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Challenging the Authority of Identity: The Spaces of Memory in Medieval English Romance.

MCKINSTRY, JAMES,ANDREW (2012) Challenging the Authority of Identity: The Spaces of Memory in Medieval English Romance. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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As episodic narratives, romances depend upon an inherent understanding of the powers of memory and recollection to ensure that the authority of characters, narratives and the chivalric ideal are identified and sustained. Memory is mapped onto literal journeys, places, and correlative experiences, and the thesis examines the processes through which this is achieved in medieval English romances. Distractions of the present are often complicated by unfamiliarity, forgetfulness, disguises and incognito, or threats from Otherworldly challenges, (mis)fortune, and time itself. Consequently, in contrast to simple learning in the manner of mnemonics, romances promote a dynamic continuum between past and present which preserves the medieval memorial principles of order and place along with the creative freedom for interpretation advocated at the heart of medieval memoria. Using classical and medieval memory theories, the thesis examines the creative challenges for memory in a selection of established romances such as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Sir Orfeo, Emaré, and King Horn, including those of Chaucer and Malory, along with lesser studied, longer romances such as William of Palerne, Ipomadon and Beves of Hamtoun. Characters and audiences create their own stable set of memories from within and beyond each tale which they recollect, often as imaginatively changed forms, into present experiences and future situations. By avoiding the temptation to forget and remaining open to referential moments, a lost knight is united with his remembered love, situations mysteriously chime with those witnessed before, and pressures of change become the reassuring familiarity and expectation of a past reimagined. In romances the memorial places, objects, and rituals are of great importance, but so too are the spaces between these recognisable points. This is the expanse of time which allows the creative work of memory to truly flourish and preserves the identity and authority of the narratives themselves.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:medieval literature;Middle English;medieval romance;memory; forgetfulness;place;space;authority;time;identity;creativity;memory theory
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > English Studies, Department of
Thesis Date:2012
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:03 Oct 2012 10:45

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