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French Forum 27.1 (2002) 1-22

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Hybrid Discourse and Performance in the Old French Pastourelle

Christopher Callahan

When the pastourelle appears in French in the late twelfth century, some forty years after Marcabru's pioneering "L'autrier jost una sebissa," it is distinguished from its Occitan predecessors 1 by two discursive features that have both made its typological classification a delicate issue 2 and assured its longevity. The French pastourelle was first of all a pioneer in the mixing of social registers. Its characteristic confrontation between aristocratic narrator and shepherdess intersects both thematically and temporally with Andreas Capellanus's De amore, 3 and the two reflect, as Michel Zink has argued, 4 preoccupations which were peculiar to France. Indeed, the pastorela did not acquire, or seek to imitate, its French counterpart's passion for staging socially transgressive amorous encounters. As the following examples illustrate, the social disparity between the two protagonists is a cornerstone of the pastourelle. Even when the shepherdess cedes to the manipulations of her suitor, she is usually careful to remind him that he and she are not of the same station. 5

Signor ne moi gabez; My lord don't mock me;
bien sai prou troberaz I am certain you will find many
fenne cui ameraz A woman to love
plus riche et meuz vestie Who is richer and better dressed.
Anonymous c. 1190 (Paden p. 60)

Bien m'avés or essaïe You have tried your best with me
Mais poi i avés conquis; But little have you gained.
mainte autre en aves proie Many another have you wooed;
ne l'avés pas ci apres You didn't learn how here
n'encor ci ne le lairois. Nor will you stop it here.
Simon Authie "Quant le dous estés define " 1220s (Paden 130)[End Page 1]

Belle vostre amor vous quier Pretty one I beg you for your love
S'auroiz de moi riche ator. I will dress you in fine clothes.
Elle respont : Tricheor She answered: Knights are always
sont més trop li chevalier. So deceitful.
Melz aim Perrin mon bergier I love my shepherd Perrin more
que riche honme mentëor. Than any lying rich man.
Thibaut de Navarre (1201-1253) "L'autrier par la matinée" (134)

It is this power struggle across class and gender lines that is the driving force of the pastourelle, and is more significant than the actual outcome of the encounter. An examination of the entire pastourelle corpus permits a broader understanding of the pastourelle than as a single-minded celebration of rape 6 : the suitor is successful in only one-half of the extant pastourelles, and as it evolves, the pastourelle becomes subsumed by concerns of lyric performance to the extent that the latter eclipses the original struggle.

This evolution is rooted in the pastourelle's narrative structure. As has long been recognized, 7 the pastourelle is characterized by a significant interweaving of narrative and lyric. It is a commonplace that the narrator is first attracted to the shepherdess by her singing. This song, which establishes dramatically the conventional topoi of spring, nature and the awakenings of love, is quoted, as a couplet or a single line, in 25 percent of the extant pastourelles. But this lyric element is considerably more extensive than a simple topical opener: 70 percent of the surviving poems contain some kind of refrain, uttered either by one of the characters or by the narrative voice. Many of these refrains, furthermore, are identifiable as dance refrains. This feature frames the pastourelle in its collective, performative context and signals the intimate link between the lyric element in the pastourelle and its preoccupation with social portraiture. The pastourelle is distinguished from its Old Occitan cousin and forebear by two fundamental features. Where there is a genuine mix of social groups, there is also a genuine mix of genres, and this is the formula that has made the pastourelle so effective as a poetic form. The pastorela, which showcases courtly shepherdesses or real ladies, is a purely narrative poem...


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