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"God Help Tristrem the Knight!/He Faught for Ingland"

Title: "God Help Tristrem the Knight!/He Faught for Ingland": A Narrative and Manuscript Study of English Identity in Sir Tristrem.
Name(s): Yaitsky, Lydia, author
Johnson, David F., professor directing thesis
Treharne, Elaine, committee member
Vitkus, Daniel, committee member
Department of English, degree granting department
Florida State University, degree granting institution
Type of Resource: text
Genre: Text
Issuance: monographic
Date Issued: 2009
Publisher: Florida State University
Place of Publication: Tallahassee, Florida
Physical Form: computer
online resource
Extent: 1 online resource
Language(s): English
Abstract/Description: Sir Tristrem is the earliest English versions of the Tristan and Isolde story, and it is the only rendition that presents its protagonist as an English hero. The romance's many markers of Englishness become even more legible in the manuscript context of the poem. With its singular appearance in the Auchinleck Manuscript, National Library of Scotland, Advocates' MS.19.2.1 (c.1330), Sir Tristrem and the deeds of its eponymous hero become inscribed in the Matter of England. Because this is the only medieval instance of the poem, this study of national identity in Sir Tristrem must be contextualized within its literary tradition and its manuscript context. When judged against the courtly standards as represented in Thomas' Tristran and Gottfried's Tristan, the Middle English Sir Tristrem pales in comparison. But this comparison assumes that the anonymous Middle English poet was participating in the same courtly narrative tradition as Thomas and Gottfried. In my study of the poem, I argue that the Tristrem poet purposefully rejects the courtly tradition. In reducing the emphasis on emotional responses and focusing instead on land rights and public performance, Sir Tristrem blends the courtly Tristan narratives with the tales of English heroes. Tristrem travels to Ermonie to win back his heritage. In avenging the death of his father, Tristrem behaves like the famous English heroes Havelok, Guy, and Boeve, but his story differs from theirs because of Tristrem's inability to settle down and establish a dynasty. The only way to secure an inheritance is by transmitting it to the next generation. Despite his marriage to Ysonde of the White Hands, Tristrem never fathers any children. His only recourse is to establish a new dynasty, one not related to him by blood: the dynasty of his foster father Rohand and his sons. This argument that Sir Tristrem participates in the English hero tradition finds support in the manuscript evidence of the Auchinleck MS. The manuscript compiler has selected five English hero romances—Guy of Warwick (couplets), Guy of Warwick (stanzas), Reinbroun (the romance of Guy's son), Sir Beues of Hamtoun, and Horn Childe and Maiden Rimnild—and may have selected Sir Tristrem because of its narrative similarities to them. The manuscript context of Sir Tristrem helps its eponymous hero gain recognition as a tragic exiled-and-returned English hero. The Auchinleck manuscript appropriates Sir Tristrem into the Matter of England romances—tales that narrate a history of the nation and were read by fourteenth-century audiences as history or glimpses into the past.
Identifier: FSU_migr_etd-1159 (IID)
Submitted Note: A Thesis submitted to the Department of English in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts.
Degree Awarded: Summer Semester, 2009.
Date of Defense: June 16, 2009.
Keywords: English Hero Romance, Public Image in Romance, Private Identity in Romance, Matter of England, Exile and Return Narrative, Middle English Romance, Tristan, National Identity, Romance Identity, Romance, Auchinleck Manuscript, Englishness, Nationalism, English Identity
Bibliography Note: Includes bibliographical references.
Advisory Committee: David F. Johnson, Professor Directing Thesis; Elaine Treharne, Committee Member; Daniel Vitkus, Committee Member.
Subject(s): English literature
English language
Persistent Link to This Record:
Owner Institution: FSU

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Yaitsky, L. (2009). "God Help Tristrem the Knight!/He Faught for Ingland": A Narrative and Manuscript Study of English Identity in Sir Tristrem. Retrieved from