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  • Les Motifs dans la chanson de geste: définition et utilisation (discours de l'épopée médiévale I) by Jean-Pierre Martin
  • Glyn S. Burgess
Les Motifs dans la chanson de geste: définition et utilisation (discours de l'épopée médiévale 1). Par Jean-Pierre Martin. (Essais sur le Moyen Âge, 65.) Paris: Honoré Champion, 2017. 414 pp.

The present volume is an updated version of Jean-Pierre Martin's work, Les Motifs dans la chanson de geste: définition et utilisation (Lille: Centre d'études médiévales et dialectales, Université de Lille III, 1992). As the twenty-five-page bibliography makes clear, this is not a new field of research, but in this study the analysis has an impressive and authoritative density. It is certainly not an easy read. For example, the section on prologues moves from an unremarkable statement concerning the four 'fonctions particulières' of prologues (announcing that there is going to be a song or what is going to be sung; presenting the origins of the story to be told; announcing the content of the song; launching the account itself, in other words moving from the prologue to the narrative sector) to a detailed analysis of the network of correlations between the motifs as encountered in the selected texts. We soon come across observations such as, 'la formule d'intonation et ses expansions fournissent les schémas suivants: ABC (P), AA, ADBC (Aye, ABA'C (CL, CN), AC (RC, OB), A'C (MG, GK, CG), qui montrent clairement la dépendance de ses éléments B et C par rapport à A et A' (pp. 220-21). Within such statements the reader is referred to the author's main corpus of five chansons de geste, Aye d'Avignon, Garin le Loherenc, Gerbert de Mez, Orson de Beauvais, and Raoul de Cambrai (a total of around 55,000 lines), chosen especially with their folklore elements in mind and also because they are generally less well known. Other texts are used to supplement this corpus, especially those found in Jean Rychner's La Chanson de geste: essai sur l'art épique des jongleurs (Geneva: Droz, 1955), a crucial work for Martin's own research. He builds upon Rychner's pioneering work especially through the creation of sub-types of motifs. In his glossary of theoretical terms Martin sub-divides the various motifs into 'motifs contractuels', '(dis)jonctionnels', 'modalisateurs', 'narratifs', 'outils' and 'performanciels', and 'rhétoriques'. Of fundamental importance are the categories 'motifs narratifs' and 'motifs rhétoriques', each of which has its own annexe, the former with five sub-headings and the latter with five that are not included in the glossary ('motifs extradiégétiques', 'descriptifs', 'racontants' — a particularly dense and important section —, 'mimétiques', and 'lyriques'). Overall, I would like to have seen the results of Martin's work placed more frequently in a wider context (the Roman de Thèbes is mentioned on a few occasions), with more comparisons made between chansons de geste and other genres. For example, E. H. Ruck's An Index of Themes and Motifs in Twelfth-Century French Arthurian Poetry (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1991) provides extensive lists of references on topics not dissimilar to those of Martin. But there can be no doubt that the present volume will henceforth be fundamental to any study of the way that chansons de geste are put together, or of how the genre itself is to be defined. [End Page 590]

Glyn S. Burgess
University of Liverpool


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