We are delighted that Cultural Translations in Medieval Romance, featuring selected proceedings of the Romance in Medieval Britain conference held at Cardiff University in 2018, has been published in time for the Durham 2022 conference this April. The 2018 conference marked the return of the conference series to Wales, where it all began thirty years ago, at Gregynog Hall. This has prompted a fitting renewal of interest in the Welsh connections of medieval romance, represented in the volume alongside explorations into Irish and Scandinavian contexts – the region that colleagues working on the localised comparative study of medieval culture in the North Atlantic generally term ‘Insular’. This is an expansion of the customary identification of ‘insular’ as England, which has generally been more common in the study of medieval romance (with previous work on Bevis of Hampton excepted, of course, and the important new European research initiatives on this particular romance!).
‘Insular’ is a category which we use in the volume as one of inclusivity rather than exclusivity, charting the complex and cumulative production of culture in this tiny corner of Europe, which stands at an intersection of cultural connections and influences which stretch far beyond it. The volume itself is intended to encapsulate the specific interests of this nature present at the conference in 2018, but as editors we are very aware just how much work there is to be done in the context of future romance conferences and proceedings, in dialogue with new and important investigations in international scholarship on romance, translation, and its trans-national contexts. We’d note in particular, for readers interested in this subject, Elizabeth Watkins’ recent publication on ‘Global Romance’. We will actively encourage such interventions at future romance conferences, in a field which, like romance itself, is one of promising transformations.
This volume also thinks with translation as an expansive category, alert to the mobility of romance and its expectations not simply across national borders and languages, but across genres and readerships too. The essays in this collection show how, in the fashioning of romance, translation, or translatio – whether in terms of language, learning, authority, or form – is always a culturally-inflected act. One of this volume’s contributions is to explore how appropriations or renegotiations of forms of cultural authority – whether in the intellectual and ecclesiastical language of Latin, or knowledge of the classical world; in eschatological doctrine; or in earlier high-status genres such as chansons de geste, or continental courtly romance – reveal the sophistication, rather than the limitations, of ‘popular’ romance and its many audiences. In the later Middle Ages, new social strata were also exposed to – and, increasingly, able to see themselves reflected in – the traditionally-aristocratic genre of romance. As social mobility effected transfers of power, romance itself became a type of cultural authority to be appropriated and interrogated, including through generic hybridity and parody.
This volume seeks to encourage further study of the ways in which the genre’s multilingualism and other movements both translate romance into new territory and offer insights into the essence of how romance works: in its unity and continuity, and in its capacity to adapt, to make connections, to incorporate and make new.
Victoria Flood is Senior Lecturer in Medieval and Early Modern Literature at the University of Birmingham; Megan Leitch is Reader in English Literature at Cardiff University.
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