Thursday, 17 November 2011

Gemma Pellisa on sentimental romance

How to Please the enamorada generació. The Catalan Versions of Roman de Lancelot du Lac and Paris et Vienne

Gemma Pellisa (Universitat de Barcelona)

Today's session was a rather private one, with less attendants than usual but not due to a lack of interest in what our speaker had to tell us, but due to the mid-term Oxonian flu, better known as "work and health are not compatible under certain weather conditions typical of November" (we hope you get well soon, D.!). We would like to thank Gemma Pellisa for accepting our invitation to the I3MS and come all the way from London to give her interesting paper on the Catalan translations of the French romances Roman de Lancelot du Lac and Paris et Vienne. Gemma is working on the revision of the generic conception of sentimental romance and, as part of her research, she is enjoying a short stay of four months at the Warburg Institute.

After introducing the problematic of considering sentimental romance a genre as such, Gemma demonstrated how this consideration is based on a series of common characteristics that are not even fulfilled by every single text ascribed to this category. To support her thesis, she chose to analyse the rather enlightening examples of the Catalan translations of the French romances Roman de Lancelot du Lac and Paris et Vienne. The first one is a piece of Arthurian narrative full of action and chivalresque subjects which, when translated into Catalan, sacrifices all these defining characteristics in favour of a comprehensive development of the love story between Lancelot and Guinevere in the fashion of sentimental romance. The second title, which tells the love affair between Paris and Vienne, generates two different versions: a long one and a short one. The former does not alter the love matter, however, the latter avoids it completely, so that the story is reduced to a simple narration full of non erotic elements. Surprisingly enough, this was the most popular version of the work and was printed and widely distributed at the time.

On account of the above, our speaker concluded that the amorous plot was not definitive for the so-called sentimental romance, but that any topic was subject to be converted into sentimental prose. In her opinion, this is the result and most evident manifestation of a literary trend which favoured the topic of love above other possible motives, but did not constitute a proper genre because it spread to existing genres, influencing them but not resulting in something new. In favour of this interpretation, she argued that love was a common topic of debate at the court and courtly entertainment included analysis of various aspects of love, so that this taste for amorous matters existed at all levels among the target readers of the so-called sentimental romance.

The Q&A turn was devoted principally to the appropriateness of calling the Catalan adaptations of Roman de Lancelot du Lac and Paris et Vienne translations and the target readership of these works. The freedom of adaptation was analysed by comparing the Catalan translations with the Italian version of Cárcel de amor, and it was concluded that it was legitimate to adapt a foreign work to the local taste, above all if it had to be accepted in such a reductive circle as the court. With regard to the readership, there were some doubts on its gender-composition and the possible contrast between the audience of the more sentimental Tragèdia de Lançalot and the audience of the short version of Paris et Vienne, maybe more academic than courtly. It was not possible to come to any conclusion in sch a short time, but some interesting comparisons between reception of sentimental romances in Castille and Italy were made.

This was the last session on a Spanish topic of this term, so that the next -and last- one is devoted to Italianists and the development of autobiographical writing. See you there!
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