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  • Romance and History: Imagining Time from the Medieval to the Early Modern Period ed. by Jon Whitman
  • Andrew James Johnston
jon whitman, ed., Romance and History: Imagining Time from the Medieval to the Early Modern Period. Cambridge Studies in Medieval Literature 92. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015. Pp. xiv, 317. isbn: 978–1–107–04278–0. $55.76.

Romance and History assembles a collection of essays on the relations between romance—both medieval and early modern—and history. The chapters are arranged according to subject matter and chronological order, with the 'Matter of Rome' followed by the 'Matter of Britain,' succeeded by the 'Matter of France and Italy,' and finally by sixteenth-century developments, thereby suggesting a vibrant cross-pollination between these different fields as European romance develops forms of sophisticated self-referentiality and becomes increasingly concerned with its own status vis-à-vis literary theory.

In his thoughtful introduction, Jon Whitman takes his cue from Erich Auerbach's indictment of romance as lacking historical consciousness and argues in favor of a comprehensive reappraisal of romance's involvement with history. Christopher Baswell (chapter two) begins the collection proper with a discussion of how medieval romances dealing with themes from antiquity—the Roman d'Énéas, the Roman de Thèbes, the Roman de Troie, the Roman d'Alexandre, and the Roman de Toute Chevalerie—seek to contain history within and through complex forms of material artifacts such as gates, walls, and elaborate tombs. The third chapter by Catherine Croizy-Naquet compares two thirteenth-century historical prose narratives, the Faits des Romains and the Roman de Troie en prose, with respect to their strategies of rhetorically and poetically conceptualizing history. While the Faits heavily borrows devices from romance, the Roman reduces the romance quality of its subject matter, seeking to minimize the literariness of the narrative. Next, Robert W. Hanning studies the importance of the young men in medieval romance, and in the fifth chapter, Adrian Stevens traces specifically Angevin resonances in Gottfried von Strassburg's Tristan and Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival. Friedrich Wolfzettel's contribution then offers an interesting hypothesis on the fourteenth-century romance of Perceforest. Situated in pre-Arthurian Britain, Perceforest self-consciously turns its back on the grail motif and its ideological consequences for the 'Matter of Britain,' establishing instead a notion of history that combines an almost proto-humanist enlightenment with a foreshadowing of the advent of Christianity. In the chapter that follows, Edward Donald Kennedy scrutinizes ethical and ideological ambivalence in the Prose Brut, Hardyng's Chronicle, and the Alliterative Morte Arthure. Chapter eight sees Helen Cooper tease out the sophistication of Malory's response to England's political landscape during the Wars of the Roses. By analytically exploring the legal and ethical dilemmas and contradictions of his fictional Arthurian society, Cooper [End Page 82] argues, Malory constructs something akin to a political tragedy of nation-building. In chapter nine, Jean-Pierre Martin discusses the political aims of twelfth-century France's great aristocratic families as reflected in the elaborate genealogies presented in the 'Matter of France' texts, and Riccardo Buscagli's contribution betrays a similar thrust as it shows how the figure of Ruggiero is invented to buttress the Este family's claim to power. The eleventh chapter contains Marco Praloran's investigation into the development of entrelacement techniques in early modern European romance and how this impinges not only on the intelligibility of plot structures but also on the construction of temporalities. Chapter twelve, by Daniel Javitch, is interested in the ways in which Boiardo, Ariosto, and, especially, Tasso poetically handle and simultaneously theorize the marvellous in the service of claiming historical dignity for their romances. David Quint then enters into a similar discussion as he alerts us to the Gerusalemme's paradoxical juxtaposition of romance material and historical topicality, as embodied, for instance, in the complexities surrounding the depiction of Armida's chariot. Gordon Teskey examines the Faerie Queene's tensions between allegory and history, and, finally, in the single article that shows an interest in issues of gender and of cultural hybridity, Marina S. Brownlee investigates late medieval and early modern examples of Spanish romance—Pedro del Corral's...


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