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Author(s): D. H. Green
Review by: D. H. Green
Source: The Modern Language Review, Vol. 78, No. 4 (Oct., 1983), pp. 879-880
Published by: Modern Humanities Research Association
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Accessed: 09-12-2015 12:07 UTC

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Reviews 879
The work of Colie or Lewalski on Renaissance notions of genre (or allegory) goes
unregarded. One of the stranger features of ProfessorQuilligan's advocacy of what
she maintains is the 'suprarealist' attitude toward language necessitated by the
context of allegories, is that the converse is more strikingly obvious. The intellectual
context for allegory is regularly nominalist and sceptical.
For this enterprise she is also temperamentally ill-suited. From her lack of
wholeheartedness two consequences follow. First, she misrepresents issues for the
sake of arguments which she has no interest in developing. This is mainly trivial,
though it robs facts of their consistency: at one time Book I is described as
paradigmatic for the FaerieQueene,at another it is expedient to describe Spenser's
tactics as varying from book to book. Some errorsof hard fact seem to be tendentious
in this way. The second consequence is more important. Limitations are put on
Professor Quilligan's perceptions of where her observations might naturally and
profitably lead. Had she not trapped herself in the definition of allegory as linguistic,
she might have examined more naively and openly why allegories, however defined,
do so frequently use word play, why illusioand allusioare so often bound up; or she
might have reflected more closely on what it means to use language etymologically,
and in particular on why both Langland and Spenser write in affectedly archaic or
provincial modes. R. M. CUMMINGS

TheHeroandtheKing:An Epic Theme.By W. T. H. JACKSON.

New York: Columbia
University Press. I982. viii + I4I pp. $26.oo.
In short compass ProfessorJackson here discusses a single theme which he wisely
proposes not as the dominant epic theme, but less ambitiously as one without which,
he claims, none of the major epics he discusses could have been composed. His
theme is the opposition between a settled ruler and an independent intruding hero,
between the old and the young, the retiring and the ambitious. The author shrewdly
recognizes that, although this tension between the ruler and a major figure in a
particular epic may well be presented in terms of loyalty, this need not necessarily be
so, and that we may be presented instead, because the hero intrudes upon a settled,
established culture from outside, with a more general conflict of values.
The author establishes the lasting importance of this theme in literature by an
analysis of a number of epic examples, considered mainly in terms of often very
illuminating structural comparisons. This survey begins in classical antiquity (Iliad,
Odyssey,Aeneid), but then passes over to the Middle Ages (Waltharius,Beowulf;
Nibelungenlied,ChansondeRoland,the Guillaume d'Orange cycle, and the Cid). What
Professor Jackson says on each of so many works is of necessity very brief, a
disadvantage of organization which at times involves him in rather too much resume
of the narrative action. Yet this must be immediately qualified by an acknowledge-
ment of the new light which a structural approach from this particular starting-point
is here made to shed. Particularlyin the case of the chanson
degeste,with its two cycles
(that of the king and that of the revolted barons),Jackson's theme comes into its own
and reveals its wider generic importance. In the case of the Chansonde Roland he
suggests convincingly that a thematic contrast which has long been recognized
(betweenfortitudo and sapientia) can also be seen in terms of his opposition between
private concerns (pushed by Roland) and public matters (represented by the ruler),
but that this opposition is in its turn complicated by the introduction of the
antithesis between Christian and pagan. With the Odysseywe certainly have a hero
who may be termed an outsider, even an exile, but, althoughJackson's thesis would
seem to be disproved in this case by the presence of kings only on the fringe of the

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88o Reviews
story, he reminds us that Odysseus is himself a king, even though for almost the
whole extent of the narrative he may not occupy the position of a king. Jackson
rescues his thesis by suggesting that it is here varied by means of inversion: we have
in this epic, therefore, an intruder-herowho is really the king vindicating his rights
against the temporary rulers of his hall.
The author is of course aware (p. vii) that behind his epic theme there stands a
social factor (the decline or temporary weakness of a ruler faced by a younger man
bent on establishing himself), but it cannot be said that the social implications of
this are dealt with at all extensively in the pages that follow. Although the work of
K.-H. Bender, important for the relationship between rulerand vassal in the chanson
de geste, is mentioned in the bibliography, the problems raised by Bender are not
expressly dealt with by Jackson with regard either to the French epics or to other
It is also regrettable that no attempt has been made to include the Arthurian
romance in this survey. Jackson excuses himself by suggesting that the position is
really differenthere (p. viii), which is of course true, but not to the extent that there is
not a large measure of overlap.Just as the Guillaume cycle is used in his argument to
bring out the special nature of the Chansonde Roland,so could the author have
highlighted his epic theme by contrasting it with the romance. Examples of parallels
between the two genres which permit such contrasts are the role oflesjeunesin feudal
society and the romance, as withJackson's epic theme, as well as the position of the
romance hero, on various different levels, as an outsider or exile. The tension
between private concerns and public matters is not merely, as is claimed here, a
deep-seated principle of all epic poetry; it also recurs in the romance, where the fact
that it can here be projected into one character alone does not destroy the parallel
with the epic, since the same is true, as the author rightly sees, of some epics
(Beowulf is both an intruder-warriorand a settled king, Odysseus is an exile as well
as ultimately a ruler). Jackson's epic theme of the resentment caused by the
intruder's arrival at the court is not confined to this genre alone (one thinks
immediately of the young Tristan at Marke's court); his interpretation of the epic
clash between settled king and young intruder as involving a transferof power could
also be applied to Tristan at Tintagel or Parzival at Munsalvaesche,whilst the motif
of a central passive court is common to the epic and the Arthurian romance.
This book could be called an essay in two senses, both because of its brevity and
because, given this restriction, it can do no more than give out ideas which will have
to be followed up elsewhere. That is surely enough for which to be grateful.

CreationandRecreation. By NORTHROP
FRYE. (The Larkin-Stuart Lectures) Toronto,
Buffalo, and London: University of Toronto Press. I980. vi + 76pp. ?2.35.
This small elegantly-produced booklet contains the text of three lectures delivered
by Professor Frye under the auspices of Trinity College, Toronto, and St Thomas's
Church. They examine, appropriately enough, creation in its cosmic and imagina-
tive senses, though the actual creation of the universe is barely considered on a literal
level. 'The doctrine of divine creation', ProfessorFrye states firmly, 'is among other
things a linguistic device for shutting off the question "What happened before
anything else happened?".' Having thus deftly disposed of the great artificerand the
big bang, the author is free to embark on a wide-ranging examination of creation
myths and their analogues in the world of artistic originality, with furtherglances at
the creative impulses of society in general. It will be plain that the development of
these parallels is facilitated by a very generous interpretation of myth, a latitude

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