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Reviewed by:
  • Artus de Bretagne: roman en prose de la fin du XIIIe siècle by Christine Ferlampin-Acher
  • Keith Busby
Artus de Bretagne: roman en prose de la fin du XIIIe siècle. Édition critique du manuscrit BnF fr. 761 par Christine Ferlampin-Acher. 2 vols. (Classiques français du Moyen Âge, 180.) Paris: Honoré Champion, 2017. xcv + 871 pp.

It can only be the length and complexity of Artus de Bretagne that have until now prevented it from enjoying the benefit of a critical edition and the ensuing scholarly attention. As specialists in medieval French romance largely suspend their study of Chrétien de Troyes and the verse tradition, the great prose romances have been recent beneficiaries. Christine Ferlampin-Acher has long been an eloquent champion of Artus de Bretagne and the edition [End Page 427] reviewed here is the culmination of two decades of work. It will finally enable others to confirm the interest of this fascinating text. Artus de Bretagne is only marginally Arthurian. Its principal figure is a prince of Brittany, a descendant of Lancelot, who marries a daughter of Emenidus, an oriental king whose name is that of a prominent character from the Roman d'Alexandre. In her Introduction, Ferlampin-Acher goes so far as to suggest that Artus de Bretagne may in some respects even be considered post-Arthurian. The romance indeed shows few direct links with such texts as the prose Lancelot-Graal, the prose Tristan, or Guiron le courtois (which might be assumed to be models), but is marked by intertextual relationships with the Alexander romances and the chansons de geste. A further peculiarity is the development of a chivalric-courtly axis articulated by the complementarity of Artus and the clerc, Estienne. The edition is exemplary. The Introduction contains everything that is necessary to prepare the reader for a fruitful, and most likely first, acquaintance with the text: a useful summary of the long and unfamiliar narrative, discussion of the date and attribution, description of the manuscripts and different versions, explanation of editorial principles, a highly detailed study of the language of the base manuscript, an indispensable synthesis of Ferlampin-Acher's many literary studies of Artus de Bretagne, and a generous bibliography. The impeccably presented text runs to no fewer than 516 pages. The second volume contains a selection of variants, textual and explanatory notes, an extensive glossary, and an exhaustive list of proper names. It is a pleasure to see such a well-executed critical edition of a difficult but fascinating work, which was also published in incunabula in 1493 and 1996, fifteen editions from the sixteenth century, and one from as late as 1628. Ferlampin-Acher's work does not deploy the standard and often apologetic 'neglected text' topos, for Artus de Bretagne stands on its own as a romance that demands our attention. Scholars no longer have any reason to deprive themselves of its many delights. Indeed, they should eagerly accept Ferlampin-Acher's invitation to read it in her excellent edition.

Keith Busby
University of Wisconsin-Madison


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