The Romance

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					The Romance

Some Definitions
Romance    (Adapted from Holman and Harmon’s A Handbook to Literature)

•First applied to stories of knights and their chivalric deeds as a form of
Old French literature, the earliest of which were translated from Latin.
•In English literature there arose a distinction between the novel and
romance. In 1785, Clara Reeve wrote: “The Novel is a picture of real life
and manners, and of the times in which it was written. The Romance in
lofty and elevated language, describes what has never happened nor is
likely to.”
•“Commonly, the term applies to works with extravagant characters,
remote and exotic places, highly exciting and heroic events, passionate
love, or mysterious or supernatural experiences.”
•“In a more sophisticated sense, romance refers to works relatively free of
the more restrictive aspects of realistic verisimilitude and expressive of
profound, transcendent, or idealist truths.” For example: Hawthorne’s
The House of Seven Gables and The Scarlet Letter, Melville’s Moby-Dick,
Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom.
Medieval Romance
•“tales of adventure in which knights, kings, or distressed
ladies, acting under the impulse of love, religious faith, or the
mere desire for adventure are the chief figures.”
•Those written in verse are normally called metrical
romances


Subject Matter
“Matter of France” (Charlemagne, Roland)
“Matter of Antiquity” (ancient history and literature)
“Matter of Britain” (Celtic lore, especially Arthurian)
                            Epic & Romance

          EPIC                                  ROMANCE
Reflects a heroic age                        Reflects a chivalric age
Has weight and solidity                      Exhibits mystery and fantasy
Does not stress rank or social distinction   Stresses rank and social distinctions
An air of tragic seriousness                 More light-hearted
Heroic figures consistently conceived        Less consistency in romantic figures
Heroic aims at high achievement              Hero satisfied with aimless adventure
Observes narrative unity                     Loose structure
Love absent or of minor interest             Love often supreme in romance
Fighting is serious and well-motivated       Fighting is usually spontaneous
Characters usually speak for themselves      Reader kept conscious of a narrator
Breton Lai (from Burgess & Busby, The Lais of Marie de
France, 26-27)
A shorter romance that treats one crisis. Love is more spontaneous
than in the longer romances. “The lai … generally starts from a
position of lack and crisis which is resolved into a period of
happiness; the happiness is then confronted with a test which leads
either to a satisfactory or an unsatisfactory resolution. The events of
the lai are usually … the decisive moments in the lives of the
protagonists, and may lead to their living happily ever after or dying a
tragic death.”

				
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posted:4/30/2012
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