A number of powerful readers have explored the self-referential structure of Froissart's Voyage en Béarn, a book about its own author, a chronicler who is also a poet, who reads a book, his Méliador, at the court of the count of Foix, a place whose sinister history may perhaps be explained by reference to yet another book, Ovid's Metamorphoses. Each midnight, in a blaze of torches, Froissart reads to the count from the Méliador, the story of the chevalier du soleil, so that the solar associations of the count's chosen sobriquet, Fébus, become a crucial part of the literary structure. Yet, as has long been recognized, Froissart never gives the count this name. The text also seems radically incomplete when Froissart accepts unquestioningly an incoherent explanation of a talking bear and a curse that has fallen on the count's half-brother, justifying the idea that a bear might talk by a blatant misreading of Ovid's story of Actaeon. Actaeon, who cannot speak after his transformation and so is killed by his hounds, can be taken, as he was by Ovid, as a figure of the censored writer. One possible approach to these omissions and inconsistencies is to consider the Voyage en Béarn not as a literary work that is fully controlled by Froissart but as a multiauthored cultural construct, or what in the Middle Ages was sometimes called a matter. Froissart's witnesses, historical agents, sought to shape his account, and he resisted. Another approach is to read the Voyage en Béarn as a sustained anacoluthon, in which the associations of the suppressed alternative, Fébus, infiltrate the version Froissart actually wrote. In both cases, Froissart's text takes shape around what it cannot or will not say. The Voyage en Béarn alludes not just to its own writing but also to its own self-censorship.


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pp. 35-60
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