By July 9, 2007 Read More →

What romance means: the genre of literary romance

The word romance is both powerful and personal, and inspires unique memories, reactions and emotions in every individual who hears it. It defines a quality of life, a type of story, a class of languages, a kind of art and music, and exciting and mysterious qualities that are difficult to define.

Since Romance Tracker’s mission is to deliver fresh romantic ideas to our readers, we’ve dedicated a series of posts to the all-important question: what exactly is romance, and what does the word romantic mean?

Last week we talked about the Romantic Languages. Today we’re going to discover the genre of literary romance, also known as chivalric romance, which was a type of writing common in the middle ages and Renaissance periods.  Romance literature (not the popular romance novels of today) generally describes writing that was widely read during these periods by the masses in the common languages of Spanish, Portuguese, Spanish, English and German, as opposed to more highbrow Latin literature.

It was common in medieval romance literature to see a brave, chivalrous knight doing battle with fantastic magical monsters, usually as part of a quest to save a fair maiden.  Still, these medieval romance stories didn’t really have romantic themes, and didn’t dwell much on actual relationships between the knight in question and the maiden he rescued.  Instead, the stories tended to focus on adventure and heroism.

In these early examples of literary romance, the heroes often had amazing magical powers themselves that they used to defeat their foes.  These abilities and magical qualities were reflective of the fairy tales and legends of the time, but they became less and less prevalent in romance stories as the genre advanced.  Eventually, the knights and heroes were written as characters who didn’t have magical powers themselves, but who did battle with magical enemies.

As the medieval period gave way to the Renaissance period, the popularity of such romance masterpieces as Le Mort d’Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory inspired many writers to try to imitate with works of their own.  With the coming of such comedic farces as Don Quixote, though, the medieval concept of romance started to get a tongue-in-cheek treatment from writers.

By the 1600’s, the fantastic romance literature of knights, maidens and chivalry began to lose its popularity with the masses, and many literary authorities of the time started to look at the romance genre as poor literature.  But although the genre eventually faded, great romance literature still inspires the style of literary artists to this day.

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