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Seller Inventory dec Published by Folio From: Ammareal Grigny, France. About this Item: Folio, Traces d'usure sur la couverture. The obverse of this process is the rise of the book which, as the performer reads from it, takes over the place of music as prop to the text. Successful writers of the later Middle Ages oversaw the copying, compilation, and illumination of their work.
The expectation grows that such books will be read, as opposed to read from. Sumptuous presentation copies are given to patrons; manuscript illuminations depicting the presentation by an author of a book to his patron, like the one in Figure 1, often form the frontispiece to a work. Such extravagantly produced books retain the performative dimension of oral literature, translating it into the medium of writing.
Most of the books compiled in the Middle Ages are compendia of a variety of works; single-work, and still more so single-author, manuscripts are the exception. Through their alliance with Flanders, the dukes of Burgundy could command the painters and craftsmen of the Low Countries. Parchment is relatively robust. Nonetheless very few manuscripts of vernacular texts survive from the twelfth century, and there is commonly a gap of up to a couple of hundred years between the putative date of composition of a text and the date of its earliest surviving copies. The circumstances of performance and transmission clearly make medieval texts more unstable and mutable than most modern works.
Thus it is that much of the literary history of the early Middle Ages remains conjectural. We can have only an approximate knowledge of what early medieval texts were like. Not only are many of them unattributed, they are also undated and—to a considerable extent— undatable. Even the wide diffusion of manuscripts is not a reliable guide, since a prestigious work may have been overview of the period 29 widely copied without its being widely read; conversely a work surviving only in a single, fragmentary manuscript may have been so well loved that all the other copies of it literally fell to pieces.
There are certainly medieval references to poets and works of which we now have no trace, and many of the early medieval texts which modern critics most admire survive in only single or lacunary manuscripts. This may not have obtruded as a problem so far, since the stance adopted in this Overview has been retrospective and broad-brush. Just as time passed as inexorably for medieval people as it does for us, and their world was as inconsistent and varied in its beliefs as our own, so too they were as busy and productive as we are.
It is wrong to imagine that little survives from the Middle Ages. There is more to be read than there is life in a medievalist to read it in, and that is to speak only of edited texts. Many manuscripts are still unedited; there may be many more that remain unknown. The recent discovery of a fragment from a Tristan poem in which the lovers drink the philtre is a token of the potentially magical riches still in store.
The challenges posed by the study of the Middle Ages are both epistemological and ethical. How can we enter into relations with a period in many ways so other to ourselves? And how give the past its due without ceasing to live in the present? Our modern sensibility was forged in the medieval past, which is the source of the greater part of our contemporary culture.
At the same time, however, the Middle Ages was an era radically different from our own. It found expression not merely in a language different from ours, but in a multitude of differing voices. Such thorough-going polyphony unsettles our most basic assumptions about language and culture.
The Middle Ages offer, of course, an abundance of material from which to build a historical understanding. Yet the record is full of gaps. We need boldly and imaginatively to venture back, negotiating these gaps and hollows to discover the myriad paths that will support and reward our quest. Throughout these upheavals, scholars, meanwhile, laboured to preserve Latin in something closer to its classical form.
The Frankish ruler Charlemagne — , who commanded an empire covering much of what is now France and Germany, promoted their efforts by reforming the teaching of Latin in imperial schools. The framing description of the oath-taking is in Latin. The French in question is of course very different from the modern language. The linguistic split within the former Carolingian Empire 32 the middle ages: earliest texts to and the separation of French from Latin are unequivocally recorded in this document.
Some thirty years previously, the Council of Tours of had instructed the clergy to disseminate religious teaching to ordinary people in the vernacular rather than in Latin. It is a curious coincidence that the earliest French narrative it dates from c. The shape of such narratives in the Latin texts adapted by these vernacular writers is traditional. The virgin saint— young, noble, beautiful, nubile—is ordered by a persecutor—a loathsome agent of pagan, Roman tyranny—to abandon her faith in God. In later texts, mechanisms for killing the saint multiply and become more technologically elaborate, and pagan anger at their frustration appears more comic, but in both the Eulalia and the Faith when the pyre proves unsuccessful the martyr is beheaded.
This does, indeed, kill her. Now the coincidence that in both these early texts the voice is a female one is telling. For what language can these young girls be the saints speak french 33 speaking if not the vernacular? The whole structure of these virgin martyr plots relies on the starkness of the opposition between persecutor and saint.
On the one hand the physical and political power of the foreign tyrant and his minions, all the resources of an imperial pagan rule, now long since departed; on the other a local girl, powerless and defenceless except for the faith in God which is still shared by the Christian community that reveres her. It is manifest that saint and audience share the same language. The saints— it appears—speak French. Set in the reign of the Frankish kings Clotaire and Chilperic, the story tells how the wise and eloquent royal counsellor Leger continues to voice his faith even after his tongue has been cut out by the enemies who betrayed him.
When her prosecutor protests, she spits its root into his eye and blinds him. Saint Alexis, who is Roman, barely says a word in the earliest French narrative Life. Instead he commits his story to a written document charte in order that it can be read after his death. The language in which Saint Alexis composes this document is not indicated, 34 the middle ages: earliest texts to but it must be presumed to be Latin.
His story anticipates the theme of translatio—the adaptation into French of written models from classical antiquity, and the accompanying transferral and appropriation of classical culture—which rises to prominence in the mid-twelfth century, and to which we return see p. Songs are strophic, with the same tune being repeated through successive stanzas. Rhyme schemes are intricate and seldom repeated from one song to another, but content tends to follow more traditional lines.
To what extent is love sensual or spiritual? Rational or irrational? Socially productive or isolating? Pleasurable or agonizing? Morally elevating or degrading? How can one aspire to realize a love that is sustained by aspiration, or seek to overcome the very distance between oneself and the beloved that makes her desirable?
Is the lover committed or ironic, delicate or obscene, ecstatic or self-controlled? Is his lady cruel or gracious, monstrous or sublime? Initially this common context is the courts of Poitou and Aquitaine in south-west France. As the twelfth century progresses, it extends East into the Toulousain and Provence, then south into northern Italy and Spain. The golden age of the troubadours is between about and Many see it as affecting the European erotic imagination to this day.
How did this extraordinarily glamorous and fascinating poetry come into being? There have been various attempts to explain its origins: in Arabic poetry, folk literature, mystical movements, or medieval Latin poetry in the tradition of Ovid. None of these explanations, however, commands widespread assent and in recent years the quest for origins has come to seem increasingly chimerical. Scholars are now more inclined to see the motivation for the rise of troubadour poetry in the poetic tradition itself, and in the courtly milieu in which it arose.
The following examples suggest the path this development appears to have taken. The vocabulary of this address invokes religious, moral, legal, and political registers. The sexual swagger towards the end of this song is unmistakable. The restrictions under which the unfortunate complainant is held are denounced because they prohibit her access to the heady vigour of a potent lover such as himself. The vocabulary associated with her fei, plait, mercei signals her aristocratic standing.
Imposing lack upon her is abhorrent. The song implies that such a lady deserves the abundance of enjoyment which wealth and power can bestow. But love, he goes on, is often treacherous: appearing to serve you nobly, it may prove malevolent. Rather than wine-drinking representing noble love, it poses a threat of degeneracy and even of impotence. True he fails to secure sexual favours, but his vision remains undistorted by their inebriating effect. Sex may be a privilege of wealth but true love is a quality of the lowly.
Lord of Blaye on the Gironde, and active c. The themes of his meagre output of only seven surviving songs are crusade, the social and moral complexities of court life, and his love for a distant lady, a love apparently imbued with mystical value as a result of her association with the Holy Land.
Just as the little nightingale on the branch shapes his song, so does the troubadour. His lady is unique among women. Knowingly, he admits that since satisfaction keeps eluding him, it is not surprising that he burns with desire. The song holds in play religious and sensual registers simultaneously. Both see lack interpreted by Jaufre 38 the middle ages: earliest texts to as unbridgeable distance as a hallmark of the quality of love.
He makes cerebral awareness of an impossible love combine with celebration of ecstatic aspiration. This combination of inspiration and poetic mastery is captured in the portrait of a later troubadour, Folquet de Marselha Figure 2. In the great troubadours from later in the twelfth century and into the thirteenth, the legacy of the early troubadours is reworked in a variety of ways and with increasing virtuosity. His joy arises from contemplating his lady, so lovely that it would take a year adequately to praise her.
In imagination he is with her; and yet in reality he is far away. This decorous inventing love poetry: the troubadours 39 2. This in turn is quickly translated into the image of himself as a man pledging his service to another. Less potentially licentious, this image is nonetheless equivocal since it plays along the boundaries of gender identity is his lady his lord? This song is addressed to Eleanor of Aquitaine, by then queen of England. Even much later songs, and songs by women troubadours or trobairitz , can hark back to these beginnings. These examples suggest how the development of the troubadour lyric can be largely explained as a dialogue between individual poets playing in different ways to the fantasies of their courtly audiences.
This life involved cooperation between widely differing personnel: great lords, lesser lords, knights, religious advisers, diplomats, secretaries, and sundry hangers-on. That it was to prove a winning formula is borne out by the rapid diffusion of courtly love literature to all the courts of Europe. The literary fantasy of courtliness was on its way to becoming a moral and political reality.
And unlike the poetry of the south, they are almost exclusively narrative. Traditionally, scholars have analysed this surge of narrative composition in terms of genre, under the headings of chansons de geste, history-writing, and romances. All three, however, initially posit themselves in some sense as history; their separation into recognizably different narrative genres comes later.
Passing through Tangier: Jean Genet's Final Elegy, Un captif amoureux
The matter of France consists in stories purportedly drawn from French history, usually set in the reign of Charlemagne or one of his successors, and usually though not always associated with chansons de geste. Les Saisnes is a sequel to 42 the middle ages: earliest texts to the Roland in which Charlemagne and his surviving nephew subdue Germany, and so in preferring the matter of France to the two others, Bodel is not innocent of self-promotion.
The matter of Rome consists in the translation or adaptation into French of antique texts, a practice theorized in the concept of translatio: the claim, central to the twelfth-century Renaissance, that northwest Europe had assumed the imperial and cultural heritage of the ancient world. When the siege of Troy is won by the Greeks the Trojan prince Aeneas escapes and eventually founds Rome; these events are recounted in the Roman de Troie of c. Geoffrey establishes King Arthur as forebear to the British throne, and introduces the magic and marvels of the Other World.
These three matters all begin, then, as ways of conceiving of the origins and genealogy of twelfth-century culture and institutions. The attitude of the romans antiques to the past combines shock at the crimes of which pagan history was capable with admiration for its astonishing cultural achievements. Embalming skills transform wounded bodies into perennially enduring forms while astonishing automata recast lifelessness as haunting beauty.
Analogously, the romans can themselves be seen as building on the sublime foundations of antique art, and as gloriously preserving and entombing the morally wounded body of the past. For Marie, the Other World alone is judged capable of providing solutions to the injustices and loveless marriages of this one. The possibility that the world of our own experience may be lined with an inner world of magic is full of poetic potential, tingeing the everyday with an aura of the marvellous, or else exposing its bleakness when deprived of the golden hue of fantasy.
Several important texts combine the matters of Rome and Britain. The matter of Rome presents north-west Europe as the latter-day colony of an artistically superior Eastern civilization, but at the same time warns medieval audiences against accepting the moral legacy of the pagan courtliness and the rise of romance 45 past. The matter of France, whose truth Jehan Bodel extols, may have been the most visible of the three in his own day. History-writing, meanwhile, temporarily loses its innovative pulse until once more progressing to the literary forefront with the advent of prose.
The next two sections deal with courtly romance and the chansons de geste respectively; prose history is considered later, in the context of the creation of prose romance. Neither the ancient epics exploited by the romans antiques nor Geoffrey of Monmouth contain much love interest. Early in the thirteenth, the practice develops of including lyric pieces within romances; characters launch into song with all the aplomb of actors in a Hollywood musical.
But the process itself was not simple or clear cut. The twelfth-century Tristan poems are a case in point. It is clear that such a complex web of criteria makes it possible for any individual text to be rated as more or as less courtly depending on which of them are applied to it. The debates initiated by the troubadours regarding the nature of love see above, 34—5 are absorbed into romance with several shifts of emphasis that result from its more explicit, thirdperson, narrative character.
In lyric poetry, adultery is almost never mentioned and ambiguity about the love relationship is encouraged, whereas narrative is inevitably more explicit. Au lever fu il droiz martirs, tant li fu gries li departirs car il i suefre grant martire. When he rose he was just like a martyr, so sorry was he to leave since it makes him suffer such great martyrdom. However he also spends the night with her, causing her to be charged with adultery, and then defends in court the knight falsely accused of the crime he himself committed.
He is also imprisoned and reduced to complete passivity. The Oxford version of the Chanson de Roland is one of the Old French poems most commonly studied today, but although the Roland legend was very widely known in the Middle Ages, it was disseminated not by this Oxford text but by the longer versions produced in France later in the twelfth century. Although a handful of early chansons de geste pre-date the rise of courtly romances, the heyday of the genre belongs from about until well into the thirteenth century. It is because the most typical chansons de geste seem to dispute the poetic and ideological stance of romances that we have deferred discussion of them until now.
The large numbers of such poems, generated around Charlemagne and his twelve peers most famous among them Roland, Oliver, and Archbishop Turpin , collectively constitute what is called the geste du roi. Both rulers are blind to traitors in their own court 50 the middle ages: earliest texts to and unable to quell disputes among their barons. Shortly afterwards Herbert de Vermandois dies, leaving vast lands to which Raoul lays claim. The king hesitates to go through with the gift to Raoul, eventually telling him he must win the land himself.
Regardless of opposition from his mother and Bernier, Raoul sets out to conquer the Vermandois. In the pitched battle which follows, Raoul multiplies acts of savagery and sacrilege before being eventually killed by Bernier. Entre deus murs ot si grant charbonier, les nonains ardent, trop i ot grant brasier. Within the two walls the blaze was so intense that the nuns are burned to death, it was such a furnace.
The king resolves to marry the younger but prettier daughter of the emperor of Constantinople, even though she was betrothed to his vassal Girart; Girart is obliged to take the older daughter, originally destined for the king. As though in deliberate contrast with the celebration of desire in courtly romances, here its competitive and destructive dimensions are exposed.
Chansons de geste differ from romances in form as well as in their content. The versions which we have today seem to result from the revision and extension of older songs. Their plots tend to lack both unity it is easy to imagine their performance as separate episodes and closure you could always add another war. Instead of the octosyllabic couplets typical of romance, they are composed in laisses of uneven length, in which all the lines share the same rhyme or assonance; for instance, the lines of Raoul cited above come from a laisse of forty-four lines all ending in -ier.
One chanson de geste narrator, moreover, is much like any other. They speak in the same formulaic language as their characters and, typically, they are anonymous Jehan Bodel is an exception. We should not underestimate the interest and variety of this community. All suffer the consequences of misrule—which can, it is true, be treated in comic as well as tragic vein. The chansons de geste of the late twelfth and thirteenth centuries represent a robust onslaught on the genteel haven of courtly romance, where the main wounds that bleed are those of love and where swordplay is subordinated to play on words.
The biographies vidas of the troubadours composed in the thirteenth century suggest that several of them had taken this route. Many jongleurs will have been itinerant, travelling in troupes, able to perform a wide repertoire of texts, and also to act, juggle, and tumble. There are Occitan poems addressed to joglars Occitan for jongleur from the mid-twelfth century onwards which give an admittedly exaggerated and jocular picture of the entertainments people clerks, JONGLEURS , and townspeople 53 expected from them. Composition of these overgrown animal fables starts in the s, and continues through the thirteenth century.
The various individual branches reiterate similar story-lines: the hungry Renart outplays the hungry Ysengrin, not only obtaining food while the wolf fails to, but also having sex with his wife, humiliating and injuring him, and derisively evading punishment. The unregulated violence of these animal-barons is even worse than that of the human world not surprisingly since it involves foxes stalking and devouring chickens, rats, etc.
While some of the branches like the oldest, usually known as Branch II remain close to the world of animal fable, others expand this interplay of human and animal world into extravagant parody of courtly romances and chansons de geste. Renart enquires derisively which religious order he hopes to join, now he is dressed in a red hood? They also disconcertingly probe theological issues such as the position of man in nature and the relation of sin to reason.
Deceptively simple, disarmingly amusing, these stories also represent a sophisticated engagement with clerical culture. Like the branches of the Renart, fabliaux are short, comic narratives, composed in octosyllabic rhyming couplets, often parodic of the longer genres of chansons de geste and romance, which they debase in predictable ways for example by including graphic sexual and scatological material. The earliest stem from the late twelfth century and they continue to be written into the fourteenth.
Most fabliaux are anonymous, but known authors who experimented with the genre include Jehan Bodel, and the later thirteenth-century poet Rutebeuf on whom more below, pp. The clerical perspective of these works is, perhaps surprisingly, most visible in the contempt they regularly heap on parish priests.
In a third, a clerk is refused hospitality by a woman because she is expecting the priest with whom she too is having an affair. As these examples suggest, the fabliaux despise stupidity and prize intellectual resourcefulness, typically expressed as the ability to concoct convincing representations. Priests are simply unequal to their task of representing Christ; the fableor, by contrast, can transform them into a Jew, a statue or a wolf, and castrate or animalize them at will. The twelfth-century Ordo representacionis Adae or Adam Play is the most developed representative of this tradition.
The thieves are colourful gamblers who hang out in an Arras tavern; the treasure belongs to an exotic Saracen king who is winning the war against crusaders but who promptly converts when his stolen treasure is returned. The play stages a nice balance between promoting religious truth and indulging material appetite. Initially resolved to leave his family and friends in order to resume his studies as a clerk in Paris, he is overwhelmed by the throng of people including a madman, an imbecile, a quack doctor, and a begging monk , bewitched by fairies, and induced to remain in Arras.
Known as puys perhaps from the podium whence contributions were judged , these societies were funded and attended by local merchants eager to retain and reward the services of successful jongleurpoets. As well as the patronage of the burghers of Arras, Adam de la Halle enjoyed that of Count Robert of Artois, for whom he wrote another witty play staging the rustic goings-on of a shepherd girl and her boyfriend as seen through the lens of aristocratic condescension the Jeu de Robin et Marion. Another major thirteenth-century jongleur-poet whose success was grounded in an urban context was Rutebeuf active in Paris c.
Or voi je bien, tout va, tout vient, tout venir, tout aler convient fors que bienfet. My knowing bets have brought me everything I had and sent it astray again, far away from the path. Now I can see that everything comes and goes, everything must come and go, except good things. By the middle of the thirteenth century literary prose is well established. By the end of that century it is the standard medium in which factual texts such as histories are written. By the late fourteenth century it is the standard medium for narrative.
These are radical changes which, as we try to account for them here, we admit we cannot fully explain. The oldest works in prose in both French and Occitan are either legal like the earliest written French, the Strasburg Oaths, and charters or religious sermons, biblical translations. Was this association of prose with authority and truthfulness the reason why, at the turn of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, patrons and audiences grew suspicious of verse texts? Did the success of jongleuresque entertainment—the works referred to in the previous section are all in verse— lead to verse being devalued as too frivolous for serious composition?
Prose histories begin to be composed in the early thirteenth century. Probably the earliest was a translation of the Latin Chronicle of Pseudo-Turpin, a text purporting to narrate the history of Charlemagne and his peers, including the events of the Chanson de Roland, from the eyewitness testimony of Archbishop Turpin.
A French translation was commissioned by the countess of Saint Pol in ; other commissions by patrons in Flanders and Hainault for French adaptations of Latin histories followed. These northern lords were anxious about their future, threatened, as they saw it, on two sides.
Below them, the merchants in thriving cities such as Arras were fast outshining them in wealth and splendour. Above them, King Philip Augustus was working to centralize power and administer it bureaucratically. The patrons of these early prose histories traced their descent back to Charlemagne, and regarded the Capetian King Philip as a newcomer. There were twelfth-century verse histories narrated by authors who had personally participated in the events they describe, such as the Third Crusade.
But the Fourth Crusade of —4 saw a switch to prose. For both authors the medium of prose seems to convey the purported authenticity and transparency of lived experience. From very early in the thirteenth century, Catalonia and Italy the regions abutting Occitania produced Occitan prose texts teaching people how to understand and compose troubadour songs.
In northern Italy, Uc de Saint Circ active —53 inaugurated the genres of razo and vida. We have already referred to the vidas, or biographies, of the troubadours. Razos provide the alleged historical context of an individual song. The earliest were composed to help listeners navigate the sea of political allusions in the songs of the troubadour Bertran de Born. Unlike prose histories, these Occitan prose texts do not protest their truthfulness. Offering themselves as a means of access to foreign poetry, they imply that prose is simpler and more straightforward than verse.
If the right questions can be asked at the Grail Castle, the king will be healed of his thigh wound, and his lands, which lie waste, restored to fertility. Rather than compete in this market, however, Robert de Boron began the story again from scratch. Around he composed two, 60 the middle ages: earliest texts to 3. Just as early verse romances are intricately connected with historical themes, so is this pioneering experiment in prose. The Petit Saint-Graal, as this cycle based on Robert de Boron is known, deploys the matter of Britain but downplays that of Rome, substituting for the myth of Trojan ancestry a genealogy reaching back to the Holy Land.
The various associations of prose—with historical truth, legitimacy, sacred authority, seriousness, transparency, accessibility— coincide in this trilogy. The foundations of future prose romance are laid. The order of composition of the other books is uncertain and nor is it known to what extent they were conceived as part of a vast cycle. The concluding two, the Queste del saint graal and the Mort Artu, narrate prose: history, romance, and the grail 61 the zenith and nadir of the Arthurian world: the supreme achievement of the Grail quest and the destruction of the kingdom by guilt and strife.
The two prefatory books, the Estoire and Merlin, on the other hand, were probably added later, the Merlin in part borrowed from the prose Merlin of Robert de Boron. His story is threaded against that of his father also originally called Galahad whose illicit love for Guenevere is the source of both his greatness and his downfall. The success of the Vulgate Cycle led to other important examples of mise en prose, notably those of the Tristan and the Troie. These fascinating, if seemingly endless, prose narratives rivalled and gradually eclipsed verse romance within less than a century of its rise.
Wilder and more exuberant than their verse forebears, they madly dilate themselves by cannibalizing other texts. A major effect of the success of prose was that it retrospectively designated verse narrative as somehow defective. Such works amplify the didacticism latent in much courtly literature; conversely, however, chastoiements may be inserted into narratives, with the not infrequent result that their directives are undermined by the plot. Nevertheless didactic or informative literature turns increasingly to prose.
This was compiled in a succession of redactions the last in for the Toulouse Consistori del Gay Saber, a poetry society founded to foster what remained of troubadour poetry after the success of the Albigensian crusade against the south of France and its subordination to northern rule.
The terminology used by the Leys to describe the genres and verse-forms of troubadour poetry is still in standard use among modern scholars. There are no thirteenth-century French poetry manuals, but Brunetto Latini continued a tradition of French and Latin encyclopedic writing with his Livre dou tresor of c. This vast copendium is a fascinating source for anyone who wants to read a potted account of contemporary views on the elements, the humours, the properties of different animals, the structure of universal history or, indeed, any subject whatsoever including rhetoric , since it exhibits to a high degree the impulse towards exhaustiveness so characteristic of thirteenth-century prose.
This Philippe de Remi is probably the father of the author of La Mannekine mentioned on p. To the historian of literature, the most interesting manifestation of thirteenth-century interest in encyclopedias and compendia is the way literary texts themselves are transmitted. While there are very few pre vernacular manuscripts, those of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries are almost without exception compilations. Their principles of organization vary, but one which emphatically does not operate is that of the integrity of the single work.
Indeed, the boundaries of particular works are often erased in this process. For example, there are compilations of chansons de geste from a particular 64 the middle ages: earliest texts to cycle which run together what scholars identify as originally distinct poems. Scribes sometimes modify beginnings and ends to facilitate the seamless progression of the cycle. When the compilers of the Petit Saint-Graal or the architects of the Vulgate Cycle set out to compose a cycle of works, they were reproducing as authors the practices of the compilers of cyclical manuscripts.
The identity of a particular author is only very rarely the organizing principle of a compilation. Organization of manuscripts by genre is quite common, especially for lyric poetry which is transmitted in anthologies known as chansonniers. The troubadour chansonniers date from the mid-thirteenth century onwards. Internally, they are usually arranged by author although subdivision by genre is also found. There are also manuscripts exclusively given over to romance, but it is more common for narrative works to be gathered in large, wide-ranging compilations containing several different genres.
The literary interpretation of compilation is a growing area of medieval studies. The challenge to ideas of authorship and authority associated with recent post-structuralism has an interesting precursor in the material practices of the thirteenth century and beyond. Its sprawling length bespeaks an urge—exhaustive and sometimes exhausting—to anthologize, compile, and endlessly supplement what went before. What went before is itself a landmark text. Amor delivers a chastoiement on the nature of love, enjoins him to obey his Ten Commandments, and recommends to him the support of Ami and others.
At the same time its selfconscious deployment of the vocabulary and motifs of the troubadour love lyric suggests a desire to scrutinize and systematize the language in which love is formulated. The dream-vision framework presents Amor as a real, supernatural entity governing all our lives. Certainly the text drips with sensuality just as powerfully as it evokes spiritual analogies for the love experience.
Putting Amor instead in the starring role makes it ambiguous whether what is being upheld is a lofty ideal or a physical experience, an enquiry into the nature of man or an exposure of his limitations. These last foreground a character mentioned but not developed by Guillaume: the Vielle, an old tart turned chaperone, who delivers a long chastoiement to Bel Acuel on the art of exploiting men. Then, in another rerun of Guillaume, Venus arrives with her torch.
Alan of Lille is the source of the new characters of Nature and Genius. She also, meanwhile, delivers a long Boethian tirade on the structure of the cosmos, free will, and the Trinity: this text is full of surprises. Ainsint oi la rose vermeille. Then it was day and I woke up] the text laconically concludes. But the whole project of education through compilation, so dear to thirteenth-century writers, is imperilled by his text which leaves us uncertain whether the lover, or we ourselves, have learned anything from it, and if so, what. The authors of the dits amoureux of the next century will have to grapple with these uncertainties.
Most practitioners of the lyric in this period were engaged by powerful rulers as diplomats or administrators. And almost all of them were also engaged to write history, usually in prose. This consists in a variable number of stanzas, sharing the same metre so that the same musical setting can be repeated for each stanza and linked by a rhyme scheme often of breath-taking intricacy.
The same metrical form is seldom repeated from one song to another except where a poet is deliberately evoking an earlier composition. Most of these seem to hark back to dance songs, thereby signalling their collective accessibility in contrast to the solo virtuosity of the canso. The ballade, rondeau, and virelai and later the chant royal are also characterized by refrains, which could be sung collectively, and which lead a semi-independent existence as a minor genre in their own right, migrating from song to song.
The amount of repeated material in a rondeau varies, but this example by the great fourteenth-century poet Guillaume de Machaut is typical of his age and conjures remarkable emotional complexity from apparent verbal simplicity. The capital letters designate refrain lines, and the small letters the lines that rhyme with them. A B a A a b A B [If you loved no one else, nor me, my dreadful hurt would be greatly lessened, for I could have hope in good faith if you loved no one else, nor me. And so this is why I want you to understand that if you loved no one else, nor me, my dreadful hurt would be greatly lessened.
A casualty of the Hundred Years War, Charles was taken prisoner by the English at Agincourt in and detained in England until eventually being ransomed in His output during this period is overwhelmingly of ballades after his return to Blois he instead preferred the denser form of the rondeau. Even when the eyes cannot bear to read any longer, in stanza three, still the heart remains gripped by thoughts of love.
But the most demanding and consequently most prestigious of these forms is the lai. Not to be confused with early medieval narrative lais such as those ascribed to Marie de France, the lyric lai is a stellar feat of versifying. The form thus combines disarray with resolution, jarring dissonance with obsessive harmony. Ballades may be turned out in batches of three, and virelais can be tossed off by amateurs, but a lai is a six-month assignment even for so skilled a poet as Froissart.
Eventually, to his relief, he manages to complete the remaining nine. Miniatures of poets wrestling with the complexities of the lai are found in various manuscripts; an example can be seen in Figure 5 see p. Other longer lyric forms are similarly composed to a mathematical formula of some kind. This systematic and quasi-mathematical approach to poetry assumes that texts will be transmitted in written form. In the Prologue composed shortly before his death in to preface manuscript compendia of his works, Machaut represents himself as created by Nature in order to explicate the value of love.
Indeed, like Orpheus whose playing almost enabled him to 74 the middle ages: earliest texts to 5. A lover in the throes of composing a lai.
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It seems, then, that for Machaut, the sublime, timeless quality of lyricism lies in its musical setting. Poetry is no longer seen as a branch of rhetoric, but instead placed among the sciences: geometry, mathematics, astronomy and music. The divorce between poetry and music was, in reality, far from complete; many lyrics were composed to be sung well into the early modern period.
The relatively conventional content of the grand chant courtois is as though offset by its formal variety. Assuming that of an old woman, or a young girl, constitutes a kind of poetic drag act; in more macabre vein, one can speak hanging from the gallows or from beyond the grave. The poet assumes the public voice of one who articulates and preserves moral values; the formal control exhibited by his compositions parallels the sense of order and hierarchy which their content promotes. Works of this kind are not easy to like nowadays.
They form part of the broad current of didacticism that affects much later medieval literature. Such admiration as they excite in modern critics tends to be grounded in their formal inventiveness and virtuosity. The voice of public morality, that is, is also one which indulges in public fantasies of exposure and punishment.
These complex compositions frequently celebrate the relationship between the real-world patron and his poet, and hence between aristocracy and clergy, experience and language, politics and 76 the middle ages: earliest texts to writing. The way they are compiled, with their multiple framing devices and insertions, blurs the boundaries between these categories, allowing the texts to tug now one way, now another. In this respect, they hark back to thirteenth-century romances with inset lyrics such as the Romans dou castelain de Couci. But the dits amoureux owe an especial debt to the Roman de la rose.
They also renarrate Ovidian myths such as also feature prominently in the Rose. These dits amoureux are not merely hybrid works, then: they are anthologies or compilations. Figure 1. It is orchestrated around the relationship between an elderly poet and a young girl, in which the poet successfully imposes his authority as a writer from whom the girl is trying to learn, and yet pathetically fails to win her love. In this case, then, the anthologizing tendency of the genre extends to its plot, since this can be told in a collection of different ways.
Lover and poet then fall asleep by a fountain richly sculpted with the history of how the Trojan prince Paris won Helen. Venus appears to the two men in a dream and retells the story at greater length. These reminders of the fall of Troy invoke the sombre menace which love poses to society, while at the same time celebrating the value of art. Representations of the past offer the means to master and interpret the tragedy of historical experience. Thus he departed; I took my leave. Tell me, was that well dreamt? The aristocrat should not let love stand in the way of military accomplishment, nor participate in its dreams.
The text, ironically representing its author as a dreaming clerk, may thus be an oblique warning to its real-world patron Jean, duke of Berry, portrayed in the text as suffering military setbacks. Froissart-Flos advises Rose on his courtship and, at his commission, composes an Ovidian myth. An emotional bond connects the two men more than either of them to their ladies and heterosexual love is not so much sublimated as dispelled through this network of interlinked texts.
A presentation copy of it is sent, in the concluding lines, to Rose. None of the dits amoureux exalts love. Machaut alludes, at the beginning of his Jugement dou roi de Navarre, to the ravages of the Black Death of in which France lost a third of its population. They may intervene powerfully in political crises, but more often than not the alliances founder, as do the marriages themselves. No wonder, then, that historical references in the dits seem designed to reduce courtly love to a merely literary pastime, and summon magnates to resume their political responsibilities.
The Chroniques start by reworking those of an earlier author, Jean le Bel. They provide most of the text; he listens, prompts with occasional questions, follows up loose ends, and probes mysteries. His relationship as secretary and scribe to those who have borne arms resembles that of writer and clerk which he assumes towards the knightly lover in La Prison Amoureuse. History writing has, as we have seen, been the site of literary innovation from the very early Middle Ages.
Christine de Pizan also composed historical works that share common ground with her dits. In her long verse Mutacion de Fortune —3 , an account of world history takes the form of a dream narrative in which she describes the paintings in the house of Fortune. A native of Hainault, at that time not under the French crown but allied with England, Froissart was well placed to witness the war from both sides and he traces its reversals from a position not of partisanship but of poised distance and aesthetic admiration.
The Chroniques are torn between adherence to the values of chivalry—the splendid martial display of the noble elite—and the growing perception that such values cannot compensate for, far less avert, military disaster. Sometimes we are allowed to sense that nobility of rank does not necessarily guarantee nobility of character—an admission which, although it hovers in the background of many a twelfth- or thirteenth-century romance, will not become explicit until the sardonic and embittered Memoires of Commynes composed onwards.
Didacticism found an especial ally in history-writing. The advanced study of ancient texts for their own sake created circles of humanist scholarship similar to those of the Renaissance. This focus on classical antiquity, a historical activity in itself, encouraged the reading of Latin historians, whom the more learned vernacular writers then adopted as models. Education in the late Middle Ages was more than ever dominated by Aristotle, although he was still known in Latin rather than the original Greek. The choice of works is revealing: learning is valued for the moral and practical lessons that can be drawn from it.
Frequently, given the exclusively masculine make-up of clerical culture, such teaching was profoundly misogynistic. In Latin, anti-feminist writing was widespread. Marriage is often seen as the source of untold woes, as for example in the sarcastically entitled Quinze Joies de mariage. The impulse to didacticism is everywhere apparent in late medieval literature. Relatively discreet in courtly verse genres such as 84 the middle ages: earliest texts to lyric and dit amoureux, it is more insistent in prose works.
The more learned the writer, the greater his obligation to instruct. In his Quadrilogue invectif of Alain Chartier seeks to rally each social group within French society by having them harangue each other in learned, Latinate prose. The mother of ten sons, she determines their careers, even ordering one of them to be killed. She delivers long chastoiements expounding the crusading and chivalric values that her eldest sons should follow. Long despised as a tiresome bluestocking, Christine is now avidly appreciated, as indeed she was in her own day.
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Such learned and didactic strains inevitably provoked scepticism and even derision. Many parody the very idea of learning from example. Other stories revel in the punishment of unfaithful wives or mistresses—unfaithful husbands or lovers are rarer. The didacticism of the misogynist tradition reveals its obsession with precisely those impulses which it appears to condemn. It has been suggested that the Cent Nouvelles nouvelles were written by Antoine de la Sale c. La Sale was squire and tutor in a number of noble families, and the author of various pedagogical and didactic works deploying historical exempla.
All goes well until the young man tries to assert his independence by devising chivalric undertakings of his own. Furious, Belles-Cousines withdraws to her estates where she indulges in a wild love affair with a well-built abbot of peasant stock. We are left suspecting that the displays of faultless elegance on which courtly performances depend—including those of chivalry and storytelling—betray, at the same time, an underlying viciousness of intent. Didacticism often relies on eliciting and then organizing a sexual impulse. The other unspeakable entity that furnishes it with a dynamic is death.