Objects and Communication
in French Medieval Romances and Contemporary French Fantasy Novels
Through a comparison of French medieval romances and contemporary French fantasy novels, my dissertation project explores how characters—who are not members of the dominant groups in their respective cultures—use objects to communicate complex messages that function as a type of media, since these individuals are unable to employ typical communication methods such as speaking and writing. Given the importance of communication as a foundation of community and the means of interaction between individuals, understanding how communication occurs in a textual universe is an essential means to understanding that universe and its inhabitants, as well as a way of exploring how we, as humans, need to communicate, and find creative methods of doing so, regardless of the ways in which our societies might hinder our attempts. My analysis combines textual research with methodologies including medieval studies, media studies, material cultural studies, digital humanities, and memory studies, on the one hand bringing more varied insights into my textual analyses, and on the other hand opening these texts to wider interpretation. My project also focuses on how these works on the edge of their genres serve a cultural function, providing an imaginary realm in which authors and readers can explore alternative types of media and techniques of communication. Finally, my research argues for the particular relevance of fantasy literature from all periods: that is, its ability to allow readers to better understand their own culture and world by exploring a different strange world—that of fantasy.