- Le Couple en herbe: 'Galeran de Bretagne' et 'L'Escoufle' à la lumière du roman idyllique médiéval
Marion Vuagnoux-Uhlig's thorough and well-argued study attempts a revisionary reading of two important thirteenth-century romances, hitherto frequently considered as belonging to the category of 'roman réaliste'. The author's contention is that Renaut's Galeran de Bretagne and Jean Renart's L'Escoufle can better be approached as descendants, if not examples, of the 'roman idyllique'. A major problem with this thesis is that neither 'subgenre' (for want of a better term) is easily definable and neither appears to have been obviously recognized as such in the Middle Ages. Vuagnoux-Uhlig is well aware of this and goes to considerable lengths to discuss the similarities and differences between groups of 'idyllic' texts she believes to have influenced the composition of Galeran and L'Escoufle, and other contemporary texts which contain an idyllic scenario and which she uses as comparators for her principal study. Floire et Blancheflor in both versions provides the model for 'L'amour en fleur', while Piramus et Tisbé, Le Lai de Narcisse, and the Tristan romances are the precedents for the 'Jeux interdits'; Robert de Blois's Floris et Lyriopé, Aucassin et Nicolette, and Guillaume de Palerne constitute a small corpus of other offshoots ('Fleurs d'ente') of the idyllic tradition. The pairing of Galeran de Bretagne and L'Escoufle as the primary objects of the study is justified by the claim that they represent the most logical, extensive, and satisfactory exploitation of the potential inherent in the idyllic love scenario. After a conventional Introduction, in which she reviews earlier scholarship and states her thesis and procedures, Vuagnoux-Uhlig devotes three chapters of the lengthy first section to the sources and comparator texts mentioned above. The two chapters of the second section form the main analysis of Galeran de Bretagne, and those of the third section, of L'Escoufle. A Conclusion neatly ties together the threads of the argument. There is a generous bibliography and an index of texts, authors, and literary characters. It is difficult to do justice to the denseness and richness of this study, which offers an almost exhaustive commentary on a dozen major texts of Old French literature. Its great merit is its gender-based examination of family and lineage relationships, of the shifting lines of patriarchal and matriarchal social structures, and its demonstration of how the ideals of love mutate within an evolving vision of courtliness. Marion Vuagnoux-Uhlig succeeds in keeping one eye on the notion of the 'roman idyllique' through the complexities of a wide-ranging and close-packed argument. She writes elegantly and eloquently, facilitating to some degree what is not always an easy read.