The Roman de Perceforest was composed about 1340 for William I, Count of Hainaut. The vast romance, building on the prose romance cycles of the thirteenth century, chronicles an imaginary era of pre-Arthurian British history when Britain was ruled by a dynasty established by Alexander the Great. Its story of cultural rise, decline, and regeneration offers a fascinating exploration of medieval ideas about ethnic and cultural conflict and fusion, identity and hybridity. Drawing on the insights of contemporary postcolonial theory, Sylvia Huot examines the author's treatment of basic concepts such as "nature" and "culture", "savagery" and "civilisation". Particular attention is given to the text's treatment of gender and sexuality as focal points of cultural identity, to its construction of the ethnic categories of "Greek" and "Trojan", and to its exposition of the ideological biases inherent in any historical narrative.
Written in the fourteenth century, revived at the fifteenth-century Burgundian court, and twice printed in sixteenth-century Paris, Perceforest is both a masterpiece of medieval literature and a vehicle for the transmission of medieval thought into the early modern era of global exploration and colonisation.
SYLVIA HUOT is Reader in Medieval French Literature and Fellow of Pembroke College, Cambridge.
This study is not only the first one to do full justice to the Romance of Perceforest
, but it also manifests a remarkable ability to follow the intricacies of a story that eventually manages to rejoin the boundaries of "culture, race and lineage." SPECULUM
Sylvia Huot's excellent Postcolonial Fictions is a distinguished addition to [the] bibliography, emphasizing the pertinence of medieval fantasies of sovereignty, gender and community to the discourse of Empire. This fine book should prompt further reconsideration of the importance of the medieval translatio tradition to the later assumptions of empire. ENCOMIA
A comprehensive, well written, and very compelling study of Perceforest. MEDIUM AEVUM
Well-researched, documented and copy-edited, the book has little to reproach. [...] Pushes boundaries and forces medievalists to ponder on the directions and aims of their own discipline. ARTHURIANA
An important book [that] enables us to recognize Perceforest as a masterpiece of medieval literature. THE MEDIEVAL REVIEW Huot's excellent study merit's a broad readership in both medieval and early modern studies of cultural difference, conquest and empire, and in wider reflection on the history of identity politics. FRENCH STUDIES, 62, no. 3, July 2008