The Chansons de Geste in the Age of Romance: Political Fictions

Hardcover | April 30, 1999

bySARAH KAY

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This is a major reassessment of the relation between the medieval French chansons de geste and the romance genre.Critics have traditionally seen romance as a superior development of the chanson de geste. The chanson de geste are seen as 'formulaic', composed from a public fund of pre-existant and primarily oral narratives and motifs; romance on the other hand, is seen as a more sophisticated product of anewly 'literary' story-telling, line with the more complex social and political conditions of the time. Sarah Kay rejects this 'developmental' model of literary history and, through detailed readings of large numbers of texts - from the well-known Renaut de Montauban or Raoul de Cambrai to theunjustly neglected Doon de la Roche or Orson de Beauvais - reveals the simultaneity of the chansons de geste and romance in medieval culture. Drawing tellingly on recent literary and feminist theory, Kay argues that the chanson de geste and romance are engaged in a productive and telling dialogue;moreover, each genre illuminates the 'political unconscious' of the other: those political conflicts and contradictions that the text attempts to evade and disguise. In particular, Kay contends that romance brings with it new forms of sexism and patriarchy - forms much closer to those of thepresent - and that these need to be read against the politics of sexual difference inscribed in chansons de geste.

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This is a major reassessment of the relation between the medieval French chansons de geste and the romance genre.Critics have traditionally seen romance as a superior development of the chanson de geste. The chanson de geste are seen as 'formulaic', composed from a public fund of pre-existant and primarily oral narratives and motifs; ...

Sarah Kay is at Girton College, Cambridge.

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:280 pages, 8.5 × 5.43 × 0.83 inPublished:April 30, 1999Publisher:Oxford University Press

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0198151926

ISBN - 13:9780198151920

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`It is ... refreshing to find that Sarah Kay's admirably argued book replaces the genres into their proper context as cultural partners in the intellectual experiments of the years 1150 to 1250 ... Kay's pungently lapidary style makes the study eminently readable.'Philip E. Bennett, University of Edinburgh, Modern Language Review, Vol. 92, Part 1, 1997