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Title: Thinking through time in the Middle English Romances
Author: Bird, Jennifer R. B.
ISNI:       0000 0004 5349 1376
Awarding Body: University of York
Current Institution: University of York
Date of Award: 2014
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This thesis investigates how the Middle English romances use time as a framework for the shaping of individual identity. It uses linguistic and narrative analysis, with a consideration of context, to illuminate the romances' portrayal of human experience in time, arguing that the romances are attuned to the shaping forces of agency, remembrance, and narrative structure. In this way, these texts stand as examples of reflective thought and identity formation. Via the exemplarity produced through ethical reading, romances equip their gentry and mercantile readership to reflect on their own identities with the romances as models. As its sources, this thesis uses a selection of Middle English romances focusing on the individual lifetime and preserved in manuscripts for household readership. The introduction will position the work within current scholarly interest in temporality, define views on romance audience, and propose a model of ethical reading, or 'romance exemplarity', which will shape an understanding of how medieval readers would have applied romance to themselves. Chapter One considers the 'pastness' of romance, and argues that the nostalgic effects of romance are crafted to foster a sense of continuity between the past and present, thereby overcoming resistance to change and channelling readers' desire towards an exemplary model. Chapter Two examines how the romances use temporal models to structure personal remembrances of failure and rupture, and argues that the romances adopt temporalities from religious discourse to interrogate the intersections between spiritual and secular life. Chapter Three examines the use of the future tense in romance, whereby characters negotiate personal desire and social authority, fantasising a world in which social hierarchies merge with and support the desires of the protagonist. Chapter Four uses narrative theory to explore how romances articulate the relationship between human temporality and divine intervention, locating ethical puzzles which inscribe a narrative attempt to think through individual life confronting the omnitemporal power of God. Finally, the conclusion draws together the findings of the study to argue that temporal readings of romance are a neglected but necessary component in assessing the genre, and can contribute answers to ongoing debates in romance criticism, particularly where atemporal models of interpretation have traditionally prevailed. Temporality in romance vitally shapes the genre's relation to other medieval discourses, its preoccupations, and its relationship with its audience.
Supervisor: McDonald, Nicola Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available