Wace, Roman de Brut and Roman de Rou

Only the second entry and already here’s an author who is apparently not writing in Anglo-Norman or in England. But Wace’s historical works were well-represented in Anglo-Norman manuscript copies and manuscripts circulating in England.

The Roman de Brut is an invigorating read: it translates Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniae with nearly all of its strange and intriguing elements, while adding Wace’s own passions into the mix, like his interests in combat, emotion and etymology. He tells the story of the legendary history of Britain from its legendary Trojan founder Brutus to the last British king Cadwallader, taking in hundreds of other kings on the way. Most famously, King Arthur’s reign is described at great length and includes the first known mention of the Round Table.

Wace’s Roman de Rou covered the history of the dukes of Normandy and (from William the Conqueror) the kings of England. Incomplete, and surviving in fewer manuscripts than the Roman de Brut, it has sometimes been seen as a failure which may have been abandoned by Wace and his patrons. The work itself, though, is wonderful for being a work of genuine historical inquiry which also never forgets the political and aesthetic reasons for its creation. Again, Wace’s characteristic curiosity about certain subjects is on display.

Wace has been the subject of significant interest since Dean’s Anglo-Norman Literature was published. I won’t attempt to cite all the articles about these two works which have appeared since then, as many of these can be found by searching databases like the MLA Bibliography, the Bibliography of British and Irish History, and the International Medieval Bibliography. But there are a few key books that I should mention.

Wace’s Roman de Brut: A History of the British: Text and Translation, trans. Judith Weiss (Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 2002; 1st edn 1999).

This second edition of Judith Weiss’s full translation of the Brut is accompanied by a full facing-page text of Arnold’s edition of the Brut (but with many amendments).

Wace, The ‘Roman de Rou’, trans. Glyn S. Burgess, with historical notes by Elisabeth van Houts (St Helier, Jersey: Société Jersiaise, 2002).

This translation is also accompanied by a full facing-page text, in this case taken from Holden’s edition of the Rou. The translation (but not the Old French text) was reprinted in The History of the Norman People: Wace’s ‘Roman de Rou’, trans. Glyn S. Burgess with historical notes by Elisabeth van Houts (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2004).

Françoise Le Saux, A Companion to Wace (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2005), is an in-depth study of all Wace’s work – his three hagiographies as well as the Brut and the Rou.

Maistre Wace: A Celebration, ed. by Glyn S. Burgess and Judith Weiss (St Helier, Jersey: Société Jersiaise, 2006), is a whole volume of essays dedicated to Wace and his work.

Jean Blacker, Wace: A Critical Bibliography (St Helier, Jersey: Société Jersiaise, 2008), is a new key reference work for scholarship on Wace.

Also, I should mention Peter Damian-Grint, The New Historians of the Twelfth-Century Renaissance: Inventing Vernacular Authority (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 1999), which came out in the same year as Dean’s catalogue and which is an indispensable guide to   style in early Old French verse chronicles, not only Wace but also Gaimar, other Brut fragments, and slightly later writers like Jordan Fantosme and Ambroise.

Please add your recommendations for recent writing on Wace in the comments.

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About John Spence

I write as an independent scholar about medieval literature, particularly Anglo-Norman chronicles.
This entry was posted in Dean, Dean 2, Dean 2.1, historical writing, verse. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Wace, Roman de Brut and Roman de Rou

  1. Pingback: Verse Bruts | Anglo-Norman: a blog

  2. Pingback: Description of England (verse and prose) | Anglo-Norman: a blog

  3. Pingback: Multilingual style | Stylisticienne

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