Mimi Ensley
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Palimpsests – Reformation, romance and erasure
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This introductory chapter situates this study within existing scholarship on the post-Reformation reception of later medieval literature. It defines the medieval romance genre and explores the various threads of the book’s methodology: its interest in periodisation, memory studies and materiality. It also introduces the book’s framing metaphors – the catalogue, the collage, the monument, and the museum – as possible alternatives to the notion of the palimpsest. The palimpsest is a useful metaphor for understanding the relationships between present and past, as it emphasises materiality and complicates notions of linear historical progress and simple chronological development. However, it is easy to forget that the palimpsest is a metaphor fundamentally based on erasure. By focusing on the genre of romance, Difficult pasts offers an alternative to a literary history centred on erasure. The new metaphors explored in this chapter embrace the temporal complexity of the past, but they also highlight early modern efforts to preserve and engage with, rather than destroy, medieval predecessors.

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Difficult pasts

Post-Reformation memory and the medieval romance


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