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  • Guiron le Courtois: roman arthurien en prose du XIIIe siècle éd. par Venceslas Bubenicek
  • Keith Busby
Guiron le Courtois: roman arthurien en prose du XIIIe siècle. Édité par Venceslas Bubenicek. (Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für romanische Philologie, 363). Berlin: De Gruyter, 2015. xix + 1278 pp., ill.

With the publication of this massive edition of Guiron le Courtois (before 1240), scholars now have almost all the major texts of Arthurian prose romance at their disposal in reliable critical editions. Thanks to teams directed by Philippe Ménard (two versions of the Prose Tristan), the indefatigable Gilles Roussineau (Perceforest), and now Venceslas Bubenicek, there are few editorial challenges of this kind remaining. Not only has Bubenicek produced an immaculate text of Guiron as preserved in Paris, Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal, MS 3325, with all the usual critical apparatus (variants and variant passages, rejected readings, notes, glossary, index of proper names), but his Introduction is also a wealth of information on the literary, linguistic, and codicological aspects of a romance that is largely unknown, even to specialists. In particular, he has untangled the complex and bewildering mass of manuscripts and redactions, and has successfully brought out the distinctive features of the Arsenal text, accompanied here in parallel columns by the corresponding passages from Florence, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, MS Ashburnham 123. This is not the version commune of Guiron, as transmitted, for example, in Paris, BnF, MS fr. 350, but rather one of what Bubenicek refers to frequently as several ‘versions particulières’. Despite the general clarity of the Introduction, there is no actual statement on why the Arsenal version has been privileged over, say, that of BnF, MS fr.350, or why this version particulière is preferred to the version commune, although answers may be teased out of the introductory matter. In essence, the version commune is a prequel to the Prose Tristan, while the Arsenal version distances itself somewhat from earlier Arthurian tradition, both in its cast of characters and its presentation of such fundamental issues as love and chivalry. Companionship between knights begins to supplant the relations between a knight and his lady, and the knights appear to close ranks in what can be seen as attempts to resist the perceived subversion and weakening of their ethical code. Bubenicek, who also edited the version commune from BnF, MS fr. 350 in his 1998 habilitation, has presented here the more innovative version, although one hopes that he will publish the vulgate text in due course. A second section of this book contains a partial edition, with linking summaries, of the text in Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, MS Ferrell 5, which appears to be a continuation of the version commune, from the point where BnF, MS fr. 350 breaks off. This is also accompanied by an Introduction and the standard apparatus. In some ways, this edition is cumbersome and hard to manipulate, but that is due to the material with which Bubenicek courageously chose to work. The accomplishment is quite considerable, but, as good as this edition is, scholars wanting to tackle Guiron le Courtois seriously will still need to have recourse to the manuscripts to ensure total coverage of the romance in all its manifestations. Bubenicek’s work will be their indispensable basis and guide.

Keith Busby
University of Wisconsin–Madison


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