Revivalist Fantasy: Alliterative Verse and Nationalist Literary History
This book systematically critiques a key literary historical concept framing much work on L: that of the ‘Alliterative Revival’, the allegedly unified, fourteenth-century resuscitation of Anglo-Saxon prosodic practices effected in opposition to a Francophile South. Understanding the nation as a product of industrial modernity, Schiff maintains that the nationalist assumptions of Revivalist literary history hinder critics from engaging fully with the variety of social and political contexts for late-medieval alliterative verse. The book situates William of Palerne within the arena of transnational politics, arguing that its poet intensifies the programmatic support of aristocratic exceptionalism in his French source, Guillaume de Palerne. Revivalist Fantasy also explores the gendered regional economics of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, arguing that the poem’s powerful female agents navigate a militarized Northwest Midlands vastly different from L’s Southwest Midlands-London nexus. It then explores anti-imperialist energies in Arthurian texts of the fluid Anglo-Scottish marches, which prove resistant to nationalist paradigms. A chapter on the politicization of book culture in the ‘PPl Tradition’ explores the strategic use of anonymity and documentary rhetoric in Richard the Redeless and Mum and the Sothsegger. Schiff also discusses resistance to theories of continuous revision within Kane and Donaldson’s edition of PPl B, and presents Donaldson’s analysis of any editor’s L as a ghost to reflect upon the impossibility of exorcising critical desires in the writing of literary history. (RPS)
- Ian Cornelius, ‘Alliterative Revival: Retrospect and Prospect,’ YLS, 26 (2012), 261-76;
- Thorlac Turville-Petre, Arthuriana, 22 (2012), 98;
- Mary Kate Hurley, Arthuriana, 22 (2012), 99-100.