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L ’E spr it C ré a t e u r Peter F. Dembowski, J ea n F ro issa rt a n d h is “ M e l ia d o r ” : C o n t e x t , C r a ft , a n d Sen se . Lexington, KY: French Forum Publishers, 1983. Pp. 196. $15.00. This monograph, second in the Edward C. Armstrong series on medieval literature, provides an admirable entree into the Meliador, Froissart’s much-maligned romance. Peter Dembowski makes this work finally accessible to a reading public by setting it in its social and historical context and by providing wonderful insights into how it can best be appreciated. As the subtitle indicates, the monograph is divided into three sections which offer a defense of the Meliador as a good piece of late medieval writing that speaks to the social concerns of its day. Yet there is a hidden agenda here which, I feel, provides a second motivation: Dembowski’s frustration with the introduction the work was given in its SATF edition which hid rather than revealed the romance’s organization. As a rewriting of the SATF introduction Dembowski’s work performs admirably, perhaps even more than as a literary discussion, for the discussion is rooted in a historical positivism that does not allow for the kinds of observations that he clearly wants to make. For example, the first section, “Context,” is limited by the fact that the only literary figure acknowledged in the mono­ graph is Chrétien de Troyes who, while a natural source for comparison, does not ade­ quately prepare the 14th-century context in which Froissart is situated. Many of Dembow­ ski’s arguments about Froissart’s literary positions, particularly vis-à-vis the revival of chivalry, would have been supported and could have been strengthened by references to Froissart’s literary contemporaries, such as Charles d’Orléans. The second section, “Craft,” is full of really wonderful insights into the text, some­ what marred by their presentation. Dembowski posits, rightly 1think, that the fascination of the work stems from what occurs between the four ritualized tournaments. Unfor­ tunately, he chooses to rename these natural divisions in the text as “acts,” and the inter­ vening areas “entr’actes.” Such external structuring only makes the reader uncomfortable with its unwarranted, albeit oblique, allusion to dramatic form. In the same way, Dembowski’s treatment of the ending of the text is discomforting. The romance, as it stands, is unfinished, even though an ending is mentioned in the Preface. Dembowski con­ tinues to assert the potential existence of an ending—even to speculate on its length and content—as he figures it into his understanding of the work as a whole. Yet, unfinished romances were prevalent in the Middle Ages; those that were finished often subverted their own endings. As with his division of the work into “acts” and “entr’actes,” Dembowski’s treatment of the missing ending highlights a fascinating aspect of the work but then under­ cuts this discovery. In the third section, “Sense,” the author asserts that Old French romance “consists of, or better, [is] analyzable from, three different perspectives called matiere, conjointure and sen.” While such a three-fold division is indeed mentioned in a number of romances by Chrétien de Troyes, it is by no means a necessary generic requirement. To apply it, as he then does, to an understanding of this much later text is questionable. Equally unfortunate is the amount of doubling, repeating, and recapitulating that permeates the work. This, again, points perhaps to a disjuncture between the stated goals of the work and its actual aims. The author has here the material for a superb new intro­ duction to the romance. Many wonderful insights are made, as well as provocative yet undeveloped suggestions, such as the section on the geography of the Meliador. If perhaps he had had more faith in the ability of the text to demonstrate its own worth, its strengths, backgrounded here, could perhaps have been brought to the fore. Sa ra h Spen c e California State University, Long Beach VOL. XXVII, No. 1 125 ...


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