"The sense of being guided by a trustworthy intelligence, deeply grounded in knowledge based on thorough study of the relevant texts, in command of precise and accurate language, is the consistent experience of reading Reality Fictions. This is a genuinely original and important book." —Nancy Partner, McGill University
"Richly grounded in literary theory, Stein is never its captive; he knows when and how to allow the written text its rejoinder as theory's necessary corrective. Severe with unconsidered teleologies, always deeply contexted, this fine book abounds in conceptual payoffs. Among my revisionary favorites: his aptly titled (and wittily inverted) concluding chapter, 'From Romance to Epic.'" —Paul Strohm, Anna S. Garbedian Professor of Humanities, Columbia University
It has long been a commonplace of literary history that in the twelfth century, first in the French-speaking territories controlled by the Anglo-Norman and Capetian ruling families, and especially within the milieu of the English royal court, antique and chivalric romances appeared simultaneously with a new kind of historical chronicle driven by contemporary affairs. In short order, historiography and romance, whether written in Latin or in the vernaculars, became culturally dominant kinds of narrative expression throughout the rest of Europe.
Why did this happen? In Reality Fictions, Robert M. Stein argues that the emergence of historiography and romance was linked to large-scale transformations in the structure of power attendant on Capetian and Anglo-Norman state-making. He maintains that an understanding of the changes in twelfth-century romance and history writing requires us to consider the structure of literary production as a whole and in its relation to the world from which it emerges and to which it responds. A brilliant study of literary innovation, Reality Fictions provides a new understanding both of the large variety of overlapping institutional, epistemological, and practical structures of power that the European Middle Ages presents to us and of the ways in which dislocations and transformations of power are registered in the consciousness of those who live through them.