Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The term was coined to distinguish popular material in the vernacular (at first the Romance languages French and Spanish, later German, English and others) from scholarly and ecclesiastical literature in Latin.
The boundaries between the romance and the chansons de geste of the troubadours was somewhat fluid. In general, the chansons were the property of professional performers, while the romance was associated more with amateurs and private readers. Nevertheless, a professional poet-performer like Chretien de Troyes could turn his hand to composing romances. The distinction between an early verse romance and a chanson de geste is often difficult, and perhaps unnecessary, to make.
Unlike the novel (nouvelle romaine or "new romance") and like the chansons de geste, the romance dealt with traditional themes, above all the Matter of Rome (classical mythology), the Matter of France (Charlemagne) and the Matter of Britain (King Arthur).
In later romances, particularly those of French origin, there is a marked tendency to emphasize themes of courtly love - hence the modern usage of "romance" to denote a particular erotic style.
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