Seminar Eight

England into Europe/Europe into England


We continue our reading from the large corpus of Anglo-Norman romance, but this time with a chronological as well as a spatial element as we look at our second text from Weiss’s ‘second wave of Anglo-Norman romance.’   In Gui de Warewic  the hero’s journeying embraces the Holy Roman Empire and the Byzantine Empire, with travels from England to Constantinople and back.  This trajectory compares with Boeve on the one hand (Sussex to Damascus) and Horn’s multiply centred North Western European realms vulnerable to African/Saracen attack. Gui himself, the son of a seneschal, is mobile in class as well as geographic terms.

We will focus- at least initially-on (i)  questions of cultural geography: What is happening in Gui?  On what terms does the romance engage with its far flung territories?  What sort of space is ‘England’ in this text? Should we be thinking of this romance as ‘orientalizing’?  how different is this ‘second wave’ from Horn and in what ways? etc and (ii) questions regarding the kind of hero Gui is- How does being a mercenary knight signify in this romance? What kinds of relations is Gui represented as having with other people?  Do take notes and formulate thoughts in these areas while doing your primary reading.


Background reading and much of the bibliography from last week remain relevant here if you were unable to look at enough of it then: for bibliography specifically on Gui, see Weiss’s edition, pp. 247-9.  A fuller bibliography, though again with items on the Middle English Gui far outweighing the Anglo-Norman one is available on the Auchinleck Manuscript site, at as are couplet and stanzaic transcriptions of the Middle English Guy of Warwick in this manuscript (Wiggins edits the Middle English stanzaic text for TEAMS).     Articles by Rosalind Field and Paul Price are on E-res for you: I am awaiting the return of the collection by Alison Wiggins and Rosalind Field on Guy of Warwick: Icon and Ancestor(Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2007) to put the book on reserve.  Pending the return of this and other books containing articles on Gui, a quick look at Field and Price on E-res will have to suffice if you want something to kick start your thinking: I will let you know as soon as I hear of the recalls succeeding.  In the meantime, careful reading and noting both the narrative and Gui’s trajectories and encounters should provide a useful basis for discussion.

Because of the enormous and long lived popularity of the Gui story, our library, as with other good university libraries, abounds in early print and early modern editions and retellings of Gui up to at least 1800 [a book on this tradition is Velma B. Richmond’s The Legend of Guy of Warwick(Garland: 1996)].any searching of the library under the heading Guy of Warwick will pull up these many versions. But the Anglo-Norman Gui, apart from Weiss’s own articles and the studies of romance mentioned in her bibliography as including specific discussion of Gui, has had relatively little attention to date.

Gui’s popularity (the A-N version extant in more MSS than the Middle English one in the C14th and so arguably more popular) and great narrative length are evident from the beginning: this prompts questions about how it was delivered and received.  A further issue to consider is Field’s claim for the value of this compendiousness:
‘To read a long romance, an episode at a time, over a length of time, is to release its entertainment potential’ (Rosalind Field, ‘Popular Romance: The material and the Problem’, in Cory Rushton and Raluca Radulescu eds, A Companion to Medieval Popular Romance, Cambridge, Brewer, 2009).  For a pithy discussion of the class assumptions of much romance criticism and approaches to popular medieval literature see Nicola McDonald, ‘A Polemical Introduction’ to her Pulp Fictions of Medieval England (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2004): this is based on Middle English romance so cannot be simply applied directly to Anglo-Norman texts, but it is thought-provoking all the same. Looking back over Boeve one might in this context also ponder Field’s related argument that there are unexamined assumptions whereby aristocrats are assumed to have refined literary tastes, and her suggestion that we might rather think of ‘open’ and ‘closed’ texts, of coterie literature (Anglo-Norman romances with named patrons and authors and a close and familiar audience with shared assumptions about fashionable courtly literature such as we posit in Chaucer or the Gawain poet) and the more ‘open’ episodic nature of a text such as Gui.  But do we need to posit a change in the social make up of the audience to move from such a closed to an open text?

So, following your preparatory reading in (principally but not necessarily exclusively) the primary source, bring your notes prepared to contribute back to our discussion openers on the two topic areas.

I will bring some further C13th mappings: I have decided not to include the extract originally scheduled from The Destruction of Rome as you will all have your explications de texte to think about as well as the seminar.