Horticultural Landscapes in Middle English Romance
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Gardens played a significant role in the lives of European peoples living in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. By producing texts in which gardens and other cultivated landscapes are used as symbol and setting, medieval writers provide us with the opportunity to gain insight into the sociocultural conventions associated with these spaces in the late medieval period. By building our understanding of medieval horticulture through an examination of historical texts, we position ourselves to achieve a greater understanding into the formation of contemporary cultivated literary landscapes and their attendant conventional codes. This study provides a map of current medieval garden interpretation, assessing the shape and validity of recent literary criticism of this field. With a focus on the hortus conclusus (the walled pleasure garden) and arboricultural spaces (including hunting and pleasure parks), this study provides an historicist reinterpretation of horticultural landscapes in Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde, Sir Orfeo, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, furthering our understanding of the authors’ use of such conventionally-coded spaces in these canonical romances.