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The Question of Middle English Romance

Tuesday 5 June 2018, 5.30PM

Speaker(s): Dr Nicola McDonald (University of York)

The Annual Riddy Lecture 2018

This paper explores (as the title promises) the question of Middle English romance.

Explicit moments of inquiry provide the impetus for understanding the genre (the most important genre of secular literature to emerge from the English Middle Ages) as fundamentally interrogative. Questions litter the English romances, variously rudimentary, enigmatic, preposterous. And the answers they elicit are often strange or estranging. The search for orientation denoted by a simple interrogative, no matter whether it's practical, devotional, or ethical, gives way, time and again, to radical disorientation. If romance is a form of knowing (as the romancers are keen to claim), then, this paper argues, it simultaneously offers its knowing audience, experienced romance readers who’ve seen it all before, the opportunity to unknow conventional orthodoxies, or received wisdom, about anything (and everything) from eating people to love at first sight.

Location: Bowland Auditorium, Berrick Saul Building, University of York Campus West