“The Romance between Greece and the West.” Heroes and Heroines in French, Anglo-Norman and English Medieval Narrative
Medieval romance is arguably the most influential secular literary genre of the European Middle Ages. Its history has not been written yet. In order to enhance our understanding of this history (both conceptually and cross-culturally), this project offers the first reconstruction and interpretation of the persistence of (ancient) novelistic and (late antique and medieval) hagiographical traditions in French, Anglo-Norman and English medieval romance. Whereas it is assumed that ancient novels influenced medieval romance only if there were Latin versions of them, this project aims to explore the importance of hagiography as a possible narrative bridge between ancient (Greek) novels and medieval vernacular romance. The research hypothesis is that medieval romances were impacted (directly or indirectly) by ancient novelistic and late antique and medieval hagiographical influences of different kinds, and that they adopted, rehearsed, re-used and adapted them to various degrees in order to construct their protagonists as heroes/heroines. Two interrelated sets of research questions will test this hypothesis, one tracing diachronic continuity and the other examining synchronic differentiation. Methodologically, this project complements two literary-theoretical models, one modern (narratology), one ancient (rhetoric). The project will contribute to our knowledge about both reception of ancient novels in the Middle Ages and the literary complexities of medieval romance.