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Thinking Medieval Romance$
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Katherine C. Little and Nicola McDonald

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198795148

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198795148.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 20 September 2021

The Wonder of Middle English Romance

The Wonder of Middle English Romance

(p.13) 1 The Wonder of Middle English Romance
Thinking Medieval Romance

Nicola McDonald

Oxford University Press

Marvels and the marvellous are synonymous with medieval romance. Yet scholars often express disappointment at the wonders they find in Middle English romance. This chapter asks a simple question: how does Middle English romance understand wonder? and how, in turn, does our understanding of wonder in Middle English romance help us better comprehend the genre and what it can achieve? The chapter is made up of two parts. The first seeks to articulate a theory of wonder specific to English romance. Its focus is lexical, attentive to what the sources themselves identify as a wonder or as productive of wonderment; and its remit is wide, drawing evidence from across the whole genre. The second turns to a single romance, Octovian Imperator, in order to demonstrate how wonder puts into question the very certainties that Octovian and romances like it are conventionally understood to instantiate. Wonder has been credited as the beginning of philosophy, not something we normally associate with Middle English romance. This chapter argues, however, that what the particularity of wonder in the English romances highlights is the genre’s fundamentally interrogative mode.

Keywords:   romance, wonders, marvels, knowledge, butchers, intruder at the feast, Southern Octavian, Bevis of Hampton, Sir Amadace, Richard Cœur de Lion

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