Sunday, May 6, 2018

The Danger of Romance: Truth, Fantasy, and Arthurian Fictions

The Danger of RomanceIn this stimulating study of medieval French Arthurian romance (with a bit of Narnia and Harry Potter thrown in to broaden the appeal), Karen Sullivan asks some challenging questions about the truth claims of romantic fiction. Can romance, regularly dismissed by medieval and modern critics as dangerous escapism, give us access to truth? And, if so, what truths does it reveal?

The book’s argument is themed around the major characters of Arthurian romance, Merlin, Lancelot and Arthur, each of whom represents a challenge to established belief while offering their own versions of the truths of human experience.

Rich in argument and engagement, the book is less strong on the particular truths to which romance offers us a pathway, implying an outdated anti-theory along the lines of “a text can mean whatever you want it to mean”. The refusal to discuss romance in the context of “literary” and “popular” discourses, despite the choice of texts from both categories, starves the book of a meaningful analysis of how truth and reality are constructs produced for different audiences.

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