Writing aloud : storytelling in late medieval England /
Nancy Mason Bradbury.
Urbana : University of Illinois Press, c1998.
247 p. : 24 cm.
0252024036 (acid-free paper)
More Details
Urbana : University of Illinois Press, c1998.
0252024036 (acid-free paper)
catalogue key
Includes bibliographical references (p. 229-242) and index.
A Look Inside
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 1999-02:
In these thorough and skillful close readings of five Middle English romances, Bradbury (Smith College) effectively challenges the traditional understanding of a genre heavily influenced by the oral tradition. Against the older view (for example, of Derek Pearsall in Old and Middle English Poetry, CH, Jul'77)--that because of the influence of folkloric material and formulaic modes of oral performance, English romances were debasements from and inferior to literary sources--Bradbury suggests that scholars evaluate the romances by the standards of oral performance as well as of written literature. She places the five romances on a spectrum, starting with those arising predominantly from local legends and oral tradition (The Tale of Gamelyn and Havelok the Dane), moving to a work balanced between oral and literary influence (Seege of Troye), and ending with two that have predominantly literary sources and aspirations but that retain influences of the minstrel style of oral performance (Kyng Alisaunder and Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde). She argues convincingly that the oral elements in various ways enrich rather than debase these works and thereby open new and potentially productive areas for further research. Recommended for academic collections serving upper-division undergraduates and above. J. Cowgill; Winona State University
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Choice, February 1999
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Unpaid Annotation
Between high culture and low culture, between oral traditions and written storytelling, between performance and manuscript, there lies not a clean boundary but a dynamic, productive region of mutual influence.In this fascinating study, Nancy Bradbury presents a spectrum of medieval English romances that extends from the fragmentary remains of a predominantly oral tradition to a writerly work that proclaims its own place in the European tradition of canonical poetry. By focusing on works composed at the interface of oral and literary tradition, Bradbury tracks the movement of folkloric patterns from the shared culture of oral storytelling to the realm of elite literature.Bradbury's grounding assumption is that English romances arise from a lively context of writing, reading aloud, memory, and limited improvisation in performance. Intricate networks of social and cultural meanings are inscribed in these tales, deriving from the storyteller's delivery, inherited materials, and performance circumstances. Thus elements of orality are deeply embedded in the written texts and inform their rhetoric, structure, and style.Writing Aloud overturns a widespread critical view that oral transmission violates the integrity of written texts. Recognizing that most medieval English romances either reflect or imitate the conditions of oral performance, Bradbury skillfully demonstrates the importance of performance to their narrative art.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Orality, Literacy, and Middle English Romancep. 1
The Tale of Gamelyn as a Greenwood Outlaw Talkingp. 23
Havelok the Dane: Telling into Writingp. 65
The Seege of Troye: Telling and Retellingp. 99
"Faire Ben Tales in Compaignye": The Dual Art of Kyng Alisaunderp. 133
Chaucerian Minstrelsy: Troilus and Criseydep. 175
Notesp. 203
Works Citedp. 229
Indexp. 243
Table of Contents provided by Blackwell. All Rights Reserved.

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