Rescripting the political romance
: Narratives of kingship, tyranny and community

  • Ian M. M. Buckley

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    Without seeking to reify a category of 'political romances', this study explores the participation of five Middle English poems (Havelok, The Tale of Gamelyn, Sir Orfeo, Sir Gowther, Robert of cisyle), normally classed among the romances, in the cultural process of constructing and regulating contemporary understandings of good kingship, tyranny, and community. In their participation in this discourse these romances cross generic boundaries, interacting with textual traditions (including historiography, hagiography, folk tale, and the literature of complaint), inscribing ideologies contesting romance's world-view. This study attempts to trace the ideological impact of these generic interactions on romance models of rule, investigating whether these romances cross generic boundaries in search of an idiom in which to critique dominant models of power relations, or whether, in attempting to appropriate the discourse of other genres, they seek to bolster dominant ideology by containing the subversive energies of its textual opponents.

    If these romances are identified as cultural products of a dominant ideology striving to perpetuate its own ascendancy, then it is a dominant ideology in the process of adapting itself in response to changing pressures, the nature of which I attempt to recover by attending to these texts' constructions and reconstructions of the hero's identity. I approach these romances not so much as the expression of the ideology of the dominant stratum, but part of the production of that ideology, called forth in a continuing dynamic response to contending discourses. I conclude that the energies of the genres with which these romances interact refuse appropriation, challenging the monologism of romance and continuing in their new narrative environment to propose their own political solutions. The resulting dialogization of romance indicates romance's diminishing ability to provide convincing resolutions to the contradictions of a changing society and to address the aspirations of a changing audience, In the ideological adjustments made by these romances in the process of interacting with other genres can be glimpsed the end of romance's insistence on heroic, and hence kingly, autonomy, and the replacement of heroic autonomy by community as the subject of romance.
    Date of AwardAug 2003
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorHelen Phillips (Supervisor)


    • political romances
    • Middle English Poetry
    • Dominant ideologies

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