From Hull AWE
Jump to: navigation, search

The word romance, with the related adjective Romantic, causes many problems in academic study. Its meanings are many and varied. Of these, the most useful to readers of AWE are likely to be its use in:

  • the study of language. The Romance languages are those which developed out of the decay of Latin, the language of the Romans. Their chief current examples are French, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian and Spanish.

From this arose various terms in

  • the study of literature. The word romance is used in different ways:
    • in Middle English literature, a romance is the name for a kind of text - a description of an imaginary, often fantastical, chivalric adventure, or journey, often involving a love affair. It was so called - and admired - because it was believed to be a product of the romance languages, and thus linked to the elegance and discipline of classical authors.
    • In the classification of Shakespeare's plays, the Romances are a group of probably later works. The membership of this group is disputed, and the name is not used by all scholars - sometimes they are called Tragicomedies or Late Comedies. In any case, it can be hard to think of them as 'Comedies', which is how they are grouped in the Folio editions of the seventeenth century. They include The Winter's Tale, The Tempest. Two Noble Kinsmen and Pericles, Prince of Tyre.
    • from the late eighteenth century for a school of poets and other artists who were thought (some by themselves) to be returning to medieval roots - the Romantics
    • in the twentieth century, romances is used for a genre of popular writing, sometimes referred to as 'love stories'. This meaning owes something to the meaning in popular culture. As a result, students of literature are advised NOT to use this word in this sense.
For more information on these literary terms, click Romantic literature.
  • In music, 'a romance' is a name given to various compositions. The title "impl[ies] an especially personal or tender quality but with no strict formal application" (The Oxford Dictionary of Music). A Romance may be vocal or instrumental.
  • In more modern cultural terms, there are one or two pitfalls.
    • There is a general cultural meaning of romantic linked to the second literary meaning above: this is a label for a certain stylistic movement that can be observed in many arts. It is most conveniently defined by opposition to classical - go to classical - romantic.
    • In popular culture and most colloquial English, it means 'to do with sexual love', or ' the mutual attraction between a young man and a young woman'. (The first use of this meaning recorded in OED is dated as 1960: this is a modern term, which many academics will feel is a degeneration of the earlier meaning.) Students of all subjects are advised to avoid this use of the word in academic writing.

All these meanings derive in some way from the word 'Roman', and can be traced back to Latin ideas. The literary and artistic ones share a common theme in that they involve the emotions and the imagination.