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Thinking Medieval Romance$
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Katherine C. Little and Nicola McDonald

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198795148

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198795148.001.0001

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Unthinking Thought

Unthinking Thought

Romance’s Wisdom

Chapter:
(p.36) 2 Unthinking Thought
Source:
Thinking Medieval Romance
Author(s):

James Simpson

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780198795148.003.0003

Since the scholarly recovery of Middle English romance, one pronounced judgement is that the genre fails to think. This judgement underestimates the peculiar quality of romance ‘thought’. Like the author’s the Marxist account understands romance ‘thought’ to be a refusal of explicit thought. The author differs from the Marxists in not seeking to expose this refusal of thought as an example of mesmerizing ideology. Instead, the chapter presents romance non-thought as an especially subtle form of cybernetic (in the etymological sense of ‘self-governing’) reformism. This kind of thought requires a holiday from explicit, rational thought, and from thinking too explicitly about shame. Such ‘thought’ instead operates by disabling thought; it requires ‘unthinking’. Romance (un)thinking seeks not to deceive or mesmerize, but rather recognizes that some profound issues, and particularly shame, are better not thought about explicitly. The example used is the popular romance Sir Degaré.

Keywords:   romance thought, shame, cybernetic thought, ideology, Sir Degaré

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