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Definition: Romance from Merriam-Webster's Collegiate(R) Dictionary

(1690) : of, relating to, or being any of the languages developed from Latin (as Italian, French, and Spanish)


Summary Article: romance
from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

In literature, tales of love and chivalric adventure, in verse or prose, that became popular in France about 1200 and spread throughout Europe.

It had antecedents in many works from classical antiquity, but developed as a distinctive genre in the context of the aristocratic court. Masters of the 13th century romance include Chrétien de Troyes and Benoit de Sainte-Maure in France and Gottfried von Strassburg in Germany. In the 15th and 16th centuries, prose overtook verse as the preferred form for the romance. There were Arthurian romances about the legendary King Arthur and his knights (for example, English writer Sir Thomas Malory'sLe Morte D'Arthur), and romances based on the adventures of Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne along with a number of romances concerned spiritually with the adventures of English heroes such as Richard Coeur de Lion (Richard Lionheart). Many romances took classical themes and some were adapted from the work of Latin poets, including Roman de Thèbes (c. 1150) and the Roman d'Enéas (c.1155–60). During the 17th and 18th centuries, with the rise of realism in the novel, the romance began to be considered a less serious and more frivolous genre, so that in the 20th century the term ‘romantic novel’ is often used disparagingly, to imply a contrast with a realist novel.

The term gradually came to mean any fiction remote from the conditions and concerns of everyday life. In this sense, romance is a broad term which can include or overlap with such genres as the historical novel or fantasy. In popular culture, however, a romance has come to mean specifically a love story, in which a happy ending follows a series of vicissitudes. Romantic fiction is a genre entirely devoted to this subject and appears in novel form as well as the popular short stories in women's magazines. Prominent writers of the modern romance include English writers Barbara Cartland and Georgette Heyer.

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