Setting Limits: Textual Parameters and Sites of Resistance in The Book of Sir Tristram

  • Catherine Batt
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)

Abstract

The relatively few sidenotes glossing the Tristram section of the Winchester Malory inscribe an intriguingly haphazard reader-response.1 They do not uniquely underline narrative climaxes, but accord the same status to a fall from a horse at a tournament (the fate of Palomides, Dynadan, and Gareth at fol. 330v), as to the fatal consequence of Tristram’s first great victory, over Marhalt (fol. 154v). Notes draw attention to the Princess of France’s love-gift of a dog to Tristram (fol. 152r), and to the animal’s role in the later recognition scene between Tristam and Isode (2:501.27–502.4) (fol. 205v). There is no comment on the crucial episode in which the lovers share the potion that seals their fate. Yet, there is a method of kinds in this selectivity, an interest in the recurrence of motif (the little dog represents devotion and recognition): the records of tournament procedure, the commemoration of who slew whom. Scattered associations and events play at the edges of this manuscript, and suggest random expressions of cultural and generic detritus as potential ordering and categorizing processes.

Keywords

Assimilation Hunt Topo Editing Ster 

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Notes

  1. 7.
    Vinaver identifies Malory’s source as a version of the narrative for which he cites several manuscripts as close cousins, among them BN fr. 103, 334, and 99 (Commentary, 3:1449), but Michael N. Saida, “Reconsidering Vinaver’s Sources for Malory’s ‘Tristram,’” Modern Philology 88 (1991): 373–81, suggests a composite text, closer to the manuscript that would have served as a base text for the 1489 printed edition of Tristan. Renée Curtis’s edition covers the story up to Tristan’s period of madness in the forest, with MS Carpentras 404 as the base text. Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek MS 2542, continues and concludes the narrative; gen. ed. Philippe Ménard, 9 vols. (Geneva: Droz, 1987–1997). References to these editions will be by editor, volume, and page number. Neither of these manuscripts fully represents Malory’s source. Tristan 1489 is a facsimile edition of the printed text, with an introductory note by C. E. Pickford (London: Scolar Press, 1976).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 10.
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  4. 13.
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  5. 14.
    For Van Coolput, the work makes no claims to possessing transcendent truths, but recognizes the limits of its own narration (Aventures quérant, p. 220). See also Baumgartner, La Harpe et Yépée: tradition et renouvellement dans le Tristan en prose (Paris: SEDES, 1990), pp. 43–61.Google Scholar
  6. 17.
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  14. 35.
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  15. 38.
    See James I. Wimsatt on Dynadan as partaking in the fluidity of perspective that characterizes the Tristram in general: “Segwarydes’ Wife and Competing Perspectives within Malory’s Tale of Sir Tristram and Its Model, the Prose Tristan” in Retelling Tales: Essays in Honor of Russell Peck, ed. Thomas Hahn and Alan Lupack (Woodbridge, UK: Brewer, 1997), pp. 321–39 (pp. 333–39).Google Scholar
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  17. 45.
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  19. 49.
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  21. 53.
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  22. 54.
    On this issue see Thomas Laqueur, Making Sex: Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1990), pp. 161–62. For English law on this point, see Batt, “Malory and Rape,” p. 87.Google Scholar
  23. 56.
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  24. 59.
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  25. 60.
    See the summaries in William A. Nitze, “The Beste Glatissant in Arthurian Romance,” Zeitschrift für romanische Philologie 56 (1936): 409–18; Nitze argues, from a comparison of the beasts, for Perlesvaus as a source for the Graal continuation.Google Scholar
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  27. 65.
    Batt, “Malory’s Questing Beast and the Implications of Author as Translator,” in The Medieval Translator: The Theory and Practice of Translation in the Middle Ages, ed. Roger Ellis (Cambridge, UK: Brewer, 1989), pp. 143–66 (p. 152).Google Scholar
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    The Middle English Dictionary, ed. Hans Kurath, S. M. Kuhn, and others (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1954-), definitions 4 and 6.Google Scholar

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© Catherine Batt 2002

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  • Catherine Batt

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