In order to delve further into questions previously explored by Ricœur, Veyne or Boucheron, this paper reexamines the distinction between fictions and reality. This distinction does not easily apply to Middle Ages, when history is entangled with myth, while discourses on politics heavily rely on the omnipresent organic metaphor. Fictions actually appear no less real for medieval authors than reality itself, and produce real effects. Aimed at better delineating the medieval ‘regime of truth and fiction’ (Foucault) this paper will question more boundaries, as between history and philosophy, religion and politics, or medieval and early modern times.
In many respects the premodern stories of Alexander the Great seem to transcend the abilities of mortal men: starting with his divine/magical ancestry and continuing with the oracles and prodigia which accompany his rise to his giant empire and everlasting fame. As the stories portray Alexander’s superhuman courage, his extraordinarily raging horse, and – not to forget – dragons of all sizes, they test the limits of credibility and the boundaries of our imagination. This paper focuses on the literary Alexander between Latin poetry and early vernacular texts. The Latin romance of Julius Valerius (4th century), Walter’s of Chatillon ‘Alexandreis’ and the Middle High German writings ‘Vorauer’ and ‘Strasbourg Alexanderroman’ (12th century) are compared in particular. The aim is to characterize Alexander as a figure of border crossing, exceeding genre and language borders as well as heroic and ethical frames.
Earlier travel narratives such as those by Marco Polo and John Mandeville relied on language of fiction to describe what were sometimes real phenomena, creatures, plants, and people. How the border between fact and fiction is treated is different in the two works, and those differences are caused in part by how the writer considers the more literal borders, as well as how the language of fact and fiction was deployed. These differences also account for different receptions of the two works. The contrast between the perceptions, the backgrounds, and the treatment of both material and literary borders reveals flexibility and inflexibility within the concept and types of ‘border’.