This article offers an alternative story of the transmission of Middle English verse romance to the one traditionally told by textual scholarship, one rooted in stemmatics' focus on genealogical descent and its principal interest in origins. Like the medieval romance hero himself, the English romance narrative wandered from locus to locus, in this case from manuscript to manuscript, with each encounter inscribing on it a different identity with characteristics influenced by local cultural values. Stemmatics' analogy of the family tree thus enforces an artificially unified reading of Middle English romance and promotes a fundamentally modern reception of the genre. The stories that individual manuscript versions tell, when linked together in an organic network rather than grafted into a hierarchical family tree, is episodic with no clear cause-and-effect, action-and-reaction relationship indicated among these various versions. Its story lies in its scattered dissemination, fruitfully conveyed by the image of the rhizome.
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Myra Seaman; Tugging at the Roots: The Errant Textography of Middle English Romance. Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 1 May 2009; 39 (2): 283–303. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10829636-2008-023
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