fridgepunk: image originally captioned "Ideal female body", has woman who is a skeleton below the clavicle (The Ideal Female Body)
With the intention of getting my head around the entire genre of romance this year I have, as is often the case in trying to get to grips with new experiences, fallen down the research rabbit hole.

Thus I am currently reading up on Medieval literature a little (but not actually reading that stuff because; No grasp of french, medieval or otherwise, and yeesh, Chaucer, yikes!).

The purpose therein is to try and get to grips with that weird transition from the Victorian sense of a "romance" in the sense of often fabulous fiction with an adventurous or historical or general escapist bent, to the 20th century sense of a story about two (or so) people hooking up.

So far my best hypothesis for how this transition happened, so far at least, is that medieval literature had this notion of "the three matters"; The Matter of Britain, the Matter of France and more pertinently the complete misnomer that is The Matter of Rome.

The Matter of Rome was basically pre-medieval classical literature and tales regardless of whether it was Roman or Greek; Your Iliad, your Odyssey and even histories like Pliney the Elder's were all bundled into "the matter of Rome". The other two matters make up Arthurian myths and things like the Song of Roland, respectively.

Then in french translations or rewritings of the classical classics, the author would dub the things as being the "Roman de [classical setting]", with the "roman" used as a term to denote that it was in french rather than Latin, see for instance the Roman de Troie by BenoƮt de Sainte-Maure. Except these versions were the francophonic equivalent of the hollywood bowlderised version of those classical stories, with the stories of greek and roman heroes massively rewritten (as Chaucer does in Troilus portrayed as righteous christian knights in tights doing cavalry charges against saracenic trojans while everyone wears chainmail and steel plate armor and lops off people's heads with zweihanders. Another part of this bowlderisation was the insertion of the "courtly romance" from the Arthurian and Song of Roland romances - so the various manly gay warrior lovers of the greek and roman corpuses were carefully matched up with any female character they could find (or those they just made up), so you'd have Cassandra, who is often raped by Ajax in the original greek sources, sending Ajax on a fetch quest to prove his armoire (and to show that christianity is the one true religion and convert her from her pagan trojan ways, naturally)

So what then happens is, MOTHERFUCKING CHAUCER rides into English fiction, riding an eight legged monstrous horse called "the middle English vernacular" and starts first rewriting Italian retellings of these classical stories with his own spin, before then writing stories about contemporary people that aren't based on the older classics. Then there is a wall made up of both french and English being total mantisfucks as far as written language are concerned. So somewhere between the war of the roses and the Victorians, the term "romance" comes to be applied to original fiction that apes the tropes and milieu of those weird francophone Knight Errant versions of Greek and roman literature, and is set in either that mythical other-world that such tales ended up painting or in the knightly realms of the British and French "matter" fiction.

Then it was a small step for these "romances" to deal with settings beyond that which might have been seen in "the three matters", and thus in a single leap Romance of the Victorian kind emerges, wearing its predecessor's baggy clothing and looking sheepish in the light of day.

Now we are but one small century from this current genre of "romance", and carrying this traditional sense of the literary "romance" forward was the Victorian period's twin popular writing formats - on the one hand there were the magazines with their short and serial fictions, and on the other there lay The Novel.

These two formats were, on paper at least (if you'll excuse the pun), at war with each other, the Novel benefited from being big and chunky and appealing to a large range of people, while the magazine made bank from having a steady, but niche, readership whose tastes could be catered to with specialised stories - of course in practice these two formats were both controlled and profitable for publishers, who could sell more novels by putting adverts to those novels in their niche magazines, and in turn sell more magazines by putting a mixture of short fiction for the target demographics alongside the more general fair provided by serialisations of novels.

So where the novel would, aping the romances of the medieval period, include a romantic plot thread within its wider story, a short story might have only the romantic plot thread, which leads to the development of writing styles, stories and then tropes dedicated to expanding upon that particular plot thread - of such things are genres born, and so you eventually have what we currently recognise as the genre of romance. least that was my theory until I looked up the etymology in english (rather than medieval french or latin) and found that uses of the term "romance", both in the sense of "wooing" and in the other sense of a a vernacular fiction, date to the 15th century, which blows all that nonsense out of the water in lieu of it all being a weird coincidence.

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fridgepunk: A sign on garrus' back reading "Shoot a rocket into my ugly stupid face" (Default)

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