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Troubling Arthurian Histories

Court Culture, Performance and Scandal in Chrétien de Troyes’s Erec et Enide


James Simpson

Drawing on a range of approaches in cultural, gender and literary studies, this book presents Chrétien de Troyes’s Erec et Enide as a daring and playful exploration of scandal, terror and anxiety in court cultures. Through an interdisciplinary reading, it locates Erec et Enide, the first surviving Arthurian romance in French, in various contexts, from broad cultural and historical questionings such as medieval vernacular ‘modernity’s’ engagement with the weight of its classical inheritance, to the culturally fecund and politically turbulent histories of the families of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II Plantagenet. Where previous accounts of the tale have not uncommonly presented Chrétien’s poem as a decorous ‘resolution’ of tensions between dynastic marriage and fin’amors, between personal desire and social duty, this reading sees these forces as in permanent and irresolvable tension, the poem’s key scenes haunted – whether mischievously or traumatically – by questions and skeletons from various closets.
Contents: Postcolonial approaches to medieval literature – Arthurian literature and its sources – Kingship and charismatic authority – Court scandal in medieval literature – Cultural relations/conflict in medieval literature – Tournaments in medieval literature – Representations of marriage in medieval literature – Court ceremony in medieval literature – Court society in medieval literature – Representations of royal anger – Food and court society – Sexuality in medieval literature – Giants and monstrosity in medieval literature – Monstrosity and sexuality in medieval literature – Suicide in medieval literature – Intertextual relations in vernacular literature – Consolation in medieval literature – Burlesque in medieval literature – Queer theory and medieval literary studies.