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3 - Matters of Form

Experiments in Verse and Prose Romance

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 May 2023

Roberta L. Krueger
Affiliation:
Hamilton College, New York
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Summary

This chapter reviews how verse and prose romances in French and other Western European vernaculars developed through formal experimentation. Emphasizing the skill with which verse writers negotiated formal choices, the chapter analyses in detail the octosyllabic rhyming couplet that became the most common verse romance meter in several languages, before outlining the surprising variety of forms that distinguished Middle English romance. The complex relationship of form to genre – romance, epic, and lyric – in different linguistic and cultural contexts is also discussed, as is the virtuoso practice of inserting lyrics into verse romance narratives. The second half of the chapter describes the genesis and spread of romance writing in prose, now so ordinary as to seem a nonform, but once radically innovative and carrying a particular ideological freight. It analyses the “myth of prose,” which allowed prose romance writers to claim a truthfulness and objectivity for their form that they denied to verse. In spite of such claims, verse romance was nevertheless preferred in some languages and cultural contexts.

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Chapter
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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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References

Further Reading

Besamusca, Bart, “The Prevalence of Verse in Medieval Dutch and English Arthurian Fiction,” JEGP: Journal of English and Germanic Philology, 112 (2013), 461–74.Google Scholar
Godzich, Wlad, and Kittay, Jeffrey, The Emergence of Prose: An Essay in Prosaics (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987).Google Scholar
Lote, Georges, Histoire du vers français, 9 vols, part I, Le Moyen Âge: vol. 1 (Paris: Boivin, 1949), vol. 2 (Paris: Boivin, 1951), and vol. 3 (Paris: Hatier, 1955).Google Scholar
Mortensen, Lars Boje, “The Sudden Success of Prose: A Comparative View of Greek Latin, Old French and Old Norse,” Medieval Worlds, 5 (2017), 345.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Purdie, Rhiannon, Anglicising Romance: Tail-Rhyme and Genre in Medieval English Literature (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2008).Google Scholar
Putter, Ad, “The Metres and Stanza Forms of Popular Romance,” in Radulescu, Raluca L. and Rushton, Cory James (eds.), A Companion to Medieval Popular Romance (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2009), pp. 111–31.Google Scholar
Taylor, Jane H. M., Rewriting Arthurian Romance in Renaissance France: From Manuscript to Printed Book (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2014).Google Scholar

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