03.03.14, Weiss et al., eds., Medieval Insular Romance

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Anna Roberts

The Medieval Review baj9928.0303.014


Weiss, Judith, Jennifer Fellows and Morgan Dickson, eds.. Medieval Insular Romance: Translation and Innovation. New York: D. S. Brewer, 2000. Pp. iii, 195. ISBN: 0-859-91597-2.

Reviewed by:
Anna Roberts
Miami University (Ohio)

Medieval Insular Romance is a collection that makes one envy the research in the field. It targets professionals, not students; some quotes are not translated. The volume is neat, although the plates are fuzzy. The papers are short, and there is a range in the quality of scholarship, unsurprising in a volume that presents 12 papers from a conference (Romance in Medieval England, Cambridge 1998). This also explains why some papers may be a bit repetitive and inconclusive, unnecessarily withholding the possibility of response from the scholars they criticize, or addressing a dead scholar's failure to procure insights that the current author has. But the core of Insular Romance is far from insular, and nothing short of exciting. A specialist in a cognate field, I ask for other contributors' patience when I single out the papers that I find very impressive: Rosalind Field's "Waldef and the Matter of/with England," presenting a little known romance that Field uses as an example and point of departure in discussing the legitimacy and specificity of the term "matter of England"; and Elizabeth Archibald's "The Breton Lay in Middle English: Genre, Transmission and the Franklin^ñs Tale," a survey of the "Breton lay" that discusses both medieval and modern definitions and use of the term, and is centered on the list of titles of lays from the Shrewsbury MS7, deciphering and discussing the evidence that this document provides of the genre. The concluding two essays in the collection are a particular pleasure to read: Roger Dalrymple's "'Evele knowen ye Merlyne, jn certeyn': Henry Lovelich's Merlin," on a largely forgotten English verse translation of Grail and Merlin from French prose Vulgate cycle ("less an Arthuriad than a Dunciad"), and Helen Cooper's "The Elizabethan Havelok: William Warner's First of the English," connecting Renaissance rewriting of Arthurian material to Elizabeth and the "writing of England." The volume is of interest to a range of specialties: Anglo-Norman, English, and French.

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Anna Roberts

Miami University (Ohio)