Authorship and the Discovery of Character in Medieval Romance Public Deposited

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  • March 22, 2019
  • Watt, Caitlin
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of English and Comparative Literature
  • This dissertation argues that by pioneering new ways of constructing and reading literary character, writers of twelfth- to fourteenth-century romance also claimed a new authority for vernacular fiction. Through readings of several key medieval texts, the dissertation not only illuminates character as an underestimated critical tool used by medieval writers in but also intervenes in the ongoing scholarly discussion of medieval authorship. It begins with Le Roman d’Enéas, a twelfth-century adaptation of Virgil’s Aeneid that, by revising tensions in the characters of the Latin royal court, familiarizes the epic for a courtly audience and posits its writer as an authoritative interpreter of the Aeneid. Next, medieval concepts of memory and contemporary serial narrative theory are used to argue that Chrétien de Troyes, inventor of French Arthurian romance, creates a model of character that requires audiences to read his romances as a corpus and thus establishes himself as the author of a new literary tradition. Chapter 3 narrows its focus to a single character, Merlin, in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Vita Merlini, Laȝamon’s Brut, and Of Arthour and of Merlin, arguing that Merlin proves a useful site for examining tensions of gender and national identity inherent in the act of transforming legend into written historical narrative. The dissertation concludes with Geoffrey Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde. It demonstrates that in his portrayals of Antigone and Cassandra as literary creators, Chaucer examines the problem of affective identification with literary characters, questioning the association of compassion and femininity and offering alternative models of authorship.
Date of publication
Resource type
  • Legassie, Shayne
  • Wolfe, Jessica
  • Babcock, Robert
  • Leinbaugh, Theodore
  • Barbour, Reid
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Graduation year
  • 2018

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