Article

Romance

Helen Moore

in British and Irish Literature

ISBN: 9780199846719
Published online May 2016 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199846719-0117
Romance

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Western European romance (understood in its broadest outlines as a vernacular narrative of love and war, often with a supernatural dimension) emerged in France in the 12th century. It arrived in England via Anglo-Norman romances and their translations and was swiftly naturalized, flourishing in the 14th century in the works of Chaucer and the Gawain poet as well as in popular forms, and developing in the 15th century in prose, of which Malory’s Morte Darthur (1485) is the high point. This pattern of translation and naturalization continued through the 16th century, with the rediscovery of the ancient Greek romances and the importing of peninsular prose romance. During the 17th century, English romance—again reinvigorated by French in the form of the heroic romance—coexisted with the early novel; often characterized as conflicted or supplanting, this relationship was actually one of mutual engagement. As noted in The Cambridge History of the English Novel (Caserio and Hawes 2012) the novel has always been, and remains, entangled and engaged with romance. A similarly close and cross-fertilizing relationship is evident between Romance and Drama, especially in the early modern period. Romance has also played an important role in many periods as both the spur to and a mechanism of political retrospection and resistance. Unrestrained in its matter (exotic, fantastic, military, political, allegorical, erotic, religious, and so forth), romance has provided ample opportunities for the articulation and performance of multiple identities, and so has been hospitable to modern engagements of critical and theoretical variety, from structuralism and Marxism to feminism and postcolonialism. A core component of the antiquarian researches of the 18th century, romance has always drawn attention in its material aspect, as witnessed by the strong presence of romances among the volumes of the Early English Text Society, and in the 21st century in online resources.

Article.  9938 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (British and Irish)

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