March 17: Romancing Sir Orfeo

In today’s reading, Olson delves into the possible themes that governed the Auchinleck’s compilatio, one of which involves the English “hero” narrative as an establishment of Anglo-Norman ancestry, owing validity to Norman authority.

In what ways would Sir Orfeo reflect a possible synthesis between different groups in the Auchinleck?

One thought on “March 17: Romancing Sir Orfeo

  1. This is an interesting question. Olson states that “perhaps Chaucer even learned something of literary genre from the texts of Auchinleck, since the shared prologue of Sir Orfeo and Lai le Freine has been seen as a source for ‘every one’ of Chaucer’s ideas about Breton lais stated in the prologue of the ‘Franklin’s Tale’.” So, clearly, Sir Orfeo as positioned (as a romance/Breton Lai hybrid) in the Auchinleck had significant influence. I didn’t write about this manuscript in project 1, so I’m not as familiar with it as I am with the Vernon (my paper’s topic), but it seems to me that the inclusion of both traditional, alliterative romances and the French-infused Breton lay genre (among other various genres) in the Auchinleck opens up many opportunities for different types of middle class audiences to appreciate the art of reading/experiencing. Olson discusses the strong appeal these types of texts potentially had on the merchant class (like Chaucer due to the centrality of book production in London) but also alternative audiences such as noble children. Whatever the case, Sir Orfeo’s inclusion in the Auchinleck is important because it is the primary extant version of the Breton lai.

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