Magic and the Supernatural in Medieval English Romance

Corinne Saunders

The world of medieval romance is one in which magic and the supernatural are constantly present: in otherwordly encounters, in the strange adventures experienced by questing knights, the experience of the uncanny, and unexplained magical objects – rings, potions, amulets, and the famous green girdle in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. This study (the first full-length treatment of the topic) looks at a wide range of medieval English texts – not just the romances themselves, but the writings of Chaucer, and Malory’s Morte Darthur too – from a broad cultural perspective, to show that while they employ magic in order to create exotic, escapist worlds, they are also grounded in a sense of possibility, and reflect a complex web of inherited and current ideas. Opening with a survey of classical and biblical precedents, and medieval attitudes to magic, subsequent chapters explore the ways that romances both reflect contemporary attitudes and ideas, and imaginatively transform them. In particular, the author explores the distinction between `white magic’ of healing and protection, and the more dangerous arts of `nigromancy’, black magic. Also addressed is the wider supernatural, including the ways that ideas associated with human magic can be intensified and developed in depictions of otherworldly practitioners of magic.The ambiguous figures of the enchantress and the shapeshifter are a special focus: the faery is contrasted to the Christian supernatural – miracles, ghosts and demons, and the motif of demonic conception.

  • Hardcover: 300 pages
  • Publisher: D.S.Brewer (April 19, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1843842211
  • ISBN-13: 978-1843842217

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