Medieval Romance: The Aesthetics of Possibility
Widely heard and read throughout the middle ages, romance literature has persisted for centuries and has lately re-emerged in the form of speculative fiction, inviting readers to step out of the actual world and experience the intriguing pleasure of possibility.
Medieval Romance is the first study to focus on the deep philosophical underpinnings of the genre’s fictional worlds. James F. Knapp and Peggy A. Knapp uniquely utilize Leibniz’s “possible worlds” theory, Kant’s aesthetic reflections, and Gadamer’s writings on the apprehension of language over time, to bring the romance genre into critical dialogue with fundamental questions of philosophical aesthetics, modal logic, and the hermeneutics of literary transmission. The authors’ compelling and illuminating analysis of six instances of medieval secular writing, including that of Marie de France, the Gawain-poet, and Chaucer demonstrates how the extravagantly imagined worlds of romance invite reflection about the nature of the real. These stories, which have delighted readers for hundreds of years, do so because the impossible fictions of one era prefigure desired realities for later generations.
- World Rights
- Page Count: 264 pages
- Dimensions: 6.3in x 1.0in x 9.3in
"James and Peggy Knapp’s latest joint scholarly endeavor, Medieval Romance: The Aesthetics of Possibility, is a significant and original contribution to the study of medieval romance, for it brings forth and examines the philosophical underpinnings of a number of well-known and extensively studied romances."
Kimberly K. Bell, Sam Houston State University
Modern Philology, vol 117, no 1
"James and Peggy Knapp’s Medieval Romance: The Aesthetics of Possibility is a subtle and theoretically sophisticated re-interrogation of romance as an enabling genre whose labile aesthetics invites readers to reflect on ‘the very nature of perceived reality,’ to critique ‘the lived experience of social structures,’ and ‘to deploy counterfactual fiction to imagine alternative potential futures.’ Integrating philosophical precepts deriving from the works of Leibniz, Kant, Gadamer, Latour and others, Medieval Romance constitutes a fully articulated advance in the critical appreciation of a number of late medieval literary masterpieces, including the lais of Marie de France, Sir Orfeo, Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde and the Canterbury Tales, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The gratifying experience of reading this seasoned critical study is a perfect complement to ‘the serious pleasures’ provided by the medieval poems themselves."
Peter W. Travis, Henry Winkley Professorship in Anglo-Saxon and English Language and Literature, Dartmouth College
"The Knapps’ new book on medieval romance enacts its own subject. The reader will find pleasure and wonder on every page. As in romance itself, this pleasure is unexpected, since, as the Knapps demonstrate, romance is not an escape. Instead, it is a form of discovery, philosophical, political and personal. It is the kind of book that inspires us to make the world new again, as romance did in the Middle Ages."
John M. Ganim, Distinguished Professor of English, University of California, Riverside
Author InformationJames F. Knapp is a professor in the Department of English and the Senior Associate Dean of the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh.
Peggy A. Knapp is a professor in the Department of English at Carnegie Mellon University.
Table of contents
1. The Speculative Fiction of Marie de France
2. Perception and Possible Worlds in Sir Orfeo
3. Capturing Beauty: Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde
4. Melusine’s Aventure among the Humans
5. Romance by Other Means: The Canterbury Tales
6. The Immense Subtlety of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
Subjects and Courses