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"Deep forests, enchanted castles, monsters, maidens in distress, stout-hearted heroes, boundless love: The literature of the Middle Ages has the power to entrance the imaginations of children and adolescents. But can it do more? And in fact, does that power of enchantment still work?" -- from The Enchantment of the Middle Ages
In The Enchantment of the Middle Ages, the influential work of France's most acclaimed medievalist becomes available in English translation for the first time. Collecting his inaugural lecture to the Collège de France and four essays that expand on its themes, Michel Zink explores the changing nature of our understanding of the period and its literature, revisiting questions of what is old and new in medievalism -- and in medieval culture itself. For answers, Zink returns to the body of literature that has defined medievalism for two centuries: the chansons of the troubadours. He examines how the chansons have served numerous contradictory aims, as expressions of youthful passion and as reliquaries of antiquated customs. Both old and young, both old and new, he concludes, they have come to represent a kind of eternal song, rewarding not only rereading and rehearing, but even more careful study. "If we grant that medieval literature exists," Zink writes, "its most striking characteristic with respect to European literature as a whole is that it constitutes that literature's beginning."