- Medieval Romances across European Borders ed. by Miriam Edlich-Muth
This collection is based on a 2014 conference of the same title held at Bremen. The Introduction makes a valiant effort to pull the essays into a broader conversation, but they remain rather disparate, focused on various aspects of generic classification or the movement of texts across linguistic borders, though not generally both subjects. The essays are grouped into three sub-sections that indicate the volume’s logic. The volume’s [End Page 619] first section, ‘Genre and Context’, opens with Bart Besamusca’s consideration of genre as an organizing principle in the multi-text codex. Grounding his argument in three Middle Dutch collections, Besamusca recognizes that, although genre may be a disputed classification for medieval texts, as a critical tool it offers important insights into the interactions of texts in manuscript compilations of multiple texts. Elizabeth Dearnley compares truth claims in Marie de France’s Bisclavret and its variants to those in an internet-generated story. Miriam Edlich-Muth moves among Floire et Blanchefleur and its Scandinavian, Spanish, and Italian analogues to argue that a hagiographic version of the story may revise our view of its generic identity as romance. In a second set of essays, grouped under the rubric ‘Translation as Adaptation’, Virgile Reiter examines gender roles in the fourteenth-century Swedish Flores och Blanzeflor using rather traditional categories of gendered activity and agency. Sofia Lodén continues the focus on Swedish literary texts, studying the recasting of female characters in the fourteenth-century Herr Ivan, a translation of Chrétien de Troyes’s Chevalier au lion. Venetia Bridges turns to France and the romans antiques, moving away from what she characterizes as a socio-political reading in order to prioritize style and to argue for a transnational interest in the performance of translatio studii. Sif Rikhardsdottir focuses on the Old Norse Clári Saga, an early example of the Icelandic sub-genre of maiden-king romances, stories of powerful unmarried women, arguing for the genre’s influence on translations and adaptations of European romance in Iceland. A final section, ‘Continuities’, opens with Roger Nicholson’s study of the shifting significance of treason and the resulting narrative dynamics in two English adaptations of the Mort Artu. Suxue Zhang also examines English adaptations of French material in an exploration of four Middle English adaptations of the Estoire de Merlin. Natalie Goodison argues for the persistence of the motif of the woman-headed serpent in medieval romance, focusing primarily on the Middle English Libeaus Desconus. Virtues of the volume include the centring of Northern European texts in discussions of genre and adaptation, and the commitment to comparative method; the focus on adaptations of the Floire et Blanchefleur tradition is particularly valuable.