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La Cort d'Amor: A Critical Edition (review)

From: Parergon
Volume 21, Number 1, January 2004
pp. 159-161 | 10.1353/pgn.2004.0003

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Reviews 159 Parergon 21.1 (2004) the Templars within the wider medieval context. The even briefer Series Editor’s Foreword by Janet Nelson does this in still broader terms. There is a good bibliography, divided into primary and secondary sources and a detailed index. The subsections do not have separate introductions but each document has a short preamble giving context and source and the documents are fully footnoted. The translations are very readable and should offer no difficulty for the undergraduate student. All in all, this is a valuable book which should greatly assist the teaching not only of the Templars but of monastic and crusading history generally. L. S. Davidson Department of Economic History University of Sydney Bardell, Matthew, ed., La Cort d’Amor: A Critical Edition (Research Monographs in French Studies 11), Oxford, LEGENDA, European Humanities Research Centre, 2002; paper; pp. 169; RRP £19.50; ISBN 1900755661. Matthew Bardell has achieved his purpose of providing a reliable critical edition of this anonymous, incomplete love allegory, contained in a single manuscript, Occitan chansonnier N (New York, Pierpont Morgan M 819; mid/late thirteenth century; Italian production). Largely overlooked or misunderstood by scholars, La Cort d’Amor has a significant place in the Occitan love poetry tradition and in the wider context of courtly literature. The presence of gallicisms in the eloquent Occitan and factors linking the work to Andreas Capellanus’ De Amore suggest it had some circulation in northern France. It was also probably composed about 50 years before Guillaume de Lorris wrote his part of the Roman de la Rose, thus making it the earliest vernacular allegorical romance known. Having established these facts and reviewed inadequacies in modern reception of the text, Bardell then presents in the Introduction a new reading of La Cort d’Amor and proposes directions for further study. In this roman, as the work is defined in the prologue (ll. 5, 10, 13, 16), the court, presided over by Amor, has a judicial function and is also a centre where many assemble to feast, dance and enjoy entertainment. But, with the exception of the watchman, the named participants are all personifications. The narrative consists mainly of discourse in which the different aspects of love and courtship convey a 160 Reviews Parergon 21.1 (2004) progressive itinerary from initial approaches to success. Bardell interprets the debate as one between two contrasting philosophies of love: the courtly and the Ovidian (pp. 16-18), the latter characterised by its emphasis on ruse and deceit, which, however, regularly figure in the courtly lyric poetry, creating a dichotomy with love and intrinsic tension. At a dramatic moment at this court, the contrast is evident: having been restrained from impulsively kissing the newly arrived Honor, personified as feminine, Amor then declares submission to her as to an overlord (ll. 1076-1126). The numerous personifications, of whom only some are articulate, express their concept’s role in the love relationship and courtship process. The grammatical gender of some concepts is overridden, notably of Amor who is a masculine figure and construed as the lover. Ris and Deport are presented as jongleurs, Merce arrives on horseback, like a knight. Although in the love debate their successive interventions are simply juxtaposed without discussion or resolution of differences, the dynamic interest lies in the sample conversations and expressions of thought of exemplary ladies and lovers, contained within their speeches. In this way, the love lyric and its typical supposed or underlying scenarios are echoed in the allegory. Furthermore, Bardell interprets the allegorical narrative in terms of the universal value that individual ladies and lovers assume in the poetry, and relates the work to the contemporary philosophical debate on universals (p. 24). The text has a facing English translation, which matches line by line. I am not in a position to check transcription, but perceive that Bardell has based his edition on conventional principles and signalled the frequent manuscript lacunae. I wonder, however, whether ‘paraie’ (l. 174) should not be spelt ‘paraje’, given both its rhyme ‘lignatje’ (l. 173) and the occurrence of ‘parage’ (l. 378), which might be another gallicism. The translation is clear, coherent and helpful, for the text is intricate. Bardell has...