The Hero's Place presents an innovative study of how the spaces described in a literary work contribute dynamically and profoundly to that work's meaning. Three seminal works of the Middle Ages - ""The Life of Saint Alexis"", ""The Song of Roland"", and ""Tristan and Iseut"" - are closely analyzed from the vantage point of two distinct but interconnected ways of looking at space: that of spatiality (the objective 'where' of the story), and that of place (space as it is subjectively and meaningfully experienced by the story's characters). Special attention is given to the sense of belonging to place as experienced by the works' three protagonists, Alexis, Roland, and Tristan, and to the ways in which their relationship with place informs their identity. The romance hero Tristan's highly problematic belonging to place represents a fundamental and previously overlooked aspect of his character, one that sets him apart both from his hagiographic peer, Alexis, and the epic Roland. While Alexis' and Roland's stories depict and indeed celebrate a strong connection to their respective home places of Rome and France, ""Tristan and Iseut"" tells a tale of profound placelessness and exile. ""The Hero's Place"" offers historical context for the place-relationships of Alexis, Roland, and Tristan by examining the phenomena of pilgrimage and crusade, which developed contemporary to these works and are deeply expressive of the medieval experience of space. In addition, it brings together in original fashion the previously unconnected disciplines of literary studies and humanistic geography. Humanistic geography's analysis of how space is subjectively experienced adds a fresh dimension to literary studies. Theoretically resonant and philologically sound, ""The Hero's Place"" enriches our appreciation of place in literature while bringing new understanding to three beloved works of the Middle Ages.
MOLLY ROBINSON KELLY is assistant professor of French at Lewis and Clark College. She received her Ph.D. in Romance Languages and Literatures from Princeton University, with a concentration in French literature of the Middle Ages.
Introduction: Place and Literature; The Old French Vie de saint Alexis; La Chanson de Roland; Tristan and Iseut before the Potion; Tristan and Iseut after the Potion.