- L’Autre du même: emprunts et répétitions dans le ‘Roman de Perceforest’ par Noémie Chardonnens
This meticulously researched study of the late medieval Roman de Perceforest comes as a welcome addition to a growing body of scholarship on a fascinating romance. Noémie Chardonnens examines Perceforest’s use of intertextuality and intratextuality: its borrowing [End Page 582] of themes and passages from other texts, as well as the internal repetitions that structure its narrative—the points at which the text ‘borrows’ from itself. Chardonnens’s choice of subject is well suited to Perceforest’s encyclopaedic aesthetic. Perceforest is, as the author points out, the longest surviving medieval text in any language, a romance that undertakes to connect the Trojan War to King Arthur, referencing a dizzying array of sources, and incorporating historical figures from Alexander the Great to Joseph of Arimathea. Chardonnens displays an intimate knowledge of the text and its many intertexts, and her study provides an invaluable road map to the romance. In a useful general Introduction, Chardonnens reviews what is known of the romance: its composition, date, sources, and the current state of the scholarship. She then defines the four basic types of intertextuality that will structure her study: partial cryptic borrowing, partial similar borrowing, complete literal borrowing, and complete transformed (détourné) borrowing. In subsequent chapters, she examines each of these types in turn, beginning with Perceforest’s sometimes cryptic references to other romance traditions—often no more than a familiar name encountered in an unfamiliar place—and culminating with the romance’s sometimes extensive reworkings of its sources. These last often constitute sequences of many hundreds of pages, as when Perceforest incorporates a significantly changed retelling of the assassination of Julius Caesar. Through a painstaking and voluminous accumulation of evidence, Chardonnens demonstrates that, although the romance does include many pages of simply plagiarized text—notably, large passages of Geoffrey of Monmouth at its beginning and the Évangile de Nicodème at its end—Perceforest is far more than a collage of stolen sources. Rather, it is a work that aspires to ‘self-sufficiency’ (p. 500), radically transforming the salient moments of an entire tradition of history and romance and making of them a massive whole. In the last third of her study, Chardonnens turns her attention to the points at which the romance borrows from itself, whether through series of similar episodes such as tournaments, repetitions of the same event as seen through the eyes of different characters, or retellings of the same occurrence in different forms (prose, verse, ekphrastic description). It is here that she is best able to give a sense of the romance’s aesthetic, as conveyed through the sheer complexity of its intertwined, repeating subplots. The book concludes with a useful glossary of technical terms, and a bibliography whose completeness makes it an excellent resource for Perceforest scholars. Chardonnens demonstrates that she is one of the few scholars to be familiar with Perceforest in its totality. It is to be hoped that her work will pave the way for many future studies of this unique and important romance.