The rise of literary fiction in medieval Europe has been a hotly debated topic among scholars for at least two decades, but until now that debate has come with severe limitations, focusing on ‘modern’ French and German romances of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Attempting to find common ground among scholars from various disciplines and regions, Medieval Narratives between History and Fiction seeks to clarify and broaden the subject by including a wide range of medieval narratives irrespective of their modern label and affiliation to certain disciplines.
The chapters collected here broaden the discussion by moving beyond the canonical French and German romances of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, focusing mainly on texts in Greek, Latin and Old Norse (and also some in Serbian), and by opting for a ’peripheral’ and a long-term view of the subject. The chapters take us from Graeco-Roman antiquity to medieval France, then to the Scandinavian lands and from there to south-eastern Europe and Byzantium as the link back to the Graeco-Roman world. This disposition also follows a spiral motion in time, leading us from antiquity to late antiquity and from the eleventh to the fifteenth century.
By expanding the linguistic as well as the geographical and chronological scope of the debate, the book shows that we should not think of a ‘rise of fiction’ per se, but rather we should think of a potential always imbued in and related to historical narratives and that a modern understanding of medieval fiction cannot afford to disregard non-fictional or non-vernacular writing.
Panagiotis A. Agapitos is Professor of Byzantine literature at the University of Cyprus.
Lars Boje Mortensen is Professor of Ancient and Medieval Cultural History and Head of the Centre for Medieval Literature at the University of Southern Denmark and was Prof II of Medieval Latin at the Centre for Medieval Studies at the University of Bergen until 2011.