The Meaning of Suffering: Symbolism and Antisymbolism in the Death of Tristan

  • Laura Ashe
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


The twelfth century saw the reinvention of fiction, in western Europe, as a mode of expression and exploration. But from its inception, fiction begins a slide into ideology; its methods are appropriated by the proponents of political, nationalistic, racial, cultural, and behavioral ideals. This is evidently because, despite the ostensible lack of external referential-ity which characterizes fiction, language is itself organized according to cultural patterns, as Paul Ricoeur suggests:

Discourse cannot fail to be about something…In one manner or another, poetic texts speak about the world. But not in a descriptive way…The reference here is not abolished, but divided or split. The effacement of the ostensive and descriptive reference liberates a power of reference to aspects of our being in the world that cannot be said in a direct descriptive way, but only alluded to, thanks to the referential values of metaphoric and, in general, symbolic expression.1


Twelfth Century Medieval Literature Poetic Text White Hand Behavioral Ideal 
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© Ruth Kennedy and Simon Meecham-Jones 2006

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  • Laura Ashe

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