Expectations of Romance

Expectations of Romance

The Reception of a Genre in Medieval England

Melissa Furrow





What did medieval readers think of romance? Their attitudes to it, and the implications for the genre, are explored in this provocative study.
"An important and powerful meditation on romance genre, reception and ethical/moral purpose -- amongst many other aspects of romance." Professor ROBERT ROUSE, University of British Columbia.

Medieval readers, like modern ones, differed in whether they saw "noble storie, and worthie for to drawen to memorie" in romance, or "drasty rymyng, nat worth a toord". This book tackles the task of discerning what were the medieval expectations of the genre in England: the evidence, and the implications. Safe for monastic, trained readers, romances provided moral examples. But not all readers saw that role as valid, desirable, or to the point, and not all readers were monks.
Working from what was central to medieval readers' concept of the genre from the twelfth century onward, the book sees the changing linguistic, literary, religious and political contexts through such heterogeneous lenses as Denis Piramus, Robert Manning, and Walter Map; Guy of Warwick and Guenevere; chansons de geste and fabliaux; Tristram and Isolde and John Gower's uses of the pair as exemplary; Geoffrey Chaucer as reader and writer of romance; and the Lollards, clergy, and didacts of the fifteenth century.

MELISSA FURROW is Professor of English at Dalhousie University.

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November 2009
2 black and white illustrations
274 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
Studies in Medieval Romance
ISBN: 9781843842071
Format: Hardback
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Table of Contents

The Problem with Romance
The Name and the Genre
Genres, Language, and Literary History
The Example of Tristram and Isolde
Making Free with the Truth
Coda: The Reception of a Genre
Appendix: Romances and the Male Regular Clergy by Order


A well-structured, in-depth study of how the first readers of medieval romances responded to these texts. ANGLIA

Will surely be welcomed by many scholars of Middle English romance both for contributing a number of new insights and for affirming a number of currently popular theories. ARTHURIANA

Furrow marshals her material well, interspersing her critical arguments with textual exemplars that allow the discussion to move forward as well as providing her reader with a functional model through which to think about this problematic genre and its reception. ENGLISH

Offers extensive and fascinating evidence of the lives romance lived throughout medieval England. [...] It offers a significant redirection of our reception of English romance. SPECULUM

A rich and suggestive book, it gives us a new model for considering not only how romances were read in different contexts, but also, perhaps more acutely, how they were written to be read. MEDIUM AEVUM

A detailed and intriguing study of the ways in which medieval readers may have approached and understood these texts. [...] In its sophisticated consideration of genre in social, political and even material, as well as literary, contexts, Expectations of Romance makes a significant contribution to the study of genre theory as it applies to insular medieval writing. REVIEW OF ENGLISH STUDIES

This a scholarly work, drawing on a wide range of data. It contains excellent readings. MODERN LANGUAGE REVIEW

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