A New History of Medieval French Literature
Publication Year: 2011
Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Title Page, Copyright
Does it make sense to write a history of the French literature of the Middle Ages? Strictly speaking, no. Meanings of words have changed, including that of the word littérature; in Old French, literature refers to Latin literature. This is the case for the oldest attested use of the term...
Part One: Writing in the Middle Ages
1. The Materiality of Writing
In the middle ages, books were manuscripts: the handwritten codices that made their appearance in the fourth century CE and whose use drastically changed the relationship to culture. A few scrolls (the Latin word is volumen) subsisted in the medieval era...
2. The Question of the Author
At the opening of her Lai du Chèvrefeuille, Marie de France states that she is going to tell the truth about this lay, “Why it was composed, how and what are its origins” (Pur quei fu fez, coment e dunt). These are recognized as among the questions...
3. The Work and Its Audiences
The “author,” whether real or fictitious, who guarantees the text with the formula “the tale says that . . . ,” certainly held a role in the medieval mental toolbox. However, the relationship of the author’s name to history is not unequivocal...
4. The Work and Its Milieux
Behind the acknowledged audience, the one inscribed within the works, real audiences exist and they are variously stratified. This chapter will indicate a few of the directions that a sociological analysis could take. Three large social fields concern...
Part Two: The Field of Literature
5. The Subject Matter
What did french authors write about in the Middle Ages? What is the subject matter [la matière] of their texts? This is one part of the questions raised by the accessus.1 Etymologically, the French word matière signifies...
6. The Paths to Writing
Assembling his “complete works,” an entirely new practice at the time, Guillaume de Machaut precedes them with a theoretical reflection, a mirror en abyme of the entirety of the work: four ballades and a commentary in octosyllables...
7. Modes of Composition
Rhetoric gives only very general indications as to the composition of a work. Numeral patterns were therefore a powerful resource in the Middle Ages. Behind this pattern can be found references to cosmology, to the Bible, and to folklore...
8. Models of Writing
Some large fields of knowledge serve to define didactic, satiric, or parodic texts. This type of writing generally combines a vocabulary that is supplied by the chosen intellectual model, and a formal mold...
Part Three: Building the Sense
9. The Question of Literary Heritage
What are the stakes in medieval literature from the point of view of meaning? How should their evolution be perceived? The binary characteristic of early medieval thought is striking, and one of the principal evolutions, within literature...
Conclusion: The Incubation Period
In his beautiful book Bild und Kult (Likeness and Presence), Hans Belting speculates about writing a “history of the image before the era of art.” In this book, I have found myself in a position that, without being identical, presents certain...
Page Count: 192
Publication Year: 2011
OCLC Number: 809317496
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