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  • Un territoire à géographie variable: la communication littéraire au temps de Charles VI ed. by Jean-Claude Mühlethaler, Delphine Burghgraeve
  • Tracy Adams
Un territoire à géographie variable: la communication littéraire au temps de Charles VI. Directeurs d'ouvrage Jean-Claude Mühlethaler et Delphine Burghgraeve. (Rencontres, 271; Civilisation médiévale, 20.) Paris: Classiques Garnier, 2017. 335 pp.

This volume demonstrates that the medieval French author, particularly during the reign of the unfortunate Charles VI (1380-1420), remains worthy of close attention. The late fourteenth century, write the editors, saw the rapid development of relatively precise terminology for discussing authorship, in tandem with increasingly frequent commissions for translation under Charles V, and then a growing consciousness of authorial individuality under Charles VI. Part I begins with Philippe Maupeu, who compares the 1409 manuscript of the 'Lamentations Salmon' by royal secretary Pierre Salmon with the heavily revised version of 1412; it traces Salmon's elimination of an autobiographical section in the former in favour of a treaty on the vices and virtues in the latter, enunciated from a solitary cell. Despite the change in posture, however, the courtier Salmon remains in the revised version, retaining his ethos of 'bon conseiller'. In 'Propagande et opinion publique dans Le Livre des faits du Maréchal Boucicaut', Élisabeth Gaucher-Rémond shows that a knight was alert to public opinion, studying how the work's author created an ethos by means of which he attempted to restore the reputation of the unpopular Boucicaut struggling to maintain the French hold over Genova. Amandine Mussou then explores the phenomenon of commenting, in prose, on one's own verse work — which required creating a hybrid author posture; Claire-Marie Schertz focuses on the different reader and writer figures elaborated by Philippe de Mézières in Le Songe du viel pelerin; and Delphine Burghgraeve shows how Jacques Legrand and Jen de Courcy, two optimistically humanist authors, educate their readers to use fable to develop their intellectual ability; through a variety of techniques, the authors seek to create 'hermeneutists' (p. 191) of their readers. Jean-Claude Mühlethaler examines how several lyric poets, English and French, construct themselves as lover/clerics or lover/knights and their poetry as aristocratic pastime or intellectual enterprise. Although the variations in their authorial scenography may appear minute, these differences allow glimpses of courtly publics less homogenous than one might think, some courtiers able to participate fully in authorial games, others focused only on the surface meaning of the text. Meanwhile, Didier Lechat explores the complex relationship between author and readers embedded in the texts. Far from giving readers what they want or reflecting a flattering picture back at them, these authors provoke their readers, attempting to educate them. Mathias Sieffert shows that a shift in how fictive amorous writing is conceptualized, from oral to written, in these poets is produced by a shift in the metaphoric space within which the poem is situated. Love discourse issuing from open spaces, evoked through images of nature or geographic distance, tends to be represented as oral exchange. Closed spaces, in contrast, define lyric discourse as writing, reading, and reflexivity. Friedrich Wolfzettel concludes the volume with a reflection on poets (Deschamps, Mézières, Christine de Pizan, and Jean d'Arras and Coudrette) who represent their author figures soaring high above the earth. From their positions, these authors trace a movement from a mythological past to a very specific present where disorder reigns. This volume rewards a careful reading and directs us towards a database established by a team at the University of Lausanne, directed by the editors, collecting information about authors and readers gleaned from prologues and epilogues of writings from the period of Charles VI. [End Page 595]

Tracy Adams
University of Auckland


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