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The University of Southampton
Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Culture

Research project: Madeleine de Scudéry and French Romance in England, 1650-1760

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This project aims to provide a new and updated exploration of the influence of French romance helped on literature and society in early modern England.

Funded by a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship, this project will result in a monograph exploring the place and influence of Madeleine de Scudéry's prose romances in England during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. It is well know that these vast books, often over a thousand pages long, were both hugely popular and widely derided in early modern England, but the last full length study of their reception was published in 1931. Using both well-known printed material and new archival resources, this project will draw on recent developments in book history, historical formalism, translation studies, and cultural history to consider the impact of French romance on English society and literature. It will consider the ways writers and translators adopted and adapted both the thematic and formal conventions of these narratives across a range of genres including romance, life writing, literary criticism, drama, and the novel, and will consider the work of a range of writers, including those recently discovered, such as Hester Pulter and the very well-known, including John Dryden and Henry Fielding. While French romance played a vital role in the development of prose fiction in England it also gave rise to modes of behaviour, including ways of speaking and of interacting in social situations, imitating those they portrayed. A key part of this project will be a consideration of the interaction between political and social circumstances of early modern England and the romance narratives it generated and absorbed.

Other outcomes from the project will be a conference dedicated to ‘romance transformations' in early modern England (2014) and a digital edition of Scudéry's Ibrahim (1652).

Madeleine de Scudéry
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