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History on the Edge

Excalibur and the Borders of Britain, 1100-1300

2000
Author:

Michelle R. Warren

History on the Edge

A revelatory examination of the Arthurian tales in historical context.

The Arthurian legends are history written on the edge-stories whose changing shape reflects the contested borders of medieval Britain. This is the argument Michelle R. Warren makes in this investigation of medieval history through the lens of postcolonial theory.

“Michelle Warren engages traditional Arthurian materials in a

A revelatory examination of the Arthurian tales in historical context.

The Arthurian legends are history written on the edge-stories whose changing shape reflects the contested borders of medieval Britain. This is the argument Michelle R. Warren makes in this investigation of medieval history through the lens of postcolonial theory.

Warren shows how Geoffrey of Monmouth’s foundational Historia regum Britanniae engages in an ambivalent cultural struggle with the past. She traces this history’s travels through Wales, where translators and editors recast it as a narrative of resistance to colonialism, and into southern England, where, in English, it becomes a retaking of British history from Norman domination.

As the Arthurian texts cross the Channel, Warren shifts her focus to Continental narratives. Here we see how, in Normandy, Wace’s Roman de Brut shares the aggressive vision of the Welsh, but from the perspective of the colonizers. In Champagne, resistance to the French monarchy engenders the monumental Arthurian prose cycle; and finally, in Brittany, Arthurian history becomes a moralized fable of acquisitive greed in the Gesta regum Britanniae. In conclusion, Warren turns to an exemplary scene of colonial contact-Amerigo Vespucci’s naming of America-to demonstrate how medieval histories open new readings of modern colonial discourse.

Medieval Cultures Series, volume 22

History on the Edge

Michelle R. Warren teaches French and medieval studies at the University of Miami.

History on the Edge

“Michelle Warren engages traditional Arthurian materials in a

“A timely reminder of how medieval narrative writers freely reframed the works of their predecessors to address issues relevant to their own times and places.”

The Journal of Interdisciplinary History

History on the Edge makes a major contribution to our understanding of many aspects of the Galfridian (pseudo)historiographical tradition-and of its stepchild, the Arthur-Grail prose cycle-including chronic ambivalence in the representations of, and judgments on, Arthurian expansionism and accompanying violence.

Speculum

Michelle Warren’s painstaking study of the vicissitudes of Arthurian historiography during the long twelfth-century is an important addition to the provocative Medieval Cultures series.

Albion

Warren has written an ambitious survey that draws heavily on postcolonial theory and social anthropology....this is a novel and needed approach to the Arthurian historiographic texts that offers much for both historian and literary critic alike.

Arthuriana