The gift of narrative in medieval England

By Nicholas Perkins

The gift of narrative in medieval England


  • Hardcover
  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-6716-3
  • Pages: 288
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £25.00
  • Published Date: January 2023
  • BIC Category: Medieval Literature, Literature, Social & cultural anthropology, European history: medieval period, middle ages, Literary studies: ancient & classical, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Anthropology / Cultural, HISTORY / Medieval, LITERARY CRITICISM / Medieval, Society & social sciences / Social & cultural anthropology, ethnography, Humanities / Medieval history, Literature & literary studies / Literary studies: classical, early & medieval
  • Series: Manchester Medieval Literature and Culture


This invigorating study places medieval romance narrative in dialogue with theories and practices of gift and exchange, opening new approaches to questions of storytelling, agency, gender and materiality in some of the most engaging literature from the Middle Ages. It argues that the dynamics of the gift are powerfully at work in romances: through exchanges of objects and people; repeated patterns of love, loyalty and revenge; promises made or broken; and the complex effects that time works on such objects, exchanges and promises. Ranging from the twelfth century to the fifteenth, and including close discussions of poetry by Chaucer, the Gawain-Poet and romances in the Auchinleck Manuscript, this book will prompt new ideas and debate amongst students and scholars of medieval literature, as well as anyone curious about the pleasures that romance narratives bring.


'Perkins (St. Hugh's College, Univ. of Oxford, UK) has written an engaging and well-informed study of the relationship between gift giving and reciprocity within Middle English romances. What sets this book apart from other scholarly endeavors on theories of the gift in medieval literature is its focus on genre and the ways in which the form of the text and the text's audience are inherently interconnected. Perkins's readings of the works that constitute the Horn legend are exemplary and add much to that tradition. Scholars of Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde and The Franklin's Tale, Lydgate's Troy Book, and the Gawain-poet will find this volume to be indispensable.'
Reprinted with permission from Choice Reviews. All rights reserved. Copyright by the American Library Association

'Nicholas Perkins's book is itself a gift, in which the elusive phenomenon of the gifted object has found its ideal, answering intelligence: lucidly scrupulous; attuned as much to the book as gift as to the gift in books; and ready to draw as much on anthropology as on the material history of the book. Like all gifts, it's radiant.'
James Simpson, Donald P. and Katherine B. Loker Professor of English, Harvard University

'In this incisive study of the intricate patterns of narrative, selfhood, gifts, objects and bodies in medieval English romance, Nicholas Perkins develops the concept and practice of speculative anthropology, balancing theoretical insight with wonderful textual analysis. Perkins moves with grace and confidence between different layers of literary and social meaning, between text and manuscript context and between the constitution of objects and subjects through narrative exchange in romance texts. The gift of narrative is a wonderful exploration of the ways medieval romances circulate gifts, people, bodies and obligations that are both emotional and social.'
Stephanie Trigg, Redmond Barry Distinguished Professor of English, University of Melbourne


1 The gift of narrative in the romances of Horn
2 'Kepe þou þat on & y þat oþer': giving and keeping in Middle English romances
3 The traffic in people: Chaucer's Knight's Tale and Troilus and Criseyde
4 Exchanging words and deeds: The Franklin's Tale and The Manciple's Tale
5 Things fall apart: the narratives of gift in Lydgate's Troy Book


Nicholas Perkins is Associate Professor and Tutor in English at St Hugh's College, University of Oxford

The gift of narrative in medieval England

By Nicholas Perkins

Paperback £25.00 / $36.95

Hardcover £85.00 / $130.00

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