AUTHOR: PHOEBE C. LINTON
In c.1278 Eleanor of Castile ambitiously commissioned an extensive Arthurian romance in French verse to be written by Girart d’Amiens: Le Roman d’Escanor. As a Castilian princess, Eleanor was born to the cultural heritage of medieval Iberia, or Spain. However, upon her marriage to King Edward I in 1254, she officially adopted the traditions of England. In the thirteenth century, the English aristocracy still consisted predominantly of families who descended from the Norman social elite, meaning French was in fact the first spoken language in English courtly society and the primary written language of its entertainment. By commissioning a text in French, Eleanor was arguably emphasising her links with France. In effect, Eleanor was attempting to appear ‘English’ by being ‘French’, though she was not considered a native by either nationality. Ultimately, in Escanor Eleanor was responsible for the creation of a hybrid work that simultaneously belonged to not just one but three European literary traditions: English, French and Spanish. Throughout her life, Eleanor was an avid reader and collector of literary texts and shared a love of Arthuriana with Edward.
This is a work-in-progress blog devoted to exploring Escanor as a literary text and its significance as a commentary on contemporary society, gender and politics. In the first instance, my primary aim is to track the progress, problems and discoveries encountered during my gradual translation of the text into modern English. Through posts discussing textual excerpts, the process of translation, medieval studies, modern retellings and much more, I aim to further knowledge of Escanor for the benefit of the wider community of readers and researchers interested in medieval texts and retellings of such stories as we find in them. It is my hope that, in time, this will develop into a bilingual discussion and further the sharing of resources across disciplines, both within and without academic scholarship. To this end, over time I will provide translations of older French material on Escanor such as nineteenth-century introductions, analytical articles, and reference book entries. More broadly, my longer-term aim in researching this text is to explore its literary, book historical and political significance within a European context.