Arthurian fictions : rereading the Vulgate Cycle

Arthurian fictions : rereading the Vulgate Cycle

By E. Jane Burns

Ohio State University Press, 1985



Chapter 1: The Poetics of Rewriting

Chapter 2: Fictions of Authorship and Authority

Chapter 3: Fictions of Meaning and Interpretation

Chapter 4: Fictions of Representation

  • Detour of Metaphor
  • Deformation of History

Chapter 5: Fictions of Closure



Introduction: This study offers a rereading of the medieval French prose romance in two senses of the term: it first questions the premises that have shaped our understanding of the highly repetitive Arthurian tales of the five-story corpus known as the Vulgate Cycle, and then suggests a new model of reading based precisely on that repetition. To “reread” these prose texts is to put aside considerations of narrative coherence, authorial control, and linear development, and to embrace instead the digressive and often illogical narrative path suggested by the text’s typed episodes. The Vulgate’s individual tales are composed, in large measure, of narrative redundancies, elements that give the impression that the text is retelling itself constantly, always introducing new protagonists whose actions only repeat with variation what other knights have already accomplished. In contrast to a more linear kind of reading that might attempt to forge logical links of cause and effect or consequence between disparate aventures—making sequential sense of what is essentially and perhaps purposefully a nonlinear narrative structure — the kind of reading I propose will do just the opposite. By rereading we can examine the ways in which the recit of the Vulgate Cycle is systematically displaced from a straightforward narrative path, exploring how this text constantly shifts our attention away from the narrative at hand to other portions of the tale. Here logical sequence is consistently undermined by many different kinds of repetition.

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