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Bulletin of the John Rylands Library
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Post-Reformation memory and the medieval romance

Difficult pasts combines book history, reception history and theories of cultural memory to explore how Reformation-era audiences used medieval literary texts to construct their own national and religious identities. It argues that the medieval romance book became a flexible site of memory for readers after the Protestant Reformation, allowing them to both connect with and distance themselves from the recent ‘difficult past’. Central characters in this study range from canonical authors like Geoffrey Chaucer and Edmund Spenser to less studied figures, such as printer William Copland, Elizabethan scribe Edward Banister and seventeenth-century poet and romance enthusiast, John Lane. In uniting a wide range of romance readers’ perspectives, Difficult pasts complicates clear ruptures between manuscript and print, Catholic and Protestant, or medieval and Renaissance. It concludes that the romance book offers a new way to understand the simultaneous change and continuity that defines post-Reformation England. Overall, Difficult pasts offers an interdisciplinary framework for better understanding the role of physical books and imaginative forms in grappling with the complexities of representing and engaging with the past.

The gift of narrative in medieval England places medieval narratives – especially romances – in dialogue with theories and practices of gift and exchange. It argues that the dynamics of the gift are powerfully at work in these texts: through exchanges of objects and people; repeated patterns of love, loyalty and revenge; promises made or broken; and the complex effects that time works on such objects, exchanges and promises. The book ranges widely, from the twelfth-century Romance of Horn and English versions of the Horn story to the romances of the Auchinleck Manuscript, and from Sir Gawain and the Green Knight to Geoffrey Chaucer and John Lydgate. In reading these texts alongside some of the debates about giving and receiving that radiate from Anthropology and critical theory, Nicholas Perkins asks a number of questions: What role does the circulation of things play in creating narratives? Do romance protagonists themselves act as exchanged objects, and what difference does gender make to how they navigate networks of obligation and agency? Is storytelling a form of gift-giving? Do linguistic exchanges such as promises operate like gifts? How do medieval stories place obligations on the audiences who listen to them or, perhaps, receive a manuscript copy as a precious gift?

Bringing together literary studies, Anthropology and material practice in an invigorating way, this book encourages close attention to the dynamics and pleasures of the gift in narrative.

Ethics, emotions, dreams

Middle English literature registers intimate concerns with sleep and the spaces in which it takes place. These concerns about sleep, and the intersecting medical and moral discourses with which they engage, have been overlooked by studies more concerned with what sleep sometimes enables (dreams and dream poetry), or with what sleep sometimes stands in for or supersedes (sex). In the medieval English imagination, sleep is an embodied and culturally determined act, both performed and interpreted by characters and contemporaries; both subject to a particular habitus, and understood through particular, and pervasive, hermeneutic lenses. This book argues that sleep mediates thematic concerns and questions in ways that carry specific ethical, affective and oneiric implications in the medieval English cultural imagination, and that also offer defining contributions to different Middle English genres: romance, dream vision, drama and fabliau. Concentrating particularly on the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, this book also attends to a longue durée in the literature and ideas about sleep circulating from the twelfth century to the early seventeenth. It focuses on continuities in the construction of sleep across this span – scientific, social, spiritual and spatial continuities – and explores the cultural specificity of premodern English literature’s widespread interest in sleep. Analysing the ways in which representations of sleep in a range of genres animate ethical codes and emotive scripts, this book’s contributions include establishing the significance of sleep-related motifs to Middle English romance, and offering a more embodied understanding of dream visions by Chaucer, Langland and the Pearl-poet.

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Palimpsests – Reformation, romance and erasure
Mimi Ensley

Edward Dering ( c .1540–76) defined the recent past with reference to its literature and its religion. English ‘forefathers’, Dering writes in his Briefe and Necessarie Catechism (1575), read such medieval romances as Bevis of Hampton and ‘Arthur of the round table’ alongside ‘their Legendawry’ and ‘their Saintes liues’. And Dering is not pleased by the combination. For him, romances and hagiographies were texts ‘whych Satan had made, hell had printed and were warranted vnto seale vnder the Popes

in Difficult pasts
Suzanne Conklin Akbari

1 Incorporation in the Siege of Melayne Suzanne Conklin Akbari In the debate concerning precisely what constitutes a medievalromance’ the Siege of Melayne occupies a special position. As a number of readers have noted, this poem participates in the conventions both of romance (understood as a genre fundamentally concerned with the deeds of knights) and of hagiography. The focus of such cross-generic readings is usually the character of Archbishop Turpin who, as Barron puts it, has ‘as much of the saint as of the soldier in his nature’.1 The crossgeneric status

in Pulp fictions of medieval England
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‘All good letters were layde a slepe’: medieval sleep and early modern heirs
Megan G. Leitch

would-be playwright, that Bottom’s sleeping form occupies the stage. In offering his exposition of sleep, then, Shakespeare’s Bottom not only reminds us of the outdoor, daytime sleepers of medieval romance and drama; he also foregrounds connections between sleep and literary production in a way that follows Chaucer’s rearticulation, in the Book of the Duchess , of the poet’s sleep not as sloth, but rather as creative work. 9 To adduce these parallels, to compare medieval and early modern literary treatments of sleep, is to

in Sleep and its spaces in Middle English literature
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Sammelbände, libraries and defining the romance genre
Mimi Ensley

with the shorter ‘jest’ genre – until the later decades of the seventeenth century. 17 Indeed, Newcomb argues that ‘the usual view that equates romance with chapbook fodder is anachronistic’. 18 Similarly, though she writes primarily about the seventeenth-century context, Margaret Spufford distinguishes ‘histories’, of which medieval romances would form a part, from other ‘small books’ because of their length, though she still notes that histories were advertised alongside these other ‘small books’. 19 And Alex

in Difficult pasts
Donald F. Lach
Theodore Nicholas Foss

d’art . To Europe before 1500 Asia was a world apart, a region of magie, mystery and opulence. India, though it had never been completely isolated from European contacts, was none the less perceived as a land peopled by Amazons, monsters and devils, as well as by wise and ascetic brahmins. Through the medieval romance the deeds of Alexander the Great, both real and fictional, brought to Europe

in Asia in Western fiction
Sharon Kettering

a heroic story taken from classical mythology or medieval romances. The action unfolded through verse recitations, libretti read by the audience, sung narratives accompanied by instrumental and choral music, mimed scenes, and multiple entrances in various styles of dancing. Luynes used dramatic court ballets as political propaganda to convince the nobility and Parisian elite of his valuable services to the king, especially the removal of the tyrant Concini, the allegorical theme of many of his ballets.18 The Queen Mother, Marie de Médicis, loved court ballets and

in Power and reputation at the court of Louis XIII