Although the scene echoes the incest-plot of the introduction, Apollonius makes no advances to the young woman. He eventually recognizes her as his daughter; she marries the nobleman who had protected her in the brothel, and all prepare to return to Tarsus. But a vision orders Apollonius to go to Ephesus instead and relate his story in the temple of Diana. His wife promptly recognizes him, completing the family reunion.
Apollonius distributes punishments and rewards, and all regain their rightful position. Obviously, separation and restitution, chastity and constancy are all as important in Apollonius as in the texts traditionally classified as Greek romances. The narrative delay and the repeated misfortunes echo what we have seen in both the Odyssey and Ethiopica, although the narration itself is more straightforward.
For our purposes, what is most striking is the central narrative of a quest that the characters only barely understand, and which in some cases is completely opaque to them. Instead, they are reduced to aimless wandering, and it is only through the operation of a fairly heavy-handed deus ex machina, in the form of storms, pirates, dream visions and amazing coincidences, that they can be reunited and their true identities revealed.
Verisimilitude or realism is emphatically not the point. Bakhtin argues that all change in these texts occurs across space, with no permanent change through time. This judgment ignores the many ways, such as narrative patterning and structure, point of view, symbolism, in which texts like Ethiopica are undeniably complex, even if character development is not their strong suit.
My project here is to eschew the often unspoken distinctions of value or sophistication and focus instead on how these texts work, on what connects them to each other and to a particular literary genealogy. Some of these fragments, like Ninus, the story of the Assyrian prince Ninus and his consort Semiramis, have been known since the late nineteenth century; others were first published as recently as the s, and their study is just beginning. In this context, taxonomic exertions seem unadvisable.
These texts, and the ones discussed above, illustrate the ubiquity and malleability of romance as a set of strategies that organize and animate narrative. In this sense, romance seems like the bedrock of narrative if not one of its most important strata, although not in the archetypal sense that Northrop Frye might propose, but in a narratological one.
Yet, as subsequent chapters will repeatedly show, romance involves not only strategies of form, but the privileging of a certain content, already evident in its classical manifestations: occluded and subsequently revealed identities, idealized protagonists, marvels and monsters, tasks and tests. The construction of a recognizable genre out of this varied and enormous literature has required considerable critical energy; it is as though, in our day, critics attempted to designate the Loeb Classical Library — the Harvard University Press series of Greek and Latin texts in dual-language editions — as a genre.
The iterability of romance is a key sign of its cultural currency and historical importance. Interestingly, in the field of medieval studies, unlike in Classics, romance is not considered a term of opprobium. More accessible than hagiography accounts of the lives of saints or the chansons de geste epic poems on heroic deeds , romance appeals to modern readers and has been granted a privileged place by critics, relative to its actual role in medieval literary culture Gaunt Due to this critical predilection, romance is the bread-and-butter of medieval literary studies, and both the primary and secondary bibliographies are enormous.
This chapter provides an introduction to the medieval romance genre as it has been codified by critics, examining both the congruences and incongruences of the category. I then suggest how understanding romance as a strategy might yield a different corpus, cutting across traditional generic categories to encompass hagiography, lais and other vernacular forms.
While romance emerges in an Anglo-Norman context, it soon travels far beyond it, with the important German romance tradition, for example, imitating and elaborating on French sources. Medieval romance emerges as an elite court genre, although the use of the vernacular allows it to reach a much wider audience than its origins would suggest.
Generally, romances were initially recited to musical accompaniment before the assembled feudal household, and only some of them were recorded. The characters of romance are those same members of the secular court: kings and queens, knights and ladies, and retainers of various kinds.
But the court is more than a setting: it often anchors the narrative with an almost centripetal force. The hero sets out from the court and returns to it once he has proven himself. Romance thus takes its place among the cultural forms that celebrate the court and, as a cultural crossroad, the court becomes the setting for improbable encounters. The courtly setting accounts for the frequent idealizing tone of medieval romance: in these stories with some notable exceptions , all the ladies are beautiful, all the knights are valiant, even though the actual events of the plot often undercut the idealizing rhetoric.
Although romance is frequently described as an escapist genre that erases or whitewashes social conflict, it presents a dialectical relation to court ideology. It is often skeptical of absolute distinctions between good and evil, civilized and uncivilized violence, and of the compatibility between erotic and military pursuits.
Simply because the romance often deals with individual protagonists and their quests does not mean that it is not acutely concerned with their status as cultural fantasies. This double valence is built into the narrative structure of romance, as the narrator pointedly fails to identify with the lords and ladies of the story. Instead, he speaks for a class of authors who were most often clerks: men in the lower orders of the Church, who did not serve the role of modern clergy but instead performed administrative tasks for the court.
Their essential attribute was their education, which included primarily the ability to read and thus imitate Latin texts. Their scholarly values of clergerie clerkliness differ markedly from the aristocratic, heroic chevalerie chivalry of romance heroes. Knights, that is, did not write romances. His account of an argument between King Arthur and one of his knights at the beginning of his tale, immediately after a glowing description of the court, is highly ironic.
The king proposes that the court hunt for the famed white stag of ancient tradition, only to be contradicted immediately by Sir Gawain: My lord Gawain was not a bit pleased when he heard this. We have all known for a long time what tradition is attached to the white stag: he who can kill the white stag by right must kiss the most beautiful of the maidens of your court, whatever may happen. Great evil can come from this, for there are easily five hundred damsels of high lineage here, noble and wise daughters of kings; and there is not a one who is not the favourite of some valiant and bold knight, each of whom would want to contend, rightly or wrongly, that the one who pleases him is the most beautiful and the most noble.
But the knight reminds us also that the very narrative depends on the shattering of equilibrium at the court. The answer — in other narratives if not in this one — is a dangerous perspectivism that threatens the unity of the court. The clerkly point of view may also be expressed more directly, in frequent asides that afford the narrator a considerable presence within the text. The uneasy conjunction of love and adventure is the motor for the narrative in countless romances, as heroes attempt to reconcile their often incompatible obligations to eros and to chivalry.
Thus the basic quest through which the hero is initiated or proven in chivalric society is complicated by the parallel pressures of love. Is love foolish or moderate? Ecstatic or rational? Spiritual or sensual? These traditions provided a language for thinking about the relation between love and subjectivity, the tension between private feeling and public obligation, and the connection between eroticism and spirituality.
What rights do I have over him? Why should he prize me so much as to make me his sovereign lady? Is he not much fairer than I and of much higher rank?
I can see nothing but love that could have granted me such a gift. Courtly love thus sits uneasily with religious strictures against adultery in the period, even as it couches erotic love in a language of idealization, mysticism, and Christian suffering. Its version of love as sacred pursuit is inherently sacrilegious. In general, and unlike the Greek romances discussed earlier, medieval romance is more interested in the masculine perspective on eros, although many describe the feminine viewpoint as well.
In order to save Guinivere, he must undergo repeated humiliations and sufferings, from riding the base cart of the title to crossing a bridge made out of a sharp sword, on which he cuts his hands, knees, and feet. The story evinces the contradictions of courtly love and also its rigors: despite the huge cost of the affair to Lancelot and his selfabasement, even he cannot reach the ideal of the lover, because of his initial hesitation to do all that love demands. In the story of Tristan and his beloved Iseult, developed from Celtic legend by multiple medieval poets, the betrayal of familial bonds compounds the breach of feudal ties: Tristan brings the beautiful princess from Ireland to Cornwall to marry his uncle, King Mark.
So profoundly transgressive is the affair that Tristan must be relieved from his agency in the matter: his undying love for Iseult comes, we are told, from the inadvertent drinking of a magic potion. Her wooing mimics the appeals and offers more routinely associated with a knight trying to win a lady. As Geraldine Heng points out: Where it is usually the knight who comes into his identity as an active, desiring subject, a male courtly lover, through such commonplaces — by establishing a love relation with a desired female, the object of love, in time-honored custom — here it is the Lady who usurps the active masculine function, thereby unsettling with her activity the routine accomplishment of an orderly and familiar sexual identity by the courtly subject.
Heng —19 Although the lady does not ultimately achieve the seduction, her power over Gawain is symbolized in her green girdle, which he accepts as a magical talisman to protect him but that becomes instead a sign of his weakness. Romance thus incorporates the contradictions and complications of courtly love in several interesting ways. Most importantly, romance stages over and over again the tension between the pursuit of love and the pursuit of arms, presenting the lover as essentially compromised by the erotic drive that takes him away from his obligations. He turns to his beloved Enide to reassure her, emphasizing that love inspires him to take on dangerous adventures: I assure you that if the only bravery in me was that inspired by your love, yet I would not fear to do battle, hand to hand, with any man alive.
I act foolishly, boasting like this, yet I do not say this out of pride, but only because I wish to comfort you. Suddenly, a gigantic knight intrudes on the scene and challenges Erec to fight with him. After a long and arduous battle Erec defeats him, and agrees to reveal his name in return for the true story of the garden and the Joy. The defeated knight complies: Now hear who has kept me so long in this garden: as you have ordered, I wish to tell everything however much it may pain me.
That maiden, who is sitting there, loved me from childhood and I loved her. It was a source of pleasure to us both and our love grew and improved until she asked a boon of me without first saying what it was. Who would refuse his lady anything? He is no lover who does not unhesitatingly do whatever pleases his lady, unstintingly and neglecting nothing, if ever he can in any way. I made her a promise, but I did not know what 47 48 medieval romance until after I became a knight.
King Evrain, whose nephew I am, dubbed me in the sight of many gentlemen within this garden where we are. My lady, who is sitting there, immediately invoked my oath and said that I had sworn to her never to leave this place until some knight came along who defeated me in combat. It was right for me to remain rather than break my oath, though I wish I had never sworn it. Since I knew the good in her — in the thing that I held most dear — I could not show any sign that anything displeased me, for if she had noticed it she would have withdrawn her love and I did not wish that at any price, no matter what the consequences.
The verbal tense matters here — the story is only told once the bind has been dissolved, however shamefully. The lady is eventually comforted by recognizing Enide as her cousin, but not before she drives home that the triumph of chivalry has necessarily led to the distress of a woman, ostensibly cherished and protected according to that same ideology. This contest is a zero-sum game: if the court takes its joy and the knight regains his freedom, it is because the lady has lost the constant presence of her lover. As in these central examples, the romance portrayal of courtly love often privileges the tensions and contradictions that shadow eros in the court — tensions between male and female perspectives, feudal and erotic bonds, personal and public imperatives.
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In general, however, romance is associated with illicit or threatening union. In fact, the texts themselves are characterized early on as erotic go-betweens. Francesca relates how she was led to adultery with her brother-in-law through their shared reading of an Arthurian romance: One day, to pass the time away, we read of Lancelot — how love had overcome him. We were alone, and we suspected nothing. And time and time again that reading led our eyes to meet, and made our faces pale, and yet one point alone defeated us. A Gallehault indeed, that book and he who wrote it, too; that day we read no more.
Dante V. The romance — and its author — become go-betweens, much like the Gallehault [Galahad] who encouraged the royal lovers. In Italian, the very word galeoto came to mean procurer. Chaucer embroiders a long narrative out of minor characters and details in various accounts of the Trojan War, and develops his sources into a full-scale exploration of sexual and political agency. Despite his ultimate condemnation of Criseyde, Chaucer offers us an unprecedented insight into her consciousness, as she debates her choices and cannily evaluates the limitations of her position.
As Sheila Fisher argues, he virtually genders the protagonists, encouraging Troilus into a more active masculinity than the conventions of courtly love afford him and transforming Criseyde into an object of exchange Fisher The romances of antiquity are much more than a rendition in the vernacular; they adapt, expand, and transform the original texts in medieval romance signal ways.
It serves to probe contemporary society or challenge its values, while at the same time domesticating the classical world. More importantly, in telling a story that connects then and now, anachronistic romances grant contemporary modes of power an ancient or mythical validation Baswell 32—3 , identifying medieval monarchs, in particular, as descendants of Aeneas and putative heirs of Rome. Troyes is also a town in Northern France, but the classical echoes of the name are inescapable.
Some critics view this as a dilemma: how can a Christian author imitate pagan texts Dragonetti 20—2? Yet as the romances of antiquity attest, the paradox seems to have been a fruitful one for twelfth-century humanism. Medieval Christendom conceptualizes the connection between the classical past and the contemporary world in two important and related ways, both of which are prominently featured in the romances.
The idea of translatio studii refers to the transfer of knowledge from the classical world to medieval Europe; translatio imperii to the migration of imperial power from Greece or Troy to Rome and its European inheritors. Through the books we have, we learn of the deeds of ancient peoples and of bygone days. Our books have taught us that chivalry and learning first flourished in Greece; then to Rome came chivalry and the sum of knowledge, which now has come to France.
May God grant that they be maintained here and may He be pleased enough with this land that the glory now in France may never leave. God merely lent it to the others: no one speaks any more of the Greeks or Romans; their fame has grown silent and their glowing ember has gone out. Or will they in fact proceed elsewhere? Whether through their blatant anachronism or through the workings of translatio, therefore, the romances of antiquity are never far removed from contemporary concerns.
The translation of romance from the classical to the contemporary world is often reflected in the implicit logic of romance compilations that start with Troy and gradually move to Arthurian matter. Here, in a single manuscript, is the imaginative trajectory that undergirds much of medieval romance production.
In this context, the yoking of a love story to dynastic succession makes perfect sense. I can never wait so long.
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The time must be much shortened, for waiting is not easy for me. An hour of one day is longer than a year! Despite the alignment of love with empire, that is, erotic delay still functions as a narrative strategy to provide suspense and pleasure, as in the classical romances discussed in Chapter 1.
As medieval romance becomes more elaborate, narrative delays will become increasingly sophisticated, with the interlacing of multiple characters and plot lines. The Arthurian material has had a peculiar hold on the popular imagination; in fact, one might argue that for most readers romance is synonymous with tales of chivalric adventure, of knights on a quest. Arthurian literature owes its great popularity to a number of factors. It generally appealed to royal readers and their followers, and therefore prospered along with strong rulers. Conversely, in such powerful regional texts as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, it could also stage the comeuppance of the court, in this case through the encounter of its bewildered representative with a massively powerful local lord and his knowing wife.
Thus the Arthurian corpus enables the iterative quality of romance, since writers may return again and again to the same material, using the Round Table as a literal point of departure for their own narratives. Over several centuries and multiple versions, the overarching narrative absorbs powerful stories that are not logically connected to Arthur: Tristan and Iseult, the quest for the Holy Grail, and so forth.
It frames the open-ended or obscure excursions with the relative clarity of relationships and identities in the feudal center. There is nothing like this in the chanson de geste. Chivalric romance develops a series of formal traits that accommodate its multiple plot lines and protagonists. A more sophisticated technique is the interlace, where different strands of the narrative are woven together. In the textual version, each plot is interrupted to advance the others.
Interlace formal causality displaces motivation logical causality and, especially in the large romance cycles, becomes the structural device that organizes disparate episodic narratives. In the more sophisticated instances, the interruption comes at a point of great suspense, and the narrator only returns to the previous narrative when the reader has become fully engrossed by the subsequent one. ROMANCE GENRES At the end of the day, romance is, after all, the name of a desiring narrational modality 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.
Heng, Empire of Magic, 9 As we have seen, the term romance referred in medieval times to many different kinds of texts. Nonetheless, as Heng has recently argued, chivalric romance, due to its great popularity, is often taken synecdochically to stand in for all kinds of romance Heng 4. It suggests that even for this period we may posit romance as a set of mobile, adaptable strategies for making texts pleasurable. This instrumental sense of romance allows modern readers to reconstruct the implicit dialogue between many different kinds of medieval texts, and even between texts and the larger culture that surrounds them.
It restores the connections between romance as a circumscribed genre, venerated by generations of medievalists, and the richer panoply of popular or folk texts in a more broadly conceived cultural arena. The larger sense of romance reveals, for example, the similarities between certain hagiographic and chivalric texts, equally concerned with idealization; with naming and identity; and with loss, recognition, and restitution Kay 14— Thus, she observes, romance inhabits historical texts as a way both to surface and to contain ideological crises.
Romance also characterizes genres that ostensibly value moral utility over pleasure. By the thirteenth century, when vernacular literature was well established, hagiographers foreground the pleasure afforded by their stories, as well as the courtly excellence of their heroes. Rather than critiquing the immorality of romance, as Renaissance moralists later did, hagiographers harness its strategies to enliven their own narratives.
The most interesting difference, I would suggest, is that the hagiographic corpus offers many more female protagonists. Their chastity, resourcefulness, and versatility often recall the heroines of Byzantine romances, such as Chariclea, who are given shape by their sufferings and resistance. Abandon this religion, Which is nothing but nonsense, And go offer sacrifice And prayers to Saint Diana. You must honor her, The goddess of love.
Believe me and adore her, Who shares with you the same nature. Strikingly, the narrative harnesses the prurience of his gaze to provide a voyeuristic, sadistic pleasure for the audience through the description of her torture: Saint Faith is then disrobed And laid upon the bed.
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The naked maiden Is tied down. The cruel soldiers light it With burning rods. The fire is fed with grease, Thrown in the flames by these evil men, Who kindle the fire in this way. Above it is the maiden, Frail and helpless. She is soon engulfed by the fire. Cazelles medieval romance As Faith is literally consumed by her Passion, the reader also consumes the depiction of her vulnerable, naked body. Despite its moralistic intentions, that is, hagiography often trades in textual pleasure, much as the lay romances.
It is important to note that the connections between hagiography and chivalric literature are reciprocal: saintly protagonists are secularized, while knights strive for spiritual ideals Cazelles The immense popularity of the Grail legend demonstrates the particular force of these combinations. It is useful instead to contemplate what kinds of techniques and topoi — the instrumental sense of romance — animate a wide variety of medieval narratives.
Another fascinating set of narratives that depend on romance strategies are the Lais of the poet Marie de France c. Yet what seems most striking is the extent to which the lais share the preoccupations of the romance genre, and evince some of the same romance strategies — such as idealization, postponement, the tension between the martial and the erotic — though often with a decidedly feminist twist.
It is almost as though they were the obverse of the more masculine chivalric literature, presenting not exactly the world of women but the world of chivalry as experienced by women. Do not be distressed if I say this: a woman who is always fickle likes to extend courtship in order to enhance her own esteem and so that the man will not realize that she has experienced the pleasure of love. But the wellintentioned lady, who is worthy and wise, should not be too harsh towards a man, if she finds him to her liking; she should rather love him and enjoy his love.
Before anyone discovers or hears of their love, they will greatly profit from it. Fair lady, let us put an end to this discussion. Marie 50 The pointedly brief exchange pokes fun at not only the longueurs of romance delay but also the love casuistry that characterizes so much of medieval writing on eros. It would be less dangerous for a man to court every lady in an entire land than for a lady to remove a single besotted lover from her skirts, for he will immediately attempt to strike back.
Marie Initially, the lay playfully considers the pressures that eros places on the beloved, instead of lingering on the more usual suffering of the lover. Finally a tournament is called, in which three of the knights die while the fourth receives a deep wound in the thigh. I shall explain why it should have this title. The others have long since ended their days and used up their span of life.
What great anguish they suffered on account of the love they bore for you! But I who have escaped alive, bewildered and forlorn, constantly see the woman I love more than anything on earth, coming and going; she speaks to me morning and evening, yet I cannot experience the joy of a kiss or an embrace or of any pleasure other than conversation. You cause me to suffer a hundred such ills and death would be preferable for me.
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Therefore the lay will be named after me and called The Unhappy One. Anyone who calls it The Four Sorrows will be changing its true name. She agrees to change the name of the lay, but not to assuage his erotic suffering. Thus erotic consummation is endlessly postponed, displaced here into an irresolvable literary discussion, for the new name for the lay fails to stick: Thus was the lay begun, and later completed and performed.
Some of those who put it into circulation call it The Four Sorrows. Each name is appropriate and supported by the subject matter. It is commonly known as The Unhappy One. Here it ends, for there is no more. I have heard no more, know no more and shall relate no more to you. Marie After noting for the reader how texts sometimes escape the control of those who produce them, the narrator exercises her power to withhold the pleasure of textual consummation. There is no certainty; there is no more. If we take romance in this more expansive sense, it penetrates even where we might not expect it, such as into pure lyric.
Although the notion of romance as a narrative strategy of delay seems to make little sense for lyric, an individual poem or series may well recreate the romance sense of error and wandering. My two usual sweet stars are hidden; dead among the waves are reason and skill; so that I begin to despair of the port. The sonnet even recalls romance predecessors, invoking Scylla and Charybdis.
Though this chapter covers a large range, it can by no means do justice to the huge corpus that could be considered under this rubric. Given the striking interpenetrability of medieval genres, moreover, the category of romance is constantly shifting and expanding. In this sense, we should perhaps speak of how these iterable and iterated texts participate in or draw on romance, instead of categorizing them as individual instances.
Beyond proposing the expansion of genre into strategy, it is important to dispel certain easy categorizations of romance. Romance confronts us with the paradoxes of narrative. While there is an undeniable misogyny and sadism in its frequent association of eros with delay, and its subjection of both heroes and heroines to endless tests and trials, these obstacles turn out to be wildly productive in narratological terms: they literally make the story, and in the process often construct the subjectivity of their protagonists.
The Greek romances, rediscovered in the sixteenth century, are widely translated and imitated. The novella tradition, from Boccaccio to his multiple imitators, builds on a number of romance strategies and provides many of the plots for Renaissance drama. In the theoretical debates about the nature and value of romance, as well as in the texts debated, one can trace the origins of its conceptualization as a literary strategy of pleasurable multiplicity, opposed to the single-mindedness and political instrumentality of epic.
That is, whereas epic is most often associated with stories of effective quests, corporate achievement, and the heroic birth of nations, romance challenges these narratives by privileging instead the wandering hero, the erotic interlude, or the dangerous delay. In epic narrative, which moves to a predetermined end, the magic ship signals a digression from a central plot line, but the boat of romance, in its purest form, has no other destination than the adventure at hand. It cannot be said to be off course.
Quint Despite his insistence on the difference between romance and epic, Quint acknowledges the presence of the former in the latter. The best way to understand this tension is to recognize romance as a strategy that occurs in many different kinds of texts, and that has a particularly productive role within epic.
The Italian Renaissance produced sophisticated, complex instances of the strategic or instrumental sense of romance. The most famous of these narratives was the eponymous, eleventh-century Chanson de Roland, but the tradition of the heroic Roland was widespread. The Furioso, with its hero gone mad for love, counters its predecessors by foregrounding a multiplicity of satiric and erotic plots. Ariosto follows in the footsteps of his predecessor, Matteo Boiardo, who had already romanced the warrior by having him fall in love with the elusive Eastern princess Angelica in his sprawling, unfinished Orlando Innamorato , For all of these texts, the tension between martial quest and erotic detour will be a central organizing principle.
Although, for some, agency is circumscribed by an early death or a capitulation to marriage, their extended disguise, which results from choice rather than from necessity, complicates the gender politics of chivalric romance. Ariosto acerbically exposes the inevitable contradictions of chivalry, and reminds the reader of its fundamental obsolescence in the age of gunpowder. Yet his poem nonetheless serves as a summa of the romance tradition, combining classical precedents such as the enchantress Alcina, based on Circe in the Odyssey, with a full cast of medieval marvels, such as magical weapons, giants, sorcerers, enchanted castles, and a formal tour de force of interlacing narratives that weave together multiple plots.
The deranged knight abandons his king, Charlemagne, at the height of the Saracen assault, and almost causes the fall of Paris. Thus the female knight Bradamante and her beloved Ruggiero, the poem tells us, are destined to be founders of the house of Este, although she spends most of the poem haplessly searching for him while he is repeatedly distracted by other objects of desire. The romance in the renaissance dynastic motive is constantly ironized, particularly when Astolfo learns from no other than St John, scribe to Jesus himself, that writers manipulate the truth to suit their patrons.
The matter-of-fact marvels of romance are constantly ironized: Ruggiero, for example, goes red in the face for shame at the unfair advantage his magic shield confers on him, and drops it in a well Ariosto More importantly, the Furioso underscores the contrast between the easy mobility of romance — the mobility of individuals across geographical borders but also between different religious or racial camps — and the obsessive concerns with separation and difference of the emerging early modern states.
Thus romance challenges the political mythmaking of epic, and its tight networks of obligation and belonging. The capaciousness and wry waywardness of the Furioso foreground romance as an ideal strategy of narrative expansiveness, trumping the singleminded, collective purposefulness of epic with rich detours into individual experience, erotic delay, and the exploration of alternative perspectives. Yet Ariosto reveals a certain ambivalence about this suspension, as though in rueful recognition that narrative ultimately requires a return to a teleological or quest mode.
Certain episodes stage this recognition in what we have come to perceive as a familiar romance maneuver, associating stasis or error with the female agents of eros. Each ear was pierced by a fine gold ring from which a fat pearl hung, such as no Arabian or Indian ever boasted. His every gesture was mincing, as though he were accustomed to waiting on ladies in Valencia.
Ariosto 7. All accused him of one theft or another; one was grieving over the loss of his horse, another was raging over the loss of his lady; others had other thefts to charge him with, and none of them could tear themselves away from this cage — some there were, the victims of this deception, who had been there for whole weeks and months. Ariosto He then releases the knights to, presumably, more fruitful quests, or perhaps simply to continue the ones interrupted by the enchanted palace.
Whereas some critics attempt to reconcile romance and classical epic, others emphasize the difference between them. In his I romanzi, a full-fledged theory of romance as genre, Giovanni Battista Pigna attempts to reconcile the form with Aristotelian criteria, which privilege truth, unity, and singularity. Pigna acknowledges, despite himself, the potential open-endedness of a form that embraces both multiplicity and idealization. But whether romance is praised or criticized, its classification as a genre seems patently insufficient, given the constant combination and contamination of forms in the poems of Ariosto, Tasso, and Spenser.
Romance cannot be quarantined into a generic category; instead, it infects other genres, particularly epic, as an often unwelcome, or at least vexed, strategy of errancy and multiplicity. The challenge for such texts is to harness the appeal of romance while retaining the order of epic. It is precisely such romance entropy that Torquato Tasso attempts to contain in Jerusalem Delivered , his endlessly rewritten and anxiously defended epic on the First Crusade. Tasso deliberately sets out to resolve the problem of Ariosto as a hugely popular but comically subversive model.
Ultimately, although Godfrey himself resists her, the Eastern enchantress captivates his men, who abandon the corporate crusade for the individual pursuit of adventure, honor and eros. Refusing, they are instead freed by Rinaldo, who himself falls prey to Armida. Nymphs call to Rinaldo to embrace pleasure and renounce glory and virtue. The break is not absolute, however: even though Armida echoes Dido in condemning Rinaldo, he promises to be her knight as long as it will not conflict with his martial obligation. It happens at the eleventh hour, a mere eight stanzas before the end of the poem, as though the rush to right romance required last-minute transformations, however improbable.
Even the romance in the renaissance most orthodox of texts cannot completely suppress the beguiling and ideologically compromised alternatives of romance. Ultimately, Tasso cannot quite abandon the appeal of the romance marvelous, even though his attempts to contain it mire him in ever greater controversy. Spenser dedicates his poem to Elizabeth, places her at the center of the text as the elusive Faerie Queene, and refracts her into other characters who allegorize her virtues. The announced hero of the poem is none other than the British Arthur, who by the late sixteenth century had been fully incorporated into Tudor monarchical propaganda.
Spenser I. The description of the feast itself, in Book XII, will cap the poem and retrospectively make sense of the disparate adventures. Yet as any reader of The Faerie Queene knows, the actual structure of the poem is very different, and the individual quests are never ultimately achieved. The poem remains open-ended and inconclusive, with none of the structural clarity that the ambitious poet promises at the start. In fact, the Faerie Queene never appears in the text, complicating its centripetal, monarchical thrust.
The formal ambiguity is reflected thematically, as the poem makes extensive use of the topoi of chivalric romance, with individual knights encountering individual enemies in a landscape full of marvels. Unlike Tasso or even Ariosto, Spenser does not place his characters in a historical context. Instead, they must be unpacked as allegories for their relevant political meanings. The relatively distinct knights of Books I and II give way to fragmented appearances and a bewildering multiplication of characters. Meanwhile, the ostensible heroes of each legend are further removed from the action.
The Cantos of Mutabilitie feature the judgment of Mutabilitie by Nature. Although Mutabilitie appears to have the upper hand, Nature subsumes change to an overriding teleology: I well consider all that ye haue sayd And find that all things stedfastnes doe hate And changed be: yet being rightly wayd They are not changed from their first estate; But by their change their being doe dilate: And turning to themselves at length againe, Do worke their owne perfection so by fate: 77 78 romance in the renaissance Then ouer them Change doth not rule and raigne; But they raigne ouer change, and do their states maintaine.
Spenser Mut. The eternal rest of the Heavens is not of this world, but belongs to an apocalyptic endpoint of time.
As Ariosto recognized, the deferral of romance, incomplete and unsatisfying though it might seem, postpones the inevitability of death. The printing press enabled the wide circulation of new texts but also gave new life to older stories, disseminating them to a broader audience Goodman While the sixteenth century saw a new vogue for pastoral and Greek romance, the appeal of chivalric romance was unsurpassed. Although its precise textual history is unclear, there is no question that the story of the wandering prince, exposed as a child and romance in the renaissance unaware of his own identity, his love for the princess Oriana, and his protection by the enchantress Urganda the Unknown, inaugurates a virtual craze for the romances of chivalry.
The chivalric sagas of the first age of print seem strikingly modern in this respect, profiting from their immense popularity by reproducing themselves in sequels, imitations, and so forth, yet medieval romance, too, often proliferated in this fashion, although largely within the confines of manuscript culture. Harry Sieber provides a useful account of this textual generation: Multiplication of plots within plots introduces more characters, more examples of love and valor, and, as we have seen, more description.
But in the end the characters, stories, and examples are much the same; only their names, locations, and associates change. Amplification and repetition relate one romance to another in structural and thematic terms, variety helps to sustain their illusion of uniqueness. Sieber Thus the romances of chivalry become longer and more complex, without necessarily achieving any greater sophistication.
A central set of topoi are endlessly repeated: a historically and often geographically remote setting, the mysterious origins of the hero, separation and reunion, disguise and recognition, magic and enchantments. Later chivalric romances often claim authority by alluding to a textual tradition comprising one or more historians whose versions of events must be evaluated and reconciled by the narrator Eisenberg Despite or perhaps because of their rote repetition and predictability, chivalric romances became inordinately popular.
They are explicitly referred to by such unexpected readers as the Carmelite nun and reformer Saint Teresa of Avila, who notes in her autobiography c. But we were always trying to make time to read them; and she permitted this, perhaps in order to stop herself from thinking of the great trials she suffered, and to keep her children occupied so that in other respects they should not go astray.
This annoyed my father so much that we had to be careful lest he should see us reading these books. For myself, I began to make a habit of it, and this little fault which I saw in my mother began to cool my good desires and lead me to other kinds of wrongdoing. I thought there was nothing wrong in my wasting many hours, by day and by night, in this useless occupation, even though I had to hide it from my father. So excessively was I absorbed in it that I believe, unless I had a new book, I was never happy.
Teresa 68—9 Saint Teresa underscores both the moral dangers of the romances, in that they lead to other kinds of wrongdoing, and the pleasure they provide. Women and children, she suggests, are especially vulnerable to the seduction of these books, whose pleasures must be hidden from the patriarchal authority. Learning is not to be expected from authors who never saw even a shadow of learning. As for their storytelling, what pleasure is to be derived from the things they invent, full of lies and stupidity? One hero killed twenty singled-handed, another slew thirty, and still another hero left for dead with six hundred gaping wounds suddenly rises to his feet and the next day, restored to health and strength, lays two giants low in a single battle, then proceeds on his way, laden with gold, silver, silks, and jewels in such quantity that even a cargo ship could not carry them.
Vives 75—6 Vives is particularly exercised by the appeal of texts that provide nothing but pleasure, with no redeeming moral, exemplary, or educational value. Renaissance writers and literary theorists struggled with precisely these questions: To what extent could a writer stretch verisimilitude, or abandon it altogether, for the sake of readerly pleasure?
Did the use of the marvelous preclude all moral value for a text? The attempt to reconcile readerly pleasure, or what we might call reception, with prescriptive categories for literary creation was one of the central strands in sixteenth-century theoretical debates.
In the New World, Spanish conquerors resorted to chivalric romance as they searched for a way to describe the marvelous sights that they encountered. And when we saw all those cities and villages built in the water, and other great towns on dry land, and that straight and level causeway leading to Mexico, we were astounded. Indeed, some of our soldiers asked whether it was not all a dream.
It is not surprising therefore that I should write in this vein. It was all so wonderful that I do not know how to describe this first glimpse of things never heard of, seen or dreamed of before. Las sergas also gives us the name California, the island that was home to the Amazon queen in that romance Vogeley Romance thus exhibits very real historical effects: it both provides the impetus for exploration and leaves its mark on the landscape.
Romance provides a vocabulary for describing travel and travelers in sympathetic, even heroic terms Goodman More specifically, Michael Nerlich notes how early capitalism connects mercantile and colonial enterprises to chivalry through the richly polysemic term adventure Nerlich 52 and passim. Note how the language of romance pervades this speech by a royal representative in praise of a new English merchant company: romance in the renaissance [The adventurer] commits his life a thing to a man of all things more deare to the raging Sea, and the uncertainties of many dangers.
We shall keepe our owne coastes and countrey: Hee shall seeke strange and unknowen kingdomes. He shall commit his safetie to barbarous and cruell people, and shall hazard his life amongst the monstrous and terrible beastes of the sea. Yet the strain of this proximity makes him oddly reluctant to continue with his story of blood and gore, and he longs for a reprieve. Ercilla In Ercilla, interlace becomes a technique for coping with unspeakable violence. Romance also provides an important conduit for sympathy. A particularly striking instance casts the unfortunate Glaura as a damsel in distress, suffering through the ravages of war and constant assaults on her virginity Ercilla Then, in a complex sequence of interlace, Ercilla takes us on a marvelous expedition into southern Chile, an odd mixture of pastoral enchantment and hazardous voyage, and relates his subsequent experiences in the New World Ercilla 35, Eventually, he berates himself for having abandoned his story of Arauco Ercilla Almost immediately reprised in the English comedy by Francis Beaumont The Knight of the Burning Pestle , and quickly translated into a variety of languages, Don Quijote addresses many of the controversies over romance in its pages, even as it evinces its enduring popularity.
Don Quijote deliberately follows the conventions of romance to construct himself as a knight: he chooses an idealized beloved, Dulcinea of Toboso actually the swineherd Aldonza Lorenzo , has himself dubbed knight by a lowly innkeeper , and sets off to fight giants which look remarkably like windmills to everyone else. The fond satire allows us to reconstruct the hallmarks of chivalric romance and also its immense popularity. When the world around him diverges, and the windmills resolutely remain windmills, he 85 86 romance in the renaissance ascribes the difference to malevolent enchanters, thereby reinscribing his reality into the world of the texts Foucault Although he parodies the besotted readers of romance, Cervantes also pokes fun at their critics, in a series of episodes that read like a summa of sixteenth-century literary debates.
Elsewhere, Cervantes underscores the wide appeal of the books, as the Innkeeper describes the communal enjoyment of romances, read aloud at harvest time for an audience of delighted laborers Cervantes I. So this sort of writing seems to me to belong to the genre of tales and fables they call Milesian, which are wildly nonsensical stories seeking only to give pleasure, and not to teach anything — exactly the opposite of moral fables, which both delight and teach at the same time. For what beauty, what harmony of one part with the whole, and the whole with all its parts, can there be in a book or a tale in which a sixteen year old boy can cut a giant as tall as a tower right in half, with one blow, and as easily as if the giant were made of sugar paste?
Cervantes I. In fact, as he then confesses, he has even attempted to write one himself, although he abandons the attempt when he realizes, by examining the contemporary stage, that popular taste is not guided by Aristotelian prescriptions Cervantes I. In fact, Don Quijote himself launches into an impassioned defense of the romances. And after seeing all this, what could be better than to find a crowd of lovely maidens coming through the gates?
Engrossed in his own pleasure, and fully identifying with the rewarded knight, he fails to recognize this landscape with maidens as the threatening Bower of Bliss that so exercises Tasso and Spenser. Instead he relishes the relentless idealization of romance. Assessing romance according to Aristotelian rules will therefore never yield a full appreciation; only the proper consideration of variety, inspiring idealization, and readerly pleasure will ensure that the romances receive their due.
Such passages represent a new literary mode, anticipated by Ariosto: the tension between romance and realism, between idealization and the mundane everyday. Don Quijote tellingly picks up on the almost fetishistic value of objects in chivalric romance: magic rings, armor, and so forth, but chooses a laughable example. While Don Quijote insists on the authenticity of his trophy, for this is one of his few successful adventures, Sancho compromises, deeming the receptacle a baciyelmo, or basin-helmet Cervantes I.
For if Don Quijote is an uncritical reader of Ariosto, Cervantes reads him very carefully: like his predecessor, he points out both the anachronism of chivalric ideology and its contradictions, and plays constantly with narrative authority. The Arabic manuscript, by a certain Cide Hamete Benengeli, was translated by a disenfranchised morisco, a Moor forcibly converted to Christianity, in exchange for two bushels of raisins.
Don Quijote claims an original, and a textual transmission not in the classical languages of Greece or Rome, romance in the renaissance or in the triumphant European vernaculars that emulate their authority, but in the language of the defeated Moors, those habitual romance enemies who in this case, paradoxically, produce and disseminate the text.
Beyond the parody of textual origins, Cervantes carefully distances his protagonist from the marvelous heroics of the Furioso: As a mere hidalgo, a nobleman of the lowest possible rank, Don Quijote lacks social and economic position. His separation from the aristocratic and courtly world is foregrounded by geography.
De Armas 43 In a sense, Don Quijote chronicles the marginalization of chivalry, from military action to courtly conduct Cascardi By Part II, an increasingly disillusioned Don Quijote mourns the loss of true chivalry: Our depraved age does not deserve that blessing, as former ages did, when knights errant shouldered and took on themselves the defense of kings, the protection of damsels, the succoring of orphans and wards of court, the punishment of the proud, and the rewarding of the humble.
But today sloth triumphs over exertion, laziness over labor, vice over virtue, arrogance over bravery, and the theory of combat over its practice, which lived and shone only in the Age of Gold, the Age of Knight Errantry. Cervantes II. Beyond Don Quijote, Cervantes uses the conventions of romance in a highly deliberate fashion. His Exemplary Novels provide some of the most interesting examples of romance as strategy. In these short narratives, Cervantes plays with the conventionality and idealization of romance, using them as a convenient screen for political and ideological critiques. Once there, as they are paired off in a happy romance ending, the renegades among them are also unproblematically incorporated into the Christian community.
Romance may pose its own explicit challenge to these ideologies, as in the many instances of individual knights who cross religious and national lines with impunity. There is also a broad corpus of popular prose romance: versions of continental medieval favorites and newer chivalric, pastoral or Greek romances, as well as reworkings of homegrown romances from centuries past. Upcoming Events. No scheduled events. Add an event. Desiree is Currently Reading. Desiree Day is currently reading. Nov 26, PM. Nov 10, AM.
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