The Weddynge of Sir Gawen and Dame Ragnell: Performance and Intertextuality in Middle English Popular Romance

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Actual performance by a particular voice and body for a physically present audience can provide information that validates and redirects theoretical understanding of textual variation. Paul Zumthor's concept of mouvance, a graphic representation of intertextuality in which virtual models function as the vertical axis and actual variations the horizontal axis,1 has provided a vehicle for addressing the variation so characteristic of Middle English verse romances. The term mouvance may also be used to describe the degree and quality of variation of a performance event from the text on which it is based.2 The mouvance recorded in a memorized performance of The Weddynge of Sir Gawan and Dame Ragnell presented at the Annual Congress on Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo, Michigan, May 1996 displays similarities to textual variants in romance manuscripts. The modern performance may thereby provide clues to the generative process behind some manuscript variants.