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Nobility in middle English romance

Fisher, Marianne 2013. Nobility in middle English romance. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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Abstract

Medieval nobility was a compound and fluid concept, the complexity of which is clearly reflected in the Middle English romances. This dissertation examines fourteen short verse romances, grouped by story-type into three categories. They are: type 1: romance and lost heirs (Degaré Chevelere Assigne, Sir Perceval of Galles, Lybeaus Desconus, and Octvian); type 2: romances about winning a bride (Floris and Blancheflour, The Erle of Tolous, Sir Eglamour of Artois, Sir Degrevant, and the Amis-Belisaunt plot from Amis and Amiloun); type 3: romances of improversihed knights (Amiloun's story from Amis and Amiloun, Sir Isumbras, Sir Amadace, Sir Cleges, and Sir Launfal). The analysis is based on contextualized close reading, drawing on the theories of Pierre Bourdieu. The results show that Middle English romance has no standard criteria for defining nobillity, but draws on the full range of contemporary opinion; understandings of nobility conflict both between and within texts. Ideological consistence is seldom a priority, and the genre apparently serves neither a single socio-political agenda, nor a single socio-political group. The dominant conception of nobility in each romance is determined by the story-type. Romance type 1 presents nobility as inherent in the blood, type 2 emphasizes prowess and force of will, and type 3 concentrates on virtue. However, no romance text offers just one definition; implicitly or explicitly, there are always alternatives. This internal variety indicates tha the romances imagine nobility scene-by-scene; even a text seemingly committed to one perspective is liable to abandon it temporarily if there is another better suited to the narrative moment. Ideological expression always comes second to effective story-telling. This means the texts are frequently inconsistent and sometimes illogical, but that multiplicity is of their very essence.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: English, Communication and Philosophy
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PQ Romance literatures
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Funders: AHRC BGP
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Last Modified: 19 Mar 2016 23:29
URI: http://orca.cf.ac.uk/id/eprint/54052

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