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Discuss Medieval Writing As A Social Act Notes

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1.

Discuss

medieval

writing

as

a

social

act.


While

many

medieval

texts

exhibit

a

distinct

orality

which

makes

them

appropriate

subjects

for


a

discussion

of

'social'

literature,

medieval

romances,

particularly

Arthurian

texts,

provide

a


more

complex

and

illuminating

study

of

medieval

life

and

the

role

of

literature

within

it.


Romances

do

themselves,

in

their

written

appropriations,

reveal

an

oral

residue

which


suggestions

that

their

original

communication

may

have

indeed

been

a

'social

act'

however


their

subject

matter

and

history

reveal

many

interesting

aspects

about

medieval

society.

The


development

of

the

genre

in

England,

which

has

its

antecedence

in

Geoffrey

of

Monmouth's


History

of

the

King's

of

Britain

(1136)

reveals

a

widespread

social

desire

for

national

pride.


Geoffrey's

inclusion

of

Arthur,

an

otherwise

obscure

Celtic

warrior

in

the

conquest

of

Rome,

as


well

as

the

description

of

Brutus,

grandson

of

Aeneas,

the

legendary

founder

of

Rome,

who


allegedly

founded

the

Kingdom

of

'Britain'

did

much

to

elevate

British

self

opinion

under


French

domination.

The

Anglo--Norman

kings

of

England

were

eager

to

distinguish

themselves


(both

politically

and

culturally)

from

France,

they

did

not

want

to

be

considered

the

vassals

of


the

King

of

France,

(which

they

technically

were

since

William

was

also

Duke

of

Normandy).


The

story

of

Brutus

as

provided

by

Geoffrey

provided

the

perfect

mythology

for

justifying


political

independence;

while

the

French

had

claimed

authority

as

"descendants"

of

classical


Rome

in

the

figure

of

Charlemagne,

seeing

him

as

a

representative

of

the

transfer

of

legitimate


political

power

from

Rome,

England

now

had

as

much

legitimacy

from

Brutus'

lineage

as

well


as

a

new

hero

-

Arthur

in

which

is

express

this

new

assertion

of

power

in

the

present.

Although


Geoffrey

presented

his

text

as

a

serious

Latin

and

scholarly

text,

its

influence

and

propagation


in

the

text

three

centuries

is

a

testament

to

its

social

importance

and

how

the

genre

of

Romance


can

be

characterised

by

its

engagement

with

social

concerns.

Northrop

Frye's

definition

of


Romance

as

an

act

of

"wish

fulfilment"

is

appropriate

here

as

one

can

see

how

it

its

very


conception

is

rooted

in

a

desire

for

a

seemingly

impossible

national

emaciation.


Wace's

first

translation

of

Geoffrey's

text

(1155),

was

one

not

only

of

language

but

also

of

tone;


by

calling

it

the

'Romance

of

Brutus'

and

dedicating

it

to

Eleanor

of

Aquitaine,

(who

did

much


to

develop

the

poetry

of

courtly

love)

he

helped

to

establish

the

story

of

Brutus

and

of

Arthur


within

the

already

developing

genre

of

Romance.

This

transition

between

scholarly

political


text

and

literary

romance

itself

mirrors

the

continued

reflection

between

medieval

society

and


medieval

romance

which

is

explore

in

the

numerous

subsequent

Arthurian

texts.

The

fact

that


he

added

in

the

idea

of

the

Round

Table,

a

counterpart

to

Charlemagne's

groups

of

12

warrior


followers

called

"peers",

reminds

us

that

while

Wace

may

have

acted

with

a

literary

imperative,


he

was

still

very

much

aware

of

the

political

and

social

effect

of

his

text.

As

well

as

providing

a


sense

of

'wish

fulfilment',

a

fantasy

of

power,

medieval

romances

offer,

within

their

narratives


and

themes,

an

exploration

of

many

social

concerns.

For

example,

issues

of

social

judgement,


how

value

should

be

ascribed

or

attributed

to

certain

people

and

acts

is

frequently

addressed


in

medieval

romances.

For

example,

noble

characters

like

Sir

Launfal

and

Havelok

are

shunned


on

account

of

their

poverty

and

Sir

Amadance

fears

a

similar

fate.

Dame

Ragnell

too,

who

is


judged

initially

on

the

basis

of

her

grotesque

appearance,

demands

to

be

treated

nonetheless


with

'gentilese'.

Havelok

(1280--90)

provides

a

more

complex

discussion

of

value.

While

he

is


loved

when

he

is

merely

the

cook's

servant

by

all

who

know

him

"bothen

heye

men

and

loew"


because

of

his

good

nature,

this

in

it

self

is

more

of

a

dramatic

foreshadowing

of

his

later


kingship

and

a

sign

that

he

is

'special',

in

other

areas

of

the

text,

admiration

is

presented

as


entirely

condition.

Similarly,

claiming

that

the

love

Grim

and

his

family

have

for

Havelok

is


justified

by

the

character

and

the

actions

of

Havelok,

rather

than

his

regal

nature

is

undermined


by

the

fact

that

they

know

his

true

identity

and

that

Grim

had

originally

been

ready

to

drown


him

for

riches.

The

issue

of

the

basis

of

character

evaluation,

which

is

seen

in

other

works

such


as

Lay

Le

Freine,

Sir

Amadace

and

Sir

Launfal,

is

complication

in

Havelok

by

his

Kingship

which

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