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Palgrave Macmillan

Wales and the Medieval Colonial Imagination

The Matters of Britain in the Twelfth Century

ISBN 9781137391025
Publication Date July 2014
Formats Hardcover Ebook (EPUB) Ebook (PDF) 
Publisher Palgrave Macmillan
Series The New Middle Ages

Focusing on works by some of the major literary figures of the period, Michael A. Faletra argues that the legendary history of Britain that flourished in medieval chronicles and Arthurian romances traces its origins to twelfth-century Anglo-Norman colonial interest in Wales and the Welsh. Viewing the Welsh as England's original repressed Other, this book identifies and critiques the ways in which medieval narratives construe Wales as a barbaric peripheral zone requiring colonial control. By focusing on texts across a variety of genres by some of the major literary figures of the period - including Geoffrey of Monmouth, Chrétien de Troyes, Marie de France, Gerald of Wales, Walter Map, and John of Salisbury - Faletra offers innovative new readings that illuminate both the subtle power and the imaginative limitations of these matters of Britain.

Michael A. Faletra is Associate Professor of English and Humanities at Reed College, USA. He has translated and edited Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain, and his essays have appeared in scholarly journals that include Exemplaria, The Journal of English and Germanic Philology, Medievalia et Humanistica, and The Chaucer Review.

Introduction: The Scrap-Heap of History
1. Geoffrey of Monmouth and the Matter of Wales
2. Fairies at the Bottom of the Garden: Courtly Britain and Its Others
3. Chrétien de Troyes, Wales, and the Matiere of Britain
4. Crooked Greeks: Hybridity, History, and Gerald of Wales
Epilogue: The Birds of Rhiannon


"An eminently useful book and one that should be explored in all its complexity by anyone interested in the authors, postcolonial studies of the middle ages, or British literary culture in the twelfth century." - The Medieval Review "In this crucial intervention in the burgeoning field of post-Conquest Insular studies, Faletra shows how central the Welsh periphery was to the political consciousness of twelfth-century England. Founding his analysis upon the radical disjuncture Geoffrey of Monmouth effected between the ancient British (the glorified neo-Trojan rulers of the first Insular imperium) and the twelfth-century Welsh (their descendants who have nonetheless degenerated into barbarous alterity), Faletra argues that authors as varied as John of Salisbury, Marie de France, Walter Map, Chrétien de Troyes, and Gerald of Wales turned to Wales and the Welsh as paradigms through which to negotiate anxieties of ethnic specificity, cultural hybridity, and temporal dominion." - David Rollo, Professor of English, University of Southern California, USA, and author of Historical Fabrication, Ethnic Fable and French Romance in Twelfth-Century England
"Faletra has composed an ambitious and challenging account dedicated to the proposition that the complex representation of Wales in medieval literature should matter to everyone interested in the development of medieval European culture. Placing the work of Geoffrey of Monmouth at the heart of his narrative, Faletra traces the resonances of Geoffrey's work in a variety of French and Latin texts from the twelfth century, as well as considering the contact of Welsh literature with these other British and French traditions." - Simon Meecham-Jones, Affiliated Lecturer for the English Faculty, University of Cambridge, UK
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