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15 April 2020
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Preface from the original site
The amazing variety of medieval romance continues to feed our imagination. This exhibition looks at how its compelling stories have inspired writers and artists across centuries.
28 Jan to 13 May 2012
Weekdays 9am - 5pm
Saturday 9am - 4:30pm
Sunday 11am - 5pm
Entrance to the exhibition is FREE
Explore the Objects
Romance is the name we give to a kind of story-telling that flourished in Europe in the late Middle Ages—in poetry and prose, in popular and rarified forms. Like folk tales, romances are grounded on relationships between parents and children, the monstrous and the familiar, and between triumph and disaster. While romances often tell stories of love or loyalty, not all do: in medieval French, to write en romans can simply mean to use the vernacular language, not Latin.
No kind of writing is an island, entire of itself: romances incorporate motifs and settings from epic poetry, Norse sagas, Middle Eastern tales, saints’ lives, chronicles, and lyric love poetry. Most of all, romances are impelled by the narrative shape of a life, tracing an arc from orphaned child to emperor, from exile to return, or from slandered daughter to revered queen. In this way, they create person-shaped narratives that satisfy our repeated desire to learn about ourselves through telling stories.
This exhibition reveals the Bodleian’s outstanding holdings of manuscripts and printed books containing medieval romances. We have matched these books with works of art inspired by romance narratives, before following the story of romance itself, through its constantly shifting presence in literature and art up to the present day.