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The Intertextuality of Old French Saints' Lives: St. Giles, St. Evroul and the Marriage of St Alexis The notion that any given literarytextexists in a dynamic relationship with other texts is one which has long been familiar to medievalists, although it seems only recently to have become respectable (or to have become respectable again) to apply it to more modern literature. The kind of intertextuality I want to discuss in this article is neither the unconscious reflection of an influential text nor direct borrowing or allusion. It isratherthe deliberate use of audience familiarity with another text to achieve certain effects. A n example is the way medieval writers in both Latin and the vernacular could use Biblical language and narrative patterns to suggest resemblances between the people they were writing about and Biblical characters, without having to make an explicit comparison. Thus, when Bonaventure describes the writing by St. Francis of Assisi of the Second Rule ofthe Franciscan Order, he increases Francis's prestige and enhances the authority of the Rule by using phrases from Deuteronomy 9 and 10, the account of Moses receiving the Ten Commandments.1 The parallel need not even be a positive one: Chretien de Troyes uses reflections of the Tristan story in his romance Cliges to underline the difference between his protagonists' conduct and that of Tristan and Isolde. The kind of typological intertextuality evident in the example given above from Bonaventure's life of St. Francis isrifein the hagiographic domain. Not only are saints presented as "types" of Biblical characters and most especially of Christ but their lives repeat the pattern of all the saints who have gone before. Within the area of Old French hagiography one type of intertextual relationship is usually easy to see and analyse, since most of the Old French texts are adaptations of an extant Latin source. Litde attempt has been made, however, to study patterns of dependence and influence outside this privileged relationship: that is, between the Old French texts themselves. It is m y intention here to suggest that just such links can be found between the story of St Alexis as it existed in French in the twelfth century, and the Old French lives of St Giles and St. Evroul. Giles and Evroul were founders of monastic communities, who lived in the seventh and sixth centuries respectively. The Old French poems written about them both date from the twelfth century and each survives in only one 1 Legenda Maior IV..11. S. Clasen has pointed this out in, Franziskus, der neue Moses, Wissenschaft und Weisheit 24, 1961, 202. 12 JM. Pinder manuscript2 They are written in the standard narrative verse-form of the period, the octosyllabic rhyming couplet The life of St. Giles was written in England, by one Guillaume de Berneville, while the life of St Evroul was written by a Norman - probably a monk of the monastery of St Evroult in Normandy. Both poems are examples of the free adaptation into the vernacular of a Latin prose text. Their sources are an anonymous Latin tenth-century life of St Giles and the life of St. Evroul by Orderic Vitalis which is found in Book 6 of his Historia Ecclesiastical The changes introduced by the French authors are mostly additions, evidently motivated by a desire to embellish, to entertain and especially to translate their story into a form intelligible to a lay audience. In fact what they are doing (and this is especially true of the life of St Giles) is to clothe the narrative in a literary form close to that of secular romance. More specifically though, I am going to argue that behind some of these additions stands the story of St. Alexis. This story of a young man who fled from the marriage arranged for him by his family was very popular and became the paradigm of this pattern of Christian renunciation. Already in the eleventh century Alexis was cited as a model by the author of the Latin life of Simon of Crepy.4 This story existed in many versions. Itfirstappeared in Latin in the latetenthcentury and in the succeeding centuries was translated into most of the European vernaculars (there were...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1832-8334
Print ISSN
0313-6221
Pages
pp. 11-21
Launched on MUSE
2013-04-03
Open Access
No
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