New Book: Middle English Romance and the Craft of Memory by Jamie McKinstry

MERomanceMemoryCoverMiddle English Romance and the Craft of Memory by Jamie McKinstry is the latest volume in Boydell and Brewer’s series ‘Studies in Medieval Romance’ and discusses a variety of areas including Middle English literature, classical memory theory, and also aspects of Medical Humanities.

In Middle English romances many memories are created, stored, forgotten, and rediscovered by both the characters and audience; such memory work is not, however, either simple or obvious. This study examines the ways in which recollection is achieved and sustained through physical, cognitive, and interpretative challenges. It uses examples such as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Sir Orfeo, and Emaré, alongside romances by Chaucer and Malory, to investigate the genre’s reliance on individual and collective memorial processes. It is argued that a tale’s objects, places, dreams, discoveries, disguises, prophecies, and dramatic ironies influence that romance’s essential memory work, which relies as much on creativity as it does accuracy. In addition, the study also explores the imaginative crafts of memory that are employed by romances themselves.

As well as offering fresh readings of the Middle English romances themselves, the book touches on various aspects of Medical Humanities research. These include discussions of how an individual manipulates memories to establish a relationship with the world around them and the importance of imagination and creativity when attempting to understand existence. Beyond specific analyses of medieval texts many questions are raised which fall within the reach of Medical Humanities research, including:

  • How can memory be both reliable and adaptable?
  • How do present pressures affect cognitive reasoning?
  • Do we always accept our position on earth in terms of (auto)biography?
  • Is mental creativity essential to a healthy and successful existence?
  • In order to remember, is it first necessary to forget?

The book has been shaped considerably by the many fascinating conversations that have taken place in Durham’s Centre for Medical Humanities, as well as across the University. It is hoped that this publication will highlight the ways in which the study of medieval literature can be enhanced by the research and methodologies of Medical Humanities. Further details can be found on the publisher’s website here.

For further information about this research and the new projects it has generated please contact Dr Jamie McKinstry.

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