"-and "medievalized Ovidian poetics of secular love. " The strength of Nolan's essay is her persuasive demonstration of the importance of the schools-specifically, of glosses on Ovid-to the roman antique. This is especially true of the French works, which were clearly influenced by scholia on the Ars amatoria, the Remedia amoris, and the Heroides. She brings forward the arguments on Joie amor ("Ovidian" or passionate love), bone amor (chaste love), and even married love ("Lavinian love"), and she demonstrates that debates about these kinds of love to a large degree structure the Roman de Thebes, the Roman de Troie, and the Roman d'Eneas. In the twelfth-century romans antiques, she finds: The dominant interests in school commentaries on Ovid's love poems--and in the classicizing romances influenced by them-are political, social, and moral, but they are not religious ....The most basic school commentaries on Ovid's love poems, together with the influential Eneas and Roman de Troie, seem to...