Seminar Seven

Insular [?] romance?  Literary territories: Horn and Boeve de Hamtoun

Some background is helpful in approaching the group of romances we’ll be concerned with over the next couple of weeks.

On the corpus and nature of insular romance when England’s francophone romances are included: a good concise overview is provided by Rosalind Field’s excellent chapter, ‘Romance in England’ the Cambridge History of Medieval English Literature, ed. D. Wallace (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1999), pp.152-76. The pioneering analytical study is Susan Crane’s Insular Romance: Politics, Faith, and Culture in Anglo-Norman and Middle English Literature(Berkeley; Los Angeles; London: University of California Press, 1986), an important new departure in that it treats French and English Anglo-Norman romances together.   A further important treatment of insular romance, this time together with continental romance, is Beate Schmolke-Hasselmann’s The Evolution of Arthurian Romance, tr. R and M. Middleton (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998).  For the romans d’antiquité, known in the twelfth-century and beyond in both England and the continent, see Christopher Baswell, ‘Marvels of translation and crises of transition in the romances of antiquity’in Roberta Krueger, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Medieval Romance (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), pp. 29-44.


(i)  Horn, tr J. Weiss in her The Birth of Romance in England (Tempe, Arizona: ACMERS, 2009).

(ii)  Boeve de Haumtone in Boeve de Haumtone and Gui de Warewic: Two Anglo-Norman Romances, trans. Judith Weiss, FRETS 3 (Tempe, Arizona: ACMERS, 2008).  (copy on reserve in Walsh for both of these: see also attached order sheet).


All should look at Crane and Field (see above) for orientations to the field of insular romance.


It would be useful to consider the two very different hero-figures of these texts and the values, concerns and cultural territories each brings with him.  Many other topics for your own following up are possible for these texts: there are some suggestions in the bibliography listed below. So:

1. a presentation on Horn as hero-figure in Horn:
Is courtoisie next to godliness?  What are the relations between the figure of Horn and God’s providence in the Romance of Horn?

2. a presentation  concentrating on Boeve:
What values and concerns attend the figure of Boeve and what sorts of cultural territory gathers around him?


See specific bibliographies on each text in Weiss’s translations mentioned under Primary Texts above.

Ashe, Laura, “‘Exile and return’ and English law: the Anglo-Saxon Inheritance of English Romance” in Blackwells Literature Compass 3 (2006) 300-1. (useful for thinking about Horn and Beowulf together: a sophisticated text in a later C11th copy in a polyglot court- Norman, Danish, English, Latin- and another sophisticated text in a continuingly though differently inflected C12th polyglot environment….).

—, Fiction and History in England 1066-1200 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007): ch 3, esp pp. 146-58 on Horn.

Bennett, Michael, ‘Military Masculinity in England and Northern France’, in Masculinity in Medieval Europe, ed. D. M. Hadley (London: Addison Wesley Longman. 1999), pp. 71-88. (Boeve and Guy’s masculinity are both interesting and could well be thought about in the light of studies of medieval constructions of masculinity).

Burnley, J. D., The Roman de Horn: its Hero and its Ethos’, French Studies 32 (1978), 385-97.

Barnes, Geraldine, Counsel and Strategy in Middle English Romance (Woodbridge and Rochester, Brewer 1993), ch. 1. ‘Working by counsel in Plantagenet England’.

Field, Rosalind, ‘Romance as History, History as Romance’, in Romance in Medieval England, ed. Maldwyn Mills, Jennifer Fellows, Carol Meale (Woodbridge and Rochester: D.S. Brewer, 1991), 163-74.

—, ‘The King over the Water: Exile and Return Re-visited’, in Cultural Encounters in the Romance of Medieval England, ed. Corinne Saunders (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2005), pp. 41-53 (includes discussion of Boeve)

Krueger, Roberta L. ‘Love, Honor and the Exchange of Women in Yvain: Some Remarks on the Female Reader,’ Romance Notes 25 (1985), 302-17. (partly reworked in her Women Readers and the Ideology of Gender in Old French Verse Romance (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993).

Searle, Eleanor, ‘Women and the Legitimization of Sucession at the Norman Conquest’, Anglo-Norman Studies 3 (1980), 159-70.

Speed, Diane, ‘The Saracens of King Horn’, Speculum 65 (1990), 564-95 (on Saracens and romances see also Heng below).

Nicholls, Jonathan, The Matter of Courtesy: Courtesy Books and the Gawain Poet (Woodbridge and Rochester: Brewer, 1985): useful study of a theme important in Horn.

Weiss, Judith, ‘The Wooing Woman in Anglo-Norman Romance’ in Mills et al (above, under Field), pp. 149-62.

—, ‘The Power and Weakness of Women in Anglo-Norman Romance’, in Women and Literature in Britain 1150-1500, ed. Carol Meale (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993, rev. ed., 1996), pp. 7-23.

Two stimulating general works on romance (principallyEnglish romance):

Heng, Geraldine, Empire of Magic: Medieval Romance and the Politics of Cultural Fantasy (New York: Columbia University Press, 2003).

McDonald, Nicola, ed., Pulp Fictions of Medieval England: Essays in Popular Romance(Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2004).