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In late medieval times romance ...

In late medieval times, the word “romance” referred to stories of heroic knights on adventurous quests. It literally means “from the Romantic language.”
These stories flourished throughout western Europe, in France, England, Germany, Italy, Spain, Greece, The Netherlands, Scandinavia, and Portugal, from roughly 1150 to the 1500s.


the knight in medieval romance

The knight abided by the chivalric code to be loyal, honourable, generous, courageous, courteous to women, and sensitive to the needs of society’s most vulnerable members.
The medieval romance typically featured a knight who sought to impress a noblewoman by undergoing a test of endurance (e.g. traveling to a distant land to defeat a demonic wizard).
The moral of these stories was always to be chivalrous. Thanks to his chivalry, the knight defeated those who lacked chivalry (e.g. monsters, dragons, and opposing knights).
Although adultery was forbidden in the medieval world, medieval romances often included adulterous sex between the knight and the noblewoman. Forbidden in the real world, passionate romance existed in the medieval romance


The Knight-Errant Archetype

The wandering knights of medieval romances were so commonplace that critics now refer to the “knight-errant” archetype.
They wander in search of a quest that will prove their mettle.
Lee Child, in fact, claims that he created Reacher in the mould of the knight-errant.


Romance: medieval commons have a lot in common with..

Exploring fantastic and idealized worlds, the medieval romance has much in common with contemporary genre fiction, which likewise depicts the world not as it is but as readers wish it were.


Famous medieval novel are

One of the most famous medieval romances is Lancelot: The Knight of the Cart by Chrétien de Troyes (France, ca. 1175).
After successfully completing a series of challenges that test his chivalry, Lancelot proves himself to the kidnapped Lady Guinevere.
Despite Guinevere’s marriage to King Arthur, she and Lancelot spend a night together.
The story exemplifies courtly love, defined as the male lover’s efforts to woo the female lover through a demonstration of his own moral improvement.


Courtly Love

Implies the following:
Love is a battlefield.
Love is an art form that the hero must master:
He must flatter her
He must spend everything he has on her
He must obey her every command
The woman has power over the man, who must prove himself to her.
So overcome with passion, he falls ill in her presence
He must demonstrate moral improvement over the course of the courtship.

Look at how courtly love plays out over the first 10 chapters of Forbidden. Rhine engages in courtly love towards Eddy (but does not towards Natalie).
See, in particular, pages 81 and 91.



Romanticism was an artistic revolt against the rise of European rationalism during the Enlightenment (1650-1800).
During the first half of the 19th century (1800-1850), writers, artists, and intellectuals in England, France, and Germany produced stories, poems, essays, and paintings that privileged human passion and sentiment over the cold, inhuman act of logical reasoning.
They were “romantic” because much of their output valorized the magical, mysterious, dreamlike, and imaginative aspects of the medieval romance.


Romanticists believed ....

Romanticists believed emotional self-expression was the route to discovering their “true selves.”
They valorized ancient myths and medieval tales as ways to realize humanity’s imaginative and emotional potential.
They believed that rationalism repressed the individual’s ability to understand their unique self.
They sought to understand and give life to human desire and passion.
Male poets often used objectified descriptions of women to discover themselves.


lord byron poem , 1813

She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes;
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o’er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express,
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place

And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!


Rhine’s Attitude Towards Eddy

How does the speaker’s attitude towards the woman in “She Walks in Beauty” compare to Rhine’s attitude towards Eddy?
Look at how he describes her physically. See page 57.


The Romance Novel

Do not confuse the romance novel (a modern genre) with either romanticism (a literary period) or the medieval romance (a medieval genre).
In the romance novel, traditionally, the focus is on the hero’s courtship of the heroine and the barriers that stand between them and their eventual engagement.
Notably, however, the novel examines her frame of mind.
In English, the first novel is (arguably) Pamela by Samuel Richardson, published in 1740. It is also by contemporary standards a romance novel.


key difference in romance novel and medieval romance

A key difference between the medieval romance and the modern romance novel is the novel’s sympathetic focus on the woman’s identity. Her identity is central to the novel.


romance novel gives the heroine a

The romance novel gives the heroine a meaningful identity, because the story focuses on her ability to force the hero to change—to change for her.
She changes the definition of marriage, from an unequal economic and social relationship to an emotionally and materially rewarding journey.


Three things that explain the emergence of the romance novel in the 1700s and beyond:

1.the rising importance of affective individualism
2. the rising importance of companionate marriage
3. the fact that married women had no property rights


Affective Individualism

Affective individualism refers to changing attitudes towards marriage in the 1700s in parts of Europe.
Formerly, marriages were economic arrangements between two people who married and raised children for the sake of survival and social stability. Love didn’t enter into the equation.
According to this new attitude towards marriage, people should marry and raise children for the sake of love, pleasure, and personal fulfillment.
Romance novels told stories about people who married for the sake of love, not for the sake of mere necessity.


Companionate Marriage

These new marriages required husbands and wives to view each other as emotionally supportive companions.
Companionate marriages gave women greater individual freedom and de-emphasized their social roles as bearers of children and domestic labourers.
Romance novels told stories about women who discovered themselves after finding a man who supported her emotionally.


Lack of Property Rights

Key to understanding the popularity of romance is knowing that, in the 1700s in Britain, when a woman married a man, she lost her property rights.
Marriage, therefore, was a sacrifice and a risk.
By sacrificing her property rights, a married woman had to be sure she was wedding a man whom she could trust. As such, romance novels would focus on the hero’s moral improvement to the point where he’s suitable marriage material. He was like the chivalrous knight who had to morally improve over the course of the story and demonstrate his eternal devotion to her.


According to Pamela Regis, a romance novel has eight essential elements:

1. The story takes place in a flawed society that oppresses the heroine and hero.
2. Near the beginning of the story, the heroine and hero must meet.
3. A clear barrier (external or internal or both) prevents them from marrying.
4. Despite this barrier, they are clearly attracted to each other.


The Heroine’s Double Bind

At the end of every romance novel, the poor girl marries the rich man.
Romance novels must show “that the girl never set out to get him and his goods.”
This convention reflects “the double bind imposed upon women in real life: their most important achievement is supposed to be finding a husband; their greatest fault is attempting to do so.”

The trick for the romance novelist, then, is to construct a scenario that allows the heroine to find “romance and riches, without making her appear to have helped herself along or even to have thought about the matter.”
One trick is to tell the story from a third-person point of view.
The narrative point of view helps the reader believe that Eddy has never had any intention of pursuing Rhine. Note that Forbidden is written from a third-person point of view. Since Eddy must be wholly innocent and modest, she cannot be the narrator. Only a third-person narrator can adequately describe the positive effect she has on the townsfolk and, especially, Rhine. Eddy must be ignorant and naïve about how wonderful she is.