Between Romance and History: Galfridian Historiography in Jean D'Arras's Melusine

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Abstract

Jean d’Arras’s late fourteenth-century French prose romance Mélusine survives in the major vernaculars of Western Europe, including a close English translation produced c.1500. Jean’s text incorporates prophecies ascribed to the fairy heroine, her mother, and her sisters concerning the fate of the house of Lusignan, whose early fortunes the romance fictionalizes, retained to varying degrees in subsequent translations. In many respects, prophecy is a defining component of the text, a feature of dynastic romance derived from history-writing. It is a legacy of the long European reception of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia regum Britanniae (c.1138), an Arthurian history that in many respects set the scene for continental and insular romance. This article explores Mélusine as a particularly clear example of a tendency that we find elsewhere in dynastic romance, in which imaginings of the past are constructed in an explicit relationship to the political present through prophecy. However, beyond a broader generic, or rather cross-generic, correspondence, this article suggests the presence of a number of highly specific historiographical strategies in Jean d’Arras’s work in common with Geoffrey’s Historia and the broader Galfridian tradition. While by no means exact, and I certainly do not intend to suggest that the romance is a piece of Galfridian apocrypha, the correspondence is in a number of places a close one, suggestive of the author’s conceptualization of romance as history.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)124-146
Number of pages23
JournalMedium Aevum
Volume91
Issue number1
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 12 Jan 2022

Keywords

  • Melusine
  • Geoffrey of Monmouth
  • Romance
  • Prophecy
  • History

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