John Finlayson (2015)Resumen Español
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John Finlaysson – Definitions of Middle English Romance
The term romance is conceived of as a gender and at the same time as a particular treatment of
that gender. There are different meanings concerning to romance: “the essential characteristic is
that the story is incredible” “romance signified a language derived from popular Latin”
“fictitious narrative” etc. Chansons de geste influence of adventure.
W. P. Ker “Epic and Romance” he says “romance” is used in 3 distinct senses: to describe an attitude to, and a kind of, experience; to categorize post-heroic, chivalric narrative poetry; and to define a specific, narrowly prescribed genre, the roman courtois.
Romance probably isn’t a monolithic genre but, like novel, is divisible into a number of largely dif. types.
Most of the works called romance in Middle English are based on French sources adaptations of chansons de geste.
Love-making plays a rather insignificant part in most English narratives. But, provided by military encounters, is probably the most important element in English romances.
Romances of the quality of Sir Gawain & the Green Knight are extremely rare in English, a part form it, the English achievement in romance is not a very high order. Given that the roman courtois is a form peculiarly dependent on a largely artificial convention of manners and on a type of sophistication which could exist only in aristocratic, courtly circles, and that the English was still often regarded in the 14thC as a language unsuited to the expression of refined sentiments.
No matter what variety of audience the authors of the Middle English narratives, romantic or heroic, had in mind they must have had some idea of the type of poem they wished to compose.
Differentiation between romance and chanson de geste they have very in common: both types of narrative are essentially aristocratic and deal with the qualities of the warrior class, such as courage, skill in arms, loyalty and generosity. The difference lies in the emphases placed on these qualities, on the ends which they are made to serve, and on the contexts within which they operate.
Characters of the chanson de geste speak for themselves, whereas in the romances we are always conscious of the storyteller and his manipulation of episode and character.
Perceval chanson de geste Sir Gawain and the Green Knight romance Both chanson de geste and romance heroes are known through their prowess, but while the former employs his skill in a public context, the latter does so solely or usually of a private ideal. It is in this ideal that the romance hero differs so much from the hero of the chanson de geste. Whereas the character of the chanson de geste hero can be said no more than a heightening of reality, the character of the romance hero is largely an idealization which bears little relation to social reality and certainly did not spring from it.
The chanson de geste is closer to the “actualities” of the warrior class of the late Middle Ages than is the romance. The basic paradigm of the romance is expressed in the formula: “The knight rides out alone to seek adventure”. The basic definition of romance is that it is a tale in which a knight achieves great feats of arms, almost solely for his own los et pris in a series of adventures which have no social, political or religious motivation and little or no connection with medieval actuality.
The aristocratic or courtly romance, as perfected or created by Chrétien, takes this basic pattern and develops it, not by changing the form, but by giving the elements values and functions. In Chrétien the basic structure becomes the vehicle for a presentation and examination of the chivalric ethic. Where in the popular romance adventure exists purely for the demonstration of prowess, in Chrétien it exists as a test of more than the hero’s martial skill. The meaningless series of adventures becomes in Chrétien a progression: each adventure demonstrates different things about the hero, represents a stage in his journey towards internal harmony. Present in Chrétien’s romances, is the idea of a personal, predestined office which is expressed by, and finds its proper manifestation in, chivalric adventure.
Adventure, then, is the real core of romance, whether it be popular or courtly. The manner of treating or seeing adventure, the context in which it is placed, the way it is related to the hero – these are what distinguish courtly romance from the simpler romance of adventure.
Marvels and the supernatural have been urged, since the Renaissance, as the essence of romance. The supernatural, then, is not peculiar to romance, but it is clearly characteristic of it.
While the marvellous is not the essence of romance, it is clearly more than an optional “property”. In most romances it either initiates the action or defines the nature of the action.
That is, it motivates the action, but the very form of the “motivation” enhances the “irrational” quality of romance: the “reasons” given for the actions of the hero have nth to do with what we would recognize as reasons, and the marvellous seems almost always inseparable from, indispensable to, this atmosphere of unmotivated action. Example: in Sir Gawain, in the midst festivities, the Green Knight arrives to challenge Arthur. The “causes” or terms of the challenge have nth political, social, or historical about them and the response to the challenge is individual and purely in terms of a special, and again personal, concept of honour: the response is a severing of a head, with no observable or normal consequences, a tryst, and a quest. It’s a world where there are causes but there are no reasons.
In the romance there is little attempt to authenticate the story in terms of actual political, geographical, or economic conditions: the hero meets giants and encounters miracles without ever seeming to find them disturbing or unnatural, and time and place are of little importance.
The romance is contemporaneous in its manners, dress, and architecture, but totally outside of time and place in its actions.
Love or, courtly love is usually urged as one of the chief distinguishing features of romance. In Chrétien, love is not the centre, but rather one of the 2 main components of the knight’s persona. The search of Chrétien is not for the perfection of love but for a harmonious balance between prowess & love. The chanson de geste contains some reference to sentimental love.
While courtly romances make love an essential part of the character of the knight, and use it as a motivation for the plot, the trial by adventure still remains the core of the work: the lady, or love, is achieved through prowess, which may be enhanced by love, but nevertheless exists separate from it.
Distinguish medieval heroic poetry form romance? The hero in both is a feudal, aristocratic chevalier, but they are distinguishable by the concept of the nature and the function of the warrior.
Romance is not a monolithic genre, but in its more sophisticated practitioners a mode which we can often characterize by isolation of elements such as the concept of the hero the treatment of the marvellous, of time, and of place, the nature and the function of adventure, and the episodic nature of structure.
“The Squire of Low Degree” shows that writers were aware of the difference between romance of adventure & courtly romance.
Sir Perceval of Galles the process of his adventures is the progress to his identity, that is, to his name and his proper role. It’s also one of the most coherent examples in Middle English of the “interlacing” which Chrétien created as one of the most striking structural features of Old French romance. As a whole, however, it is of uneven quality and too frequently betrays an imperfect grasp of the essence of romance: there’s much carelessness about plot coherence, a considerable uncertainty as to whether Perceval is sustained because of his basic innocence and inherited nobility or simply because of the magic ring; the uncertainty doesn’t contribute to a sense of numinous, symbolic action, but seems rather the product of an imperfect conception on the author’s part. It is, however, a fairly typical example of the Middle English romance of adventure in that it sometimes creates its own meaning quite persuasively, but often depends on the formulaic value of romance rituals. It is also, of course, a typical example of how much Middle English romance was generated, since it is clearly the result of the reductive capacity of a far from sophisticated mind. Chrétien intends a romance of adventure, rather than anything religious or courtly.
The “religious romances” are a later development of the genre, although fairly early in the development of romance its symbolic and allegoric potentials, as well as its modishness, were recognized by the ever alert clergy.