Mimi Ensley
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Sammelbände, libraries and defining the romance genre
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This chapter examines the material ways in which romances were preserved and categorised – rather than erased – by early modern readers. The chapter begins with a discussion of Protestant polemicists who crafted lists of romance texts to warn readers against them. Paradoxically, in doing so such polemicists created their own romance canons. Their booklists effectively define a genre. This chapter argues that these polemical catalogues expand the early modern conception of the medieval romance genre by including new forms, such as the continental prose romances gaining popularity in the sixteenth century, along with lighter, comical ‘jests’. The chapter also shows that the catalogues defined in early modern romance lists reflect material, paratextual decisions made by William Copland, the primary printer of medieval English romance in the late sixteenth century. Despite the consistency of the books included in such catalogues, however, the case studies that conclude this chapter – the romance collection detailed in Robert Langham’s letter describing the 1575 festivities at Kenilworth and an antiquarian Sammelband now housed in the Bodleian Library – demonstrate that early modern romance catalogues were used to characterise and serve very different types of readers.

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Difficult pasts

Post-Reformation memory and the medieval romance


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