DISCOURSE ON LOVE, MARRIAGE, AND TRANSGRESSION IN MEDIEVAL AND EARLY MODERN LITERATURE
AN INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM, UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA
ORGANIZER: ALBRECHT CLASSEN
MAY 1-4, 2003, EXCEPT AS OTHERWISE NOTED, ALL EVENTS WILL BE HELD IN THE CONFERENCE ROOM, SPECIAL COLLECTIONS, LIBRARY OF THE UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA
Thursday, May 1, 8 p.m. Social Get-Together, Lodge on the Desert
Friday, May 2, 9 a.m.: Welcome and Introduction: Albrecht Classen
9: 15 a.m. President Peter Likins, University of Arizona
9:30 a.m. Virginie Greene, Dept. of Romance Languages and Literatures, Harvard University
The Knight, the Woman, and the Historian: Georges Duby and Courtly Love
10:00 a.m. Laura Hollengreen, School of Architecture, University of Arizona, Tucson
Love and Lust in Thirteenth-Century French Biblical Illustration
10:30 a.m. Sharon Kinoshita, Dept. of Literature, University of California, Santa Cruz
Colonial Possessions: the Anglo-Norman Imaginary in the Lais of Marie de France
11:00-11:20 a.m. Break
11:20 a.m. James Rushing, Dept. of German Studies, Rutgers University
12:15 p.m. Lunch (Special Collections Conference Room)
1:15 p.m. Michelle Bolduc, Humanities Program, University of Arizona, Tucson
Love and Marriage in the Breviari d'Amor
1:45 p.m. Stephen Mark Carey, German Studies Department, Emory University, Atlanta
minnet mich nâch unser ê. Wolfram von Eschenbach's Critique of Marriage Law in the Romance Tradition
2:15 p.m. Suzanne A. Kocher, Modern Languages Department, University of Louisiana at Lafayette
Reflections on Sexual Transgression: Symmetrical Accusations in the Roman de la Violette
2:45 - 3:15 p.m. Break
3:15 p.m. Anna Kukulka-Wojtasik, Chair, Dept. of French, Torun, Poland
Courtly Literature, or Erotic Freedom avant la lettre, According to the Troubadour Poetry by Guillaume de Poitiers and the Thirteenth-Century Courtly Romance Joufroi
Talk will be in French
3:45 p.m. Penny Simons, Department of French, University of Sheffield
Love, Marriage and Transgression in Joufroi de Poiters A Case Of Literary Terrorism?
4:15 p.m. Jean Jost, Dept. of English, Bradley University, Peoria, IL
Chaucer's Vows and How They Break
4: 45 Conclusion of the First Day
6:00 Dinner Reception, Poetry Center, 1216 N Cherry
Saturday, May 3, 2003
9:00 a.m.. Marc Moser, Faculté des Lettres, Arts et Science Humaines, Université de Nice
Discourse on Love, Marriage, and Transgression in Moriz von Craûn
9:30 a.m. Karen Jambeck, Dept. of English and Comparative Literature, Western Connecticut State University
"Seignurs, ne vus esmerveillez": Transgressive Discourse in Lanval
10:00 a.m. Louise Vasvari, Dept. of Comparative Literature, S.U.N.Y., Stony Brook, NY
"Buon cavallo e mal cavallo vuol sprone, e bona femina e mala femina vuol bastone": Medieval Literary Representations of Wife Battering
10:30 am. Break
10: 50 a.m. Danielle Buschinger, Dept. d'Allemand, Université de Picardie, Amiens
Amour, mariage et adultère dans le Tristram tchèque
11:20 a.m. Albrecht Classen, Dept. of German Studies, University of Arizona, Tucson
Love, Marriage, and Sexual Transgressions in Heinrich Kaufringer's Verse Narratives
12:00 p.m. Lunch Break (Conference Room, Special Collections)
1:30 p.m. Allison P. Coudert, Dept. of Religious Studies, Arizona State University, Tempe
Hermaphrodites, Witches, and Homonculi: Images of Deviancy and the Formation of Gender Stereotypes in Early Modern German Discourse
2:00 p.m. Ulrich Müller, Institut für Germanistik, Universität Salzburg
"L'auteur est mort, vive l'auteur": Love in Poetry, and Fiction
A. Classen and U. Muller
2:30 p.m. Marilyn Sandidge, Dept. of English, Westfield State College, Westfield, MA
Rewriting the Formula: Love, Marriage, but No Transgression in Early Modern Literature
3:00 p.m. Elizabeth Chesney Zegura, Dept. of French and Italian, The University of Arizona
True Stories and Alternative Discourses: The Game of Love in Marguerite de Navarre's Heptaméron
4:00 p.m. Excursion to San Xavier del Bac
6:00 Dinner at Teresa's Mosaic Café (2455 N. Silverbell Rd., tel. 624-4512)
9:00 Social Get-Together at the Lodge on the Desert
May 4: Possibility of Visiting the Desert Museum (Transportation will be provided)
With thanks for financial support to the Vice President for Research & Graduate Studies, College of Humanities, UAMARRC, ACMRS (ASU), the Dept. of English, Dept. of German Studies, Dept. of French and Italian, Dept. of History, and School of Family & Consumer Sciences, Special Collections, and Library of the University of Arizona
Abstracts of the Presentations at the International Symposium on "Discourse on Love, Marriage, and Transgression in Medieval and Early_Modern Literature," Tucson, University of Arizona Library, Special Collection, May 1-4, 2003
Michelle Bolduc, Humanities Program, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721
Abstract: “Love and Marriage in the Breviari d’Amor
Matfre Ermengaud's Breviari d'Amor (1288-1290) is generally considered a spiritual encyclopedia devoted to all of the various aspects of love. A summa that treats typical encyclopedic subjects, the Breviari teaches about love according to orthodox Catholic doctrine. Matfre centers his discussion of love on the Tree of Love, in which he places varying types of love in a hierarchical order. In order to provide a single origin for the different forms of love, Matfre formulates a genealogy for love: following the story of Genesis, God begins his creation of the world by creating, and subsequently reigning over, Nature. The children of Nature, dregz de natura and dregz de gens, provide the first ancestors of love: from dregz de natura arise the loves between humans (between men and women, and between parents and children); from the dregz de gens come the love for God and good men, and the love for worldly goods.
The love between humans, specifically the love of men and women, and that of parents for their children, are in close affinity with life of the natural world: this love, says Matfre, is experienced by all the creatures in nature, including the beasts and the birds and the fish ("las bestias e.ilh aucel e.ilh peicho"). Love and desire are thus characterized as natural; however, because they are born of dregz de natura, they are inscribed within a clear notion of law or rightness.
From this arises the Breviari’s strong emphasis on marriage. For instance, along with other more traditional, and courtly, virtues necessary for human love, Matfre includes “matrimoni”. Love, in the divine plan formulated in the Breviari, thus has nothing to do with adulterous love. Matfre devotes much time to various discussions of marriage: he not only speaks of marriage as a virtue, but is careful to defend marriage by attacking those who denigrate it (vv. 32748-83). Moreover, he gives guidelines for how to prepare oneself for marriage (vv. 32784-32809), what kind of person should marry (vv. 32810-33045), and how a man should love and direct his wife (vv. 33046-33149).
Despite its orthodoxy, the Breviari’s teachings about human love are curious. While Matfre does place human love within the Church-sanctioned institution of marriage, he also allows for a broader interpretation of human love. Because human love, for Matfre, is a natural desire arising from the wish to procreate, sexual desire is innately good. Moreover, because Matfre is not only a devotee of St. Francis but also an accomplished troubadour, one who quotes troubadour lyric (265 times!) within the Breviari, his ideas of love are very much influenced by the ideas of love presented by courtly love lyric. In the debate of courtly love, the so-called “Perilhos Tractat” which appears at the end of the Breviari, we find evidence of positive descriptions of love as extra-marital. Indeed, for Matfre, even a courtly, adulterous lover may find favor with God as long as he follows the courtly precepts of loving.
This paper thus explores how Matfre expands the orthodox dogma concerning human love in his Breviari so as to include alternatives to marriage, and as a result reveals the many and varying views of love in the South of France at the end of the thirteenth century.
Danielle Buschinger, Université de Picardie, Amiens
Amour, mariage et adultère dans le Tristram tchèque
Le poète tchèque reprend certes du poème d’Eilhart la scène où, au sortir de la forêt, Tristrant rend Isalde à Marke, cependant il supprime l’opposition entre Eilhart 4951 « Eh bien ! prenez la reine » et 4975 « Eh bien ! prenez ma dame» : Tristrant fait sentir à son oncle qu’Isalde est l’«épouse » de celui-ci, et non sa « dame », sa « souveraine » ; le héros oppose ainsi les liens du mariage à l’amour courtois et se pose comme le représentant idéal de l’amour courtois, de l’amour adultère, face à Marke, le représentant des liens du mariage, et comme adversaire en amour de Marke. A cette scène où Tristrant crie à son oncle tout l’amour qu’il porte à sa dame, la femme légitime du roi, correspond à la fin de l’œuvre, la scène, que reprend aussi d’Eilhart le traducteur tchèque, mais qui ne figure pas chez Heinrich, son modèle pour le dénouement du drame ; dans cette scène les deux Isaldes sont face à face près de la civière où le héros gît mort et où Isalde la reine affirme devant toute l’assistance avoir davantage aimé Tristrant que ne l’a fait la Bretonne (Eilhart 9426-31 « La reine lui dit alors : ‘Noble dame, je vous prie de reculer et de me laisser approcher. J’ai plus le droit de le plaurer que vous, croyez-moi : je l’ai plus aimé que vous’ ») et se définit comme l’amante parfaite en opposition à l’épouse, en tant que la représentante idéale de la « fine amor », de l’amour courtois, en opposition à la représentante des liens dans le mariage : de la sorte Eilhart voulait montrer avec le plus de clarté possible l’antinomie inconciliable des amants avec le monde ambiant hostile, dans lequel les conventions sociales, représentées par Marke et par Isalde la Bretonne rendaient impossibles à Tristrant et Isalde de s’épanouir publiquement. Isalde la reine revendique face à l’autre Isalde, l’épouse légitime de son ami, l’honneur d’avoir été la seule femme qui ait jamais aimé Tristrant. Pour Tristrant comme pour Isalde, il n’y a d’amour qu’en dehors des liens du mariage, il n’y a d’amour qu’illégitime. Cependant la dispute (8640-45) entre les deux femmes devient dans le roman tchèque presque une querelle de chiffonnières : « Alors Izalda repoussa l’épouse de Tristram à l’écart et lui donna un bon coup dans le côté, puis elle lui adressa ses dernières paroles : ‘Tu es comme un loup qui prend les brebis ! Tu ne sais pas pleurer ton mari ! C’est moi qui suis le mieux capable de me lamenter sur lui »). Le traducteur supprime également les vers de Heinrich (6583-87), dans lesquels le poète souligne l’extraordinaire amour de Tristan et Isolde.
Toutefois, ce qui frappe c’est que le poète tchèque ne condamne jamais expressément l’amour adultère des amants, au contraire de Heinrich von Freiberg: il supprime par exemple le grand monologue de Kurneval (6620-6650) de même que l’épilogue moralisateur (6847-6889) dans lesquels le poète considère le roman de Tristan pour la peccabilité du monde et le caractère éphémère de ses joies de ses joies, et enjoint au lecteur de se tourner vers l’amour divin, le seul véritable amour, qui est sans fin. En conséquence, on peut sans doute affirmer que l’auteur tchèque se situe à mi-chemin entre la conception révolutionnaire, subversive et hostile à la société qu’a Gottfried du thème de Tristan et les convictions des poètes allemands de la fin du Moyen Age, convictions conformes à la société et agréables à Dieu, qui sont fondées sur l’éthique chrétienne.
Stephen Mark Carey, German Studies Department, Emory University
minnet mich nâch unser ê. Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Critique of Marriage Law in the Romance Tradition.
Treatments of Wolfram's critique of the law have traditionally focused on the intratextual implications of the hero's transcendence over the “dead” letter of the law and the discovery of the true spirit of moral justice that culminates in the attainment of the Grail. The text fully justifies and encourages this reading but Wolfram also invites the recipients of his tale to apply this critique to the broader romance tradition. Declaring his tale to be something other than a book, Wolfram underscores his break from the romance tradition comprised of the French, German, and Latin works of his predecessors. Numerous intertextual allusions cast a critical light upon representations of law and justice in that romance tradition. Wolfram extends the intratextual satire of juridical norms found in Parzival to a wider range of texts.
An awareness to the extent to which Wolfram engages in an exchange with the romance tradition, tempers the extent to which we might apply secular and ecclesiastical law codes contemporary to the text. Certainly, literary representations of medieval law in Parzival have some basis in reality. However, interpretations of legal issues in Wolfram's text based solely on real historical data fail to account for the wholly literary quality and origins of these episodes. The contemporary rejection of the alleged "radiant abstractions" of traditional literary studies engenders critical perspectives that all too often fall prey to an equally undesirable obsession with the mundane historical context of the given literary work. In my talk, I will present legal issues in Wolfram's Parzival, primarily the legal battle surrounding the marriage of Herzeloyde and Gahmuret, in light of both actual medieval juridical norms and in the intertextual context of the romance tradition in which these episodes participate. The juxtaposition of the medieval legal tradition with the literary tradition of the romances clearly evidences the engagement of Wolfram's Parzival with latter, thereby negating interpretive strategies that exaggerate the historical context to point of obscuring the literary. This engagement with recent "historical" readings of the work will also allow me to present new incites regarding the texts participating in the narrative and the relation of these to each-other and to Wolfram's Parzival as a whole.
Albrecht Classen, University of Arizona, Dept. of German Studies, Tucson, AZ 85721
Love, Marriage, and Sexual Transgressions in Heinrich Kaufringer’s Verse Narratives
While late-medieval Italian literature can boast of Boccaccio’s famous Decameron, and late-medieval English literature is deeply influenced by Chaucer’s world-famous Canterbury Tales, contemporary German literature does not seem to know of a similarly noteworthy composer of erotic tales. There are, however, several remarkable, though little known exceptions, such as Heinrich Kaufringer and many anonymous authors of fourteenth- and fifteenth-century erotic tales. Various miscellany manuscripts contain large numbers of narrative accounts dealing with adultery, rape, love, marriage, betrayal, and sex. In fact, similarly as in Boccaccio’s and Chaucer’s works, these late-medieval authors obviously delighted in examining issues of sexual transgression and provided their audiences with highly entertaining stories of problematic gender relations. Kaufringer situates his narratives in the world of married couples, but despite (or because of) their marriages, these couples experience highly problematic, often very painful conflicts. Loyalty proves to be a rare quality, whereas adultery, rape, disrespect, murder, and practically always sexual relations outside of marriage dominate the accounts. Interestingly, Kaufringer does not pursue a specifically male perspective, as he presents to us a wide spectrum of stupid and honorable husbands, honest and deceitful wives, lustful women, male rapists, female victims of male machinations, and abused husbands. In fact, Kaufringer’s pantheon of literary figures reflects the wide range of possible relationships between men and women within late-medieval urban society. In remarkable contrast to traditional medieval tales that deal with married couples, Kaufringer explores only gender conflicts that erupt because of ethical and moral shortcomings on the part of one of the marriage partners. Mismatched marriages, such as those where a significant age difference makes it impossible for the couple to experience happiness, are not an issue here. By contrast, Kaufringer’s focus rests on miscommunication, sexual passion, public honor, deception, and abuse. On the surface, Kaufringer intends to entertain his audience with facetious tales, but these serve significant purposes addressing fundamental needs of late-medieval urban society. Each of these narratives invites the public to discuss the conflictual relationship and to evaluate the protagonists’ faults, guilt, victimization, abuse, and actions at large. Ultimately, Kaufringer hopes to demonstrate how a happy marriage can be realized by way of illustrating the consequences of wrong behavior, erroneous accusations, lack of mutual respect, distrust, and excessive expectations. As his narratives suggest, however, the ideal marriage was an almost elusive ideal, and the more the individual characters suffer from their own shortcomings and their partners’ failures, the more the audience was supposed to accept the realities of profound gender differences which in turn explain most problems within a marriage. Even though some of Kaufringer’s tales contain elements of misogyny, the author does not argue from a typically male perspective and rather suggests that sexuality itself proves to be a complex force which most people cannot handle without experiencing problems. Depending on the narrative context, sometimes Kaufringer presents evil-minded wives, sometimes abusive husbands. All of his tales invite the audience to discuss the issues creating these tensions between the genders. Remarkably, the male author also defends women against public criticism and emphasizes the necessity for people to develop good communication skills if they want to come to terms with love, marriage, and sexuality.
Allison P. Coudert, Arizona State University
Hermaphrodites, Witches, and Homonculi: Images of Deviancy and the Formation of Gender Stereotypes in Early Modern German Discourse
One of the most obvious features of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation periods was a new and unprecedented concern with order and orthodoxy in the face of confusion and uncertainty. The collapse of religious consensus was paralleled by the breakdown of traditional intellectual and scientific systems. The flood of new information that came from both the rediscovery of classical texts and the discovery of the new world undermined traditional philosophical and scientific frameworks and classificatory systems, leaving many adrift on unchartered intellectual seas. The fascination with prodigies, apparitions, comets, monsters, amazons, hermaphrodites, and witches—in short, with everything “unnatural” and “abnormal”—was indicative of both the profound anxiety caused by the destruction of existing categories and an attempt to impose, or create, new categories without ambiguities. One of the most sensitive areas in which the breakdown of norms became most noticeable was in terms of sexuality and gender identity. A new preoccupation with hermaphrodites and sexual deviancy emerged. Hermaphroditism became an important issue precisely because the hermaphrodite was both male and female and therefore did not fit the increasingly rigid gender stereotyping that came into force. Although some scholars, notably Carl Jung and Mircea Eliade, followed by Carolyn Merchant and Evelyn Fox Keller, view the image of the hermaphrodite as an affirmation of gender equality, a close study of the alchemical texts in which this image most commonly appears undermines this claim. As Lorraine Daston and Katherine Park point out, in French civil law an individual’s gender determined his or her capacity to marry, inherit, act as a witness, assume the position of guardian, and hold political office. The tremendous weight accorded to the question of a person’s gender meant that “sexual ambiguity was not legally tolerated.” A similar concern with sexual ambiguity characterizes German discussions of gender identity. The anxiety caused by hermaphrodites expressed a more general and intense fear of homosexual acts as well. However prevalent homosexuality may have been in court circles, the practice was generally viewed with revulsion and horror because it blurred the line between the sexes by undermining the dichotomy between the “active” male and “passive” female.
The concern with gender was at the core of what Stephen Greenblatt has described as a new preoccupation with the “self.” Anxiety about what constitutes the “self” increased during the early modern period as power and class relationships were redefined and reformulated for an increasingly centralized commercial and urban society. This is apparent in the case of courtiers and civil servants, for at the heart of both professions lay an inescapable contradiction between the nature of the job and the sex of the job holder. The stance of both groups was essentially feminine inasmuch as their role was to be pleasing, pliant, and subservient. J. R. Woodhouse describes the novelty of this situation and the confusion it occasioned in terms of gender identity. Military prowess and good advice were no longer sufficient to curry favor with a Prince. Wit and the capacity to amuse became the primary avenues to success. But wit calls for the ability to deceive and dissimulate, for talents (if we may call them that) traditionally associated with women. In this situation, the age-old dichotomy between male and female, with all its attendant polarities of active versus passive, dominant versus subordinate, reason versus sense, and public versus private, became problematic, and the issue of what it meant to be male or female assumed a pressing urgency reflected in the increasingly essentialist rhetoric of gender discourse. The fear of effeminancy and the stigma attached to it led to a polarization of the sexes that bordered on caricature. Women were excluded from everything that was culturally and intellectually valued in the public world of men. Among Protestants, household duties and child-bearing became the acceptable limits of their horizon. In this respect the witch was a cautionary figure, refurbished and in many respects reinvented in the early modern period to keep women in their place. For witches were women who refused their role as submissive wives and mothers, rejecting the world of female domesticity for the public world of men.
But even in their prescribed role as wives and mothers, women remained troublesome. Literary scholars have called attention to how often mothers were left out of literature, autobiography, and family portraits in the 16th and 17th centuries, and how common it was for men to appropriate the female procreative role. Scientific texts dealing with reproduction exhibit the same denigration and absence of women. A pseudo-Paracelsian work described menstrual blood as the poisonous matrix from which monsters like the basilisk originate, a notion consistent with Paracelsus’s undisputed statements to the effect that women were the source of all evil. Given this conviction, it is understandable that Paracelsus and many alchemists and natural philosophers devoted their energies to producing homunculi, marvelous creatures created by males exclusively from male semen and consequently uncontaminated by any female characteristics. The absence or elimination of women is also a feature in the production of the philosopher’s stone. Although the stone is frequently described as the offspring of a “royal” couple, in many cases this birth is better described as an act of cloning since the philosopher’s stone emerges solely from the father. When females are involved, their role is short-lived since their death is the prerequisite to a successful “birth.” In this respect natural philosophers resuscitated the Aristotelian notion that the form or essential nature of the child is contained in the male semen and that the female is nothing more than an incubator. This doctrine had been challenged by Galen, but with the triumph of the new science we find scientists who claim to have made microscopic observations of spermatozoa containing perfect miniature fetuses.
The emergence of new gender stereotypes based on an unprecedented dichotomy between the sexes was one aspect of the attempt to restore order and certainty to a world racked by skepticism, confusion, inconsistency, and hypocrisy. At the root of the new ideology was a new worldview in which God and man, spirit and matter, reason and emotion, culture and nature, public and private, work and family, male and female were polarized as they had never been before.
Virginie Greene, Harvard University, Boylston Hall 425, Cambridge, MA 02138
“The Knight, the Woman, and the Historian: Georges Duby and Courtly Love”
Duby’s noted book The Knight, the Woman and the Priest: Marriage in Feudal France (1981) has been both influential and controversial among medievalists. This paper analyzes Duby’s curious position with regard to love and women in the Middle Ages. His pessimism about the condition of medieval women and the possibilities for modern historians to obtain undistorted images of them, takes the form of a prohibition, which led him to explore more and more the prohibited territory (“the black continent [of women]”) during the last fifteen years of his life.
Duby proposes a convincing pattern of evolution for the institution of marriage in French feudal aristocracy, from the 10th to the 13th century. But this pattern, in which marriage is dominated and controlled by older males, is disturbed when Duby tries to use 12th century courtly literature as documentary evidence. To explain the importance of the theme of adultery in lyric poetry and romances, while maintaining his scheme, Duby needs to use psychological and psychoanalytical explanation. Female characters in this literature are, as Lacan would say, “a piece of bait”, an imaginary reward (or punishment) exchanged between older and younger men. Courtly love might be a “deep play” (cf. Clifford Geerts), but above all it is a male game, with homoerotic implications. Women are not better off at the imaginary level than at the social and institutional level. The model is, at least, simple and consistent, and yet Duby could not help questioning it and pursuing his quest of medieval women.
In one of his very last books (Ladies of the 12th century: vol. 1, 1995), Duby suddenly recants: confronted to the dazzling brilliance of Chrétien de Troyes’s romance Cligès, charmed by the heroines Soredamor and Phenice, Duby recognizes that medieval women can be visible as agents at least in the imaginary realm of romance. He goes even further in acknowledging that romance may reflect a historical change at the level of real relationship between men and women. However his volte-face is more interesting in itself, than for the historical explanation it provokes. I see Duby reacting almost like a medieval audience, becoming all a sudden aware of a feminine dimension of things that they did not perceive until that point.
My study ends with some considerations on the relationship between art and the image of the feminine. I use Duby’s candid epiphany as a clue susceptible to help medievalists (like myself) to recognize better their own position in front of medieval love, adultery, and marriage, and to understand better the medieval roots of such a position.
Le chevalier, la femme et l’historien: Georges Duby et l’amour courtois”.
Le célèbre ouvrage de Duby Le chevalier, la femme et le prêtre: Le mariage dans la France féodale (1981) a eu autant d’influence qu’il a suscité de critiques parmi les médiévistes. Dans mon essai, j’analyse la curieuse position de Duby à l’égard de l’amour et des femmes au Moyen Age. Profondément pessimiste quant à la condition des femmes médiévales et quant aux possibilités pour l’historien d’obtenir une image objective d’elles, Duby en arrive à s’imposer un véritable interdit, qu’il passer les quinze dernières années de sa vie à transgresser pour explorer de plus en plus le territoir interdit (“le continent noir [des femmes]”).
Duby propose un schéma convaincant de l’évolution du mariage aristocratique en tant qu’institution, dans la France féodale du Xe au XIIIe siècle. Mais ce modèle, qui présente le mariage comme une affaire dominée et contrôlée par les hommes mûrs, est remis en cause quand Duby tente d’utiliser la littérature courtoise du XIIe siècle comme document historique. Pour parvenir à expliquer l’importance du thème de l’adultère dans la poésie lyrique et le roman, tout en maintenant son modèle, Duby doit avoir recours à l’explication psychologique ou psychanalytique: les personnages féminins de la littérature courtoise ne sont, comme dirait Lacan, “qu’un appât”, une récompense (ou punition) imaginaire échangée entre les jeunes hommes et leurs aînés. L’amour courtois est un “jeu profond” (cf. Clifford Geertz), mais surtout un jeu d’hommes, avec des connotations homosexuelles. Les femmes ne s’en tirent pas mieux sur le plan de l’imaginaire que sur le plan social et institutionnel. Un tel modèle a au moins l’avantage d’être simple et cohérent; et pourtant Duby ne peut s’empêcher de le remettre en question et de poursuivre sa quête des femmes médiévales.
Dans l’un de ses derniers livres (le premier volume de Dames du XIIe siècle, 1995), Duby, soudain, se rétracte: ébloui par le brio dont Chrétien de Troyes fait montre dans Cligès, séduit par les héroïnes Soredamor et Phenice, Duby reconnaît que les femmes médiévales peuvent être visibles comme agents, du moins dans le monde imaginaire du roman. Il va même plus loin en reconnaissant que le roman reflète sans doute un changement historique sur le plan de la réalité des rapports entre hommes et femmes. Cependant, sa volte-face est plus intéressante en elle-même que pour l’explication historique qu’elle provoque. Pour moi, Duby réagit presque comme un lecteur ou auditeur médiévaI, prenant tout à coup conscience de la dimension féminine des choses, alors qu’il ne la percevait pas auparavant.
Mon essai se termine sur des considérations relative à l’art et à l’image du féminin, et à ce qui les associe. J’y utilise la candide épiphanie de Duby comme un point d’appui, permettant aux médiévistes (dont moi-même) de mieux reconnaître leur propre position vis-à-vis de l’amour, du mariage et de l’adultère au Moyen Age, et de mieux comprendre les racines médiévales de cette position.
Laura H. Hollengreen, School of Architecture, CAPLA, University of Arizona
Love and Lust in Thirteenth-Century French Biblical Illustration
As part of a book project examining the renewal of Old Testament imagery in thirteenth-century France, I am investigating works of biblical illustration--in particular narrative illustration--in contexts as disparate as the large-scale, public architectural decoration of the sculpted Gothic portal and the private, luxury manuscript produced for a king. The discourse of love, marriage, and sexuality provides as fruitful a theme as any for gauging the changing understanding of the Old Testament within a larger climate of shifts in biblical exegesis, in socio-political power structures, and in urban contexts.
At one end of the spectrum stands the Old Testament portal on the north transept facade of Chartres Cathedral, produced between 1210 and 1220. This portal is remarkable among the nine portals at Chartres--and very different from the imagery of the south transept portals--in its consistently balanced presentation of male and female exemplars, many of them paired through bonds of marriage or other important affective ties: Job and his wife, Esther and Ahasuerus, Tobit and his wife, Tobias and Sarah, King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, et al. A brief analysis of some of the sculpted narratives involving these figures will establish the emotional verve--and in some cases erotic flair--of scenes which are based on familiar biblical texts but freshly conceived in visual terms. Via programmatic, iconographic, and compositional innovations, the portal declares the potential sanctity to be achieved through family life. Indeed, Chartres was one of the first sites to manifest in its art the newly positive attitude toward the family in contemporary pastoral theology. Families take their place in the cathedral decoration--in stained glass as well as in sculpture--alongside the more traditional holy (virgin martyrs, monks, and secular clergy). At this point in time, however, the very real sensuality of some of the imagery was carefully controlled in service to an overall order of rational and steadfast piety.
At the other end of the spectrum in thirteenth-century French art lies a work like the Morgan Picture Book (New York, Pierpont Morgan Library, M.638), a manuscript probably produced in Paris, although perhaps by painters who were not themselves Parisian natives, probably executed in the years 1244-1254, and probably commissioned by the King of France, Louis IX. Here images of love and sexual transgression are sensationalized within an overall visual cultivation of violence, serving as an important counterpoint to the many dense, visually cacaphonous depictions of gory battle. The violation of family bonds and its role in provoking battles in Israelite history is thus highlighted. These epic battles of the Old Testament in turn provided the necessary biblical precedent for Louis IX's Crusades to wrest control of the Holy Land from the Muslims. When sensationalized as in the Morgan Picture Book, the evident anguish of the rape victim, in the story of the Levite's wife from the Book of Judges, for instance, works less to elicit sympathy, as Diane Wolfthal suggests, than to satisfy the voyeuristic delectation of a king whose skill at political self-aggrandizement and sense of predestination by God to wage holy war were unprecedented in medieval Europe.
“Seignurs, ne vus esmerveillez”: Transgressive Discourse in Lanval
In the lai of Lanval Marie de France utilizes mythic discourse to transgress and thereby to question boundaries circumscribing marriage in her time. This theme is struck at the beginning of the narrative when Arthur rewards his knights: “femmes e tere departi” (17). Having thus begun the aventure with the conventional delineation of marriage in a feudal context, Marie interpolates other objects of desire—l'amur and les biens—in terms of Celtic myth. In so doing, she deploys a technique that was exploited by the Angevin monarchy. Similarly, juxtaposing legal discourse (a topic that has received considerable scholarly attention in recent years), and mythic discourse, she examines an alternative vision of personal ties and socio-political power. In this lai Marie reminds her audience of the links between women and land. This vision, with adumbrations in twelfth-century historical records, has significant implications for medieval men and women, and perhaps for those who follow.
Jean Jost, Bradley University, Peoria, IL: Chaucer’s Vows and How They Break
After murder, infidelity may rank as the greatest human transgression: the emotional wedge that slices lovers apart, kills all kindness and affection, allows another to supplant one’s beloved, and forevermore sows seeds of suspicion and distrust. This transgressive betrayal, evoking anguish, suffering, indignity, and loss, is a reality rehearsed in poetry, literature, drama, opera, song, painting, movies throughout history. In and out of The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer’s characters as different as Troilus is from husband John in the Miller’s Tale partake of the speech act of promising. Housed within the family construct, it achieves its greatest devastation.
Harry Bailey's game played on the familial pilgrimage, and the entire schema of the Canterbury Tales are built upon a vow: all swear to accept his proposed rules. Each pilgrim must relate four tales, competing to tell the best, in a contest to win supper and honor. Their verbal act of swearing commits pilgrims to conforming even when drunk, unwilling to take their turn, or stirred to interrupt another pilgrim whose tale offends them. The fact of their pledge remains a permanent part of the narrative fabric: it is continually tested, reinforced, referred to, but never essentially altered. And it remains fully conscious in the minds of the participants. On the other hand, each narrator does not take that pledge equally seriously, some testing or subtly resisting more than others.
Regardless of how conscientiously taken, this oath is the stable constant, the context of both narrative and physical events. Further, as a unifying device, it binds the frame and its tales together. It also symbolizes the reasons for the journey: primarily to fulfill vows for favors received, health granted, or life spared from the plague or other illness. So the entire schema is intricately bound up with vowing 1) in its game conception and rationale for tale-telling; 2) in the tellers' motives for pilgrimaging; 3) in foreswearing of tellers; but most often 4) in vowing within tales. Here in the Canterbury Tales, foreswearing reaches its brilliant height. Tale after tale resoundingly centers its narrative core around making, keeping, dispensing, ignoring, or breaking a vow. Chaucer's attitude to foreswearing depends upon the legitimacy of the vow itself, the respect he feels for the victims, and his evaluation of the vow-breaker. Explorations in each tale subtly reflect even the degree of legitimacy of the vow, and the amount of respect warranted by the victim.
Thus Chaucer's handling of vowing and foreswearing creates, or at least marks, the resulting genre: comic, mixed religious (tragic and comic), fabliaux, or tragic. Comedies of romance or fantasies result from proper vow-making, -keeping, or -dispensing by and to respected people. Any obstacle to happiness is overcome because the narrators admire and respect most characters. Mixed religious tales, in a serious mode with a threat of tragedy averted, are centered in proper vowing by the heroine, violated by another's breaking faith. The dignity and sympathy felt for these women by the narrator demands some salvific resolution. Marital fabliaux present breaking of marriage vows, serious enough in themselves, but mitigated by the unworthiness of the victim. The tellers in each case themselves reflect a disregard for the marriage vows. Clerical vow-breaking in the fabliaux are considered serious breaches against God, and when summoner and friar break them, both teller and audience disdainfully wish them ill. Their appropriately humorous punishments produce fabliaux because the vow-breakers are not respected. When Chaucer takes unworthy characters seriously, the consequences are disastrous. Their vow-making may be illegitimate or evil, their intent and actions reprehensible, and no saving grace can extricate them from tragedy.
From the presence of the pilgrims and fact of the pilgrimage itself, to the large schema--Harry's plan of the telling, through the implementing of it, and the inter-narrative vowing, the schema writ small, in ever-changing kaleidoscopic patterns--vowing remains a paramount concern throughout the family in the Canterbury Tales.
Sharon Kinoshita, University of California, Santa Cruz
Colonial Possessions: the Anglo-Norman Imaginary in the Lais of Marie de France
Though adulterous love is a staple theme of courtly literature, the representation of illegitimate children resulting from such illicit unions is, as Georges Duby has noted, exceedingly rare. Two examples are found among the twelve lais of Marie de France: Yonec and Milun. In this paper, I suggest that this anomaly arises because of each lai's connection with Wales, where native inheritance laws and marriage practices differed from those of Anglo-Norman England. Tracing the parallels and divergences between the two plots, I argue that the lais present contrary reactions to the Anglo-Norman colonization of Wales and different readings on the possibility of the emergence of a “Cambro-Norman” society.
Suzanne A. Kocher,
Reflections on Sexual Transgression: Symmetrical Accusations in the Roman de la Violette
From the outset of his early thirteenth-century Roman de la Violette, Gerbert de Montreuil sets up a complex network of desire, as two men place bets on the sexual conduct of the heroine Euriant. She rejects the propositions of her accuser Lisiard, eventually is acquitted of his (false) allegations, and marries Gerard, the man who wagered from the beginning that she was “virtuous.” Set within this dense network of lies and tricks is a mise en abime of the romance's initial heterosexual accusation. For when Aiglente falls in love with Gerard and unhappily discovers that he does not immediately respond to her advances, she in turn accuses him—of desiring men to the exclusion of women. The two accusations generate humor and tension that move the poem's plot to its end. They also place the protagonists in symmetrical positions, inviting comparison of the social forces that act upon a character who is accused of being gay and one who is suspected of being a woman of easy virtue. The romance plays not only on the similarities between the allegations of homosexual and heterosexual transgression, but also on the assorted ironies implicit in each false rumor. Both accusations constitute obstacles that the young couple must overcome, and will overcome particularly in marriage. The romance’s representation of marriage illuminates the powerful ways in which sexual morays (or rumor of them) can construct the characters’ fragile social position.
Anna Kukulka-Wojtasik, Torun, Poland
Courtly Literature, or Erotic Freedom avant la lettre, according to the troubadour poetry by Guillaume de Poitiers and the Thirteenth-Century Courtly Romance Joufroi.
The songs by the first of the troubadours, Guillaume de Poitiers, exalt the courtly lady, but some of the more licentious songs seem to anticipate the gallant adventures of Joufroi, an arrogant knight whose love-making is crude. The opening lines of the first song by Guillaume seem to embrace, at the same time, all the motifs of courtly love poetry and the clear reference to a hardly-veiled open sexuality: “Companho, faray un vers...covinen:/ Et aura-i mais de foudaz no-y a de sen,/ Et er totz mesclatz d’amor e de joy et de joven” (Friends, I’ll write a poem that will do: / But it’ll be full of fun / And not much sense, a grab bag all about love / And joy and youth (ed. de Jean Charles Payen, trans. J. J. Wilhelm). The count addresses his friends and dedicates his song to folly, love, pleasure, and youth. In addition to the complicity between the poet and his public, which introduces both the declaration of aristocratic and courtly elitism and what will later be the mask of erotic license, we find all these elements in seventeenth-century texts. The term “libertinage” (libertinism) appears for the first time at the beginning of the seventeenth century, and signifies, above all, spiritual and religious freedom. Only later was the term also applied to the morals, albeit loose, which are celebrated in the novels by Laclos, Crebillon the Younger, and de Sade, the latter of whom completely rejected the use of a literary masque. If the libertinism in Guillaume’s poems can be characterized as both spiritual and moral, then the libertininism of Joufroi is basically hedonistic. Nevertheless, both maintained a mask insofar as they practiced their play in disguise, using the concepts of dishonesty and deception. They ridiculed all moral rules and marriage, making fools of husbands, seducing women only for the purpose of seduction, desiring nothing but their own pleasure and the ability to boast of it later. Nevertheless, they paid respect to the code of courtly behavior insofar as they kept hidden their conquests by way of riddles, using senhals or pseudonyms, transparent only for an elite group of friends in this game. The libertininism is more than a quest for pleasure, it is a more or less refined but worldly game. My paper will investigate this game by the courtly “libertins,” mysterious in Guillaume’s poems and explicit in Joufroi’s.
Constant Mews, Monash University, Melbourne, Director, Religion and History
Reconsidering the Boundaries of Love: Love and Transgression in the Epistolae duorum amantium and in the Theology of Peter Abelard
What connection is there between Peter Abelard’s love affair with of Heloise and his theology? The question, is complicated by the fact that as both lover and as an intellectual Abelard (as also Heloise) is commonly perceived as the archetypal rebel against authority. Given that the interpretation of the famous letters attributed to them is still hotly contested, it may seem excessively bold to argue that another exchange of letters, the Epistolae duorum amantium, provide a lens through which to consider the theological achievement of Peter Abelard. Scholars still divide over how the famous letters should be interpreted: whether from the perspective of Heloise as a critic of the authority of Abelard and conventional monasticism, or whether from that of the epistolary and monastic function of the dossier as a whole. One camp accuses scholars who question Heloise’s authorship of the letters attributed to her of blatant misogyny, while the other (most notably Peter von Moos) accuses the other side of “hermeneutic naivety”. The publication of recent studies of the Epistolae duorum amantium by C Stephen Jaeger and myself, arguing in favour of the authorship of Abelard and Heloise, has provoked accusations by Peter von Moos that to do so is be guilty of “literary dilettantism”. In a forthcoming study, rich in learned footnotes and acerbic asides, “Die Epistolae duorum amantium und die säkulare Religion der Liebe. Methodenkritische Vorüberlegungen zu einem einmaligen Werk mittellateinischer Briefliteratur,” Studi Medievali 44 (2003), von Moos argues that EDA is influenced, among a host of literary sources, by the writing of Aelred of Rievaulx on friendship, and is closer in style to fictional compositions about love from the thirteenth or even early fourteenth century (such as Voir dit of Machaut) than to any writing from the early twelfth century.
This paper argues that debate over the EDA needs to avoid artificial polarization that has plagued discussion of the more famous correspondence, between those who interpret the exchange as testifying to an authentic and independent woman’s voice, and those who emphasize that professions of love are not “declarations of the heart,” but are carefully crafted products of epistolary and monastic convention. In particular I consider the potential significance of a detail that escaped me when I wrote The Lost Love Letters of Heloise and Abelard, namely that to answer the young woman’s question about the nature of love, the male teacher alludes in letter 24 of the EDA to precisely the same passage of Cicero’s De amicitia as Abelard quotes in the Sic et Non (q. 138, 21) to debate whether love, once acquired, could ever be lost. While appreciating the learning that informs his study, I argue that von Moos relies on excessively sweeping generalizations about the EDA and the ars dictaminis. The EDA, I argue, are not a carefully archaizing Hauptwerk of fourteenth century epistolography, but reflect practice of the art of composition before theorists of the art attempted to apply rules to the art.
In particular, I argue that the EDA articulate two distinct voices, both operating within models of epistolary convention, engaged in a debate of the appropriate boundaries of love. Looking at the presence of this passage of Cicero on friendship within the Sic et Non, I argue that from an early date in the evolution of his theological ideas, Abelard assigns love a central role in his understanding of the character of God, of redemption, and of ethics. In LLL I argued that there was a direct connection between the man’s favored definition of his love as amor, and Abelard’s presentation of his early love for Heloise as infatuation in the Historia calamitatum, as well as between the woman’s preference for describing her love as both amor and dilectio and Heloise’s own ideals of love. In this paper, I argue that the EDA betrays significant connections to Abelard’s theological writing, as well as to the concerns of Heloise in her letters. Abelard’s theology needs to be understood, not simply as a development of his philosophy of language (the position of Jolivet) or of his ethics (argued by Marenbon), or simply as the voice of a rebel (the interpretation of Clanchy), but as theology, an attempt to deal with the meaning of life, suffering and ultimate truth. It is no coincidence that having been preoccupied with the meaning of love in his early relationship with Heloise, that after entering monastic life he transforms contemporary theology by emphasizing love rather than power in his definition of both God and Christ. Here also he is concerned to identify what constitutes the boundaries of true love, and whether love overrides all other failings.
Bernard of Clairvaux was also concerned to develop a theology of love, but differed from Abelard as to how he drew the boundaries of love. They clashed, for reasons as much to do with politics as with doctrine. As with so much theological and literary debate in the twelfth century, we need to interpret both the EDA and the theological writings of Abelard not as about or rebelling against or conforming to monastic tradition, but as about defining the boundaries and limits of love.
Eva Parra Membrives
Universidad de Sevilla
Marriage out of Love in the Early Middle Ages? On Women, Marriage, and Love in the German Spielmannsepik (Goliardic Epic) (trans. by A. Classen)
The common starting point of the early medieval German “Spielmannsepen” (goliardic epics) tends to be a mighty ruler’s sudden interest in marrying a beautiful heathen princess whom has never met but who is praised by everyone for her beauty. This decision to marry this princess has nothing to do with love (minne) or any other emotions, but everything with political strategies, be it the missing heir or the safeguard of the own country. Consequently the ruler is absolutely determined to win this exotic bride for himself. For him it is a matter of political prestige and honor, a demonstration of his own superiority to acquire and to possess even that for which he had previously shown only little interest. Unquestionably, the destiny of the princess is determined by distant and entirely unknown people, as she has no chance to formulate her own wishes. These women are entirely reified and treated as acquirable objects, desired less for their physical beauty than for their royal blood and their fertility. As a reward for this exchange, these women are not offered love or love service, but instead a high social status at the side of a respectable husband. The wooers’ main task is not to win the princesses through love, but by promising them that the marriage will be a good business transaction.
Surprisingly, after the male wooer and the future bride have met each other, love begins to bloom in the lady. The princess forgets all about the promised marriage contracts, and instead she is enraptured by the physical attractiveness of her wooer and so she assumes the most active role in this new love relationship. Whereas the Christian wooer demonstrates only subdued erotic feelings, the princess begins to pursue her male lover, and thus she meets the traditional expectation, at least according to the Christian ideology of the highly sexed woman who must be controlled through marriage.
The anonymous authors of König Rother, Oswald, and Orendel seemed to have agreed to portray their female protagonists according to the religious tradition. Filled with love the beautiful princess follows her male wooer with her eyes, and soon she tries to arrange an intimate meeting with him. Their primary objective is not the platonic-distanced love service, but instead a love relationship determined by sensual eroticism. While the women are mostly concerned to get close to their lovers, the latter are completely occupied with plans for their escape route. Undoubtedly, the princesses are filled with emotions, whereas the men are portrayed as rational and planning. As these goliardic epics seem to tell us, women, on the one hand, are emotionally conditioned, and men, on the other, determine their own destiny, think about political and military issues, and do not allow emotions to distract them from their strategic goals. For the male characters, marriage is a matter of honor, power, and dynastic ideals. For the female characters, marriage is a matter of love.
Marc Moser, Université de Nice
Discourse of Marriage and Transgression in Mauricius of Craôn
This courtly verse novella of 1784 verses presents the tricky ambiguity of a married woman beset and tempted by court fame and moral honesty as a faithful wife and the endeavor of pleasing her knight escort by promising and, if possible, implementing her love reward. Countess of Beamunt always was very careful, provident and cautious subjecting the completion of her love for Mauricius of Craôn to the possibilities of circumstances. Her procrastinations, however, finally put to test Mauricius’s patience.
He was so exhausted after the tournament, however, that he fell asleep while waiting for his lady, and Beamunt’s cruelty—that offered to her wicked mind an unexpected way of avoiding sexual relations with her beloved knight—prevented the very humane lady’s maid from waking him up. After Beamunt’s departure, Mauricius awakes infuriated and runs unabashed into the matrimonial bedroom where he ridicules Beamunt’s spouse who faints after having hurt his shinbone, and occupies the free place in the bed. Tired he seems to desire sleep, but Beamunt assumes Eve’s role, first by chattering and talking, then kissing him, seducing the valiant knight, a fact which verse 1637 characterizes as “disen lasterbaeren roup” (this disgraceful robbery). I will argue that this ‘roup’ translates as ‘rape,’ which explains Mauricius’s subsequent anger and curse which seal Beamunt’s misery. In the view of a courtly knight, it proves to be unacceptable to become the victim of a woman’s seduction. Man’s pride cannot bear such a shame.
Ulrich Müller, Universität Salzburg, Institut für Germanistik
“L’auteur est mort, vive l’auteur”:
Love in Poetry, and Fiction
Love is a universal human topic (and problem), and therefore love is also a dominant issue of all kinds of poetry, everywhere and at any epoch. This is why a famous movie about love could be called “L’Eternel Retour” (1943: Jean Delannoy/Jean Cocteau), quoting Friedrich Nietzsche and using the medieval legend of Tristan and Isolde.
Medieval love-songs, written, composed and performed by Provençal trobadors, French trouvères, and German minnesingers were an important part of secular poetry of the European Middle Ages. Even more influential was the ideological concept of courtly love, of “fin amors” and “amour courtois”, of ‘Frauendienst’ and “Hohe Minne”, which were outlined, above all, in romances and lyric poetry. This concept is effective till today, at least in some respects. We do not know if, and how much this ideology of eroticism was also observed in real life, in the biography of medieval authors and their audiences.
Several years ago, French pundits tried to convince us that ‘the author’ is dead (“l’auteur est mort”), and a lot of academic articles were written about this problem. Surprisingly (or not surprisingly) poeple who have been still writing, producing, selling, buying, and reading books, did not care, probably they even did not realize the death of the authors. In fact, nowadays you can speak about an author again and discuss his biography as an important element of a literary analysis without fear of being identified as out-of-date.
Even more radical has been the concept that novels, poems and dramas have only little to do with the real life of their authors: Most of us learned that in poetry, for example, “lyrisches Ich” (lyrical I) and “biographisches Ich” (biographical I) must strictly be kept separate, i.e., when a trobador or a minnesinger says “I,” he does not speak of himself.
If you ever had the chance to meet authors of today, you could realize that they do not agree with this dogma, that most of them even are not interested in this subject. I will discuss this problem referring to a “cause celebre” of the late sixties, an erotic novel (some people called it pornographic), which was published in France and provoked a world-wide scandal, and I will demonstrate how much biography and literature are connected. Salman Rushdie (not the author of my example!) said that a writer composes a piece of literature “using the material of his own life and immediate surroundings and, by alchemy of art, making it strange” (Fury 2001, Vintage 2002 p.16).
Conclusion: Medieval poets composed, just like Goethe, “Erlebnislyrik,” and this “Erlebnislyrik” has always been partly “Rollenlyrik” (lyric poetry for dramatic performance). Medieval love poems, like all literature, are more or less influenced by the biography and mentality of their authors, and that means: Even here the author is highly important - and still/ again, metaphorically spoken, ‘alive’.
James Rushing, Rutgers University, Dept. of German Studies
When Mercury, sent by Jupiter, comes to tell Aeneas that he must leave Dido, the messenger god scolds the Trojan with the adverb “uxorius.” “’Tu nunc Karthaginis altae / fundamenta locas pulchramque uxorius urbem / exstruis? heu! regni rerumque oblite tuarum!’” (Aen iv.265-67) “Are you building up the foundations of lofty Carthage and a beautiful city, and all for your wife? Alas! You are forgetting your own affairs, your own kingdom!” The word “uxorius” accuses Aeneas of being too much under the influence of his wife, so that he forgets his own real business as a man, a warrior, one fated to found Rome. Aeneas’ abandonment of Dido is thus his duty, not only in the specific sense that he must leave her and go on to Italy, but also in the broader sense that such dalliance is inappropriate for a mature man with a public career. This is in keeping with a well-established line of imperial Roman thought, exemplified by Cicero’s Pro Caelo, according to which indulgence in the passions might be acceptable in a youth, but a mature man is supposed to turn to other things. Later in anitquity, commentators such as Fulgentius began to interpret Aeneas’s dalliance with Dido in terms of an Ages of Man model--Book 4 represented youth with its passions--and this interpretation remained influential throughout the Middle Ages. The two views are of course closely related, for what is forgivable passion in a youth is uxoriousness in a man. Aeneas is no youth, and his indulgence in passion with Dido cannot be excused as ludus. He is a mature man, a warrior, a widower with a son. For him to stay with Dido when he ought to be founding Rome is uxoriousness in the extreme.
Much the same can be said of Hartmann’s Erec, when, as a young king, he spends far too much of his time in bed with Enite instead of devoting himself to his duties. The Aeneid--and its allegorical interpretation being such an important part of medieval clerical culture and such an important model for medieval epic--it seems appropriate to ask whether Hartmann may have been influenced by Aeneas’s uxoriousness in his development of Erec’s excessive devotion to love. And, indeed, what could be a better definition of uxoriousness than the crucial lines from Erec?
Erec wente sînen lîp
grôzes gemach durch sîn wîp.
die minnete er sô sêre
daz er aller êre
durch si einen verphlac,
unz daz er sich sô gar verlca
daz niemen dehein ahte
ûf in gehaben mahte. (2966-73)
Aeneas, of course, must abandon Dido, later to find a better regulated love (or at least marriage?) with Lavina. In an analogous way, Erec must turn away from Enite, in order to learn how to love her in an appropriately regulated way.
It is clear that Hartmann wants us to think about Dido and Lavina and Aeneas, because he includes a lengthy description of Eneite’s saddle, on which is carved the story of Troy, Aneas, Dido, and Lavina. Dido appears on one side of the saddle, her death in the middle, and the marriage of Aeneas and Lavina on the other side. Unbridled passion must die, uxoriousness must be overcome, and it must be replaced with properly ordered marriage. Moreover, as Reinitzer has shown, the tent in which Mabonagrin’s lady sits is modelled on the tent that Dido gave to Aeneas, who later armed himself in it, before going out to fight for Lavina (in Heinrich von Veldecke). The tent thus serves to remind readers that what Mabonagrin’s girlfriend has done in asking him to spend all his days in the garden of Joie de la Court is wrong in the same way that it was wrong for Dido to ensnare Aeneas.
The suggestion that Aeneas’s uxoriousness is a model for Erec’s problem is not meant to replace or deny other proposed reading of Erec’s verligen. It can be sloth or luxuria and uxoriousness as well; it can have Christian significance while also being partly inspired by classical models.
But I think it is very likely that Hartmann was inspired by the example of Aeneas’s uxoriousness. In Chrétien’s romance, Erec falls into neglect of his duties before his ascension to the throne, and must overcome this weakness before he can become king. This suggests that Chrétien is inspired by the Ages of Man allegorization of the Aeneid. The extreme indulgence in passion is a youthful failing of Erec’s. But in Hartmann, Erec is already a king when he commits verligen, and thus, though still chronologically young, he can not be excused by his youth. As it was for Aeneas, this is not ludus, but uxoriousness.
Marilyn Sandidge, Dept. of English, Westfield State College, Westfield, MA
Rewriting the Formula: Love, Marriage, but No Transgression in Early Modern Literature
This paper will examine the way writers in early modern English literature were able to get beyond the inescapable medieval stereotype of female behavior--love, marriage, transgression--to establish more balanced roles for female characters in literature even though their society had not radically revised their views of women. The medieval world’s overriding emphasis on female as physical, derived in Western thought from Aristotle’s definition of female as the physical material within human beings and then intermixed with and reinforced by the Judeo-Christian creation myth of Eve as physical temptress, makes it difficult for medieval writers to envision secular women in nonsexual terms. The earthly corruption associated with the female body overshadows any appreciation of her ability to reproduce life; in fact, popular medieval characters such as Guenivere, Isolde and the Wife of Bath do not reproduce so that the focus on their sexuality is never undermined. After angering his female audience, Chaucer has to write a second book about women, this time recounting stories of good women, because he had used the standard stories of the time, which feature seductive maids and disloyal wives in his earlier work, The Book of the Duchess. How, then, are a large number of early modern writers able to rewrite the formula in their works?
As were the saintly women in medieval literature, the women in early modern English literature are given greater status and power when distanced from their reproductive bodies, but now as secular, not Christian figures. As scholars have noted, the conventions of Petrarchan poetry disembody female characters by reducing the women to separate body parts or abstract idealizations. Although these acts are usually seen to lessen the status of women, I believe that these disembodiments help to distance the early modern characters from the earlier conventional view of them as sexual creatures. When most English Renaissance sonneteers catalogue women’s features, they focus on safe body parts such as eyes, lips, and complexions. Neoplatonic writers such as Castiglione popularize the concept of female eyes and lips as conduits of the soul, and these now-innocent female features receive much attention in the poetry of the period. At the same time, the Petrarchan lover’s inevitable failure to gain the favors he would like from the woman redirects our attention to his desires instead of hers.
Queen Elizabeth herself redefines what it means to be a female by distancing herself from her reproductive organs while still emphasizing her desirability. As she plays the Virgin Queen, replacing Mary the virgin mother with the Fairy Queen, Elizabeth embodies a sexually attractive but pure woman. Elizabeth’s flirtations are seen by her contemporaries as role playing, which suggests a harmless activity. She repeatedly describes herself as having the heart of a woman but the stomach of a man, removing the whole child-bearing section of her body from her physical makeup. Other female characters are allowed greater roles in the literature through association with her non-threatening, idealized, and androgynous figure.
On the early modern stage, women distance themselves from their reproductive capabilities and gain surprising authority. In the comedies, Shakespeare’s virginal females such as Viola and Rosalind control the action. Male actors playing these female characters force a double sense of gender and reduce the sexual tension even further. In the romances, women like Hermione are banished during their childbearing years and welcomed back when safely past those years. Very few female characters give birth, and when they do, it usually leads to their destruction. The Duchess of Malfi and Annabella in ‘Tis a Pity She’s a Whore play powerful, admirable roles until they display their reproductive powers by giving birth to children.
Finally, the examples I have pointed to suggest that these English writers welcomed the opportunity to work with new material and fresh female characters when given Humanism’s freer access to Classical literature unfiltered through early Church writers. The new female characters Spenser and Shakespeare give us do not have to love, marry, and transgress. When Shakespeare does bring into his plays a woman such as Cressida whose story is already well-known, he has her act out the familiar pattern of betrayal, but these are the exceptions. Most of his females remain loyal wives, and when husbands like Leontes in The Winter’s Tale accuse their wives of adultery, they are proven wrong.
Dr. Penny Simons, Department of French, University of Sheffield
Love, Marriage and Transgression in Joufroi de Poiters A Case Of Literary Terrorism?
Joufroi de Poitiers, an anonymous and apparently incomplete thirteenth-century French romance, has enjoyed a rather ambivalent critical reception over the years. Viewed as a poor quality, derivative work by early twentieth-century writers, its claims upon the attention of modern scholarship were recognized in the work of the 1972 editor, John Grigsby; however, relatively few scholars have since engaged with the text.
This apparent lack of interest is probably attributable less to the intrinsic merits or otherwise of Joufroi as a literary creation than to certain problems which the transmission of the text presents to the critic. It is unfinished, ending abruptly after only 4613 lines and is preserved as a single text in a unique MS witness, in which it ends at the foot of the column upon the recto of folio 80. The verso is left blank and the last line is the first half of a couplet which is thus left incomplete and unrhymed. It seems clear that this represents the state of the romance, as it was known by or available to the scribe. With no further MSS available for comparison, there is no way of knowing if there ever was any further continuation to the work. One feels instinctively nervous about drawing conclusions about a palpably unfinished work.
Secondly, the work has only been dated to first half of the thirteenth century, possibly later, so its relationships with other texts remain unclear. The narrative also appears to degenerate or disintegrate toward its end as, by line 4613, we find the hero hastily married to a woman on grounds purely of political expediency, following a previous marriage (on mercenary grounds) and subsequent divorce from a bourgeoise. Two more, earlier, seductions of highborn ladies have simply resulted in the hero abandoning his conquest for further adventures.
This transgresses the courtly love code initially set up by the poet-narrator figure (clearly derived from those found in the earlier texts Le Bel Inconnu and Partonopeu de Blois) whose very obvious intrusion into the text appears to set up the ethical framework to the narrative. It becomes clear, however, that this framework cannot contain the behavior of the hero, nor indeed the baser instincts of the poet-narrator who eventually joins in the amatory ‘free-for-all’ which his hero is determined to enjoy.
The divergence of both hero and narrator from the courtly ethos of the romance can be seen as a transgressive mode of composition which at once sets up and undermines conventional expectations concerning narrative meaning. The Joufroi poet might be termed a ‘literary terrorist’, planting mines beneath the foundations of the established literary codes of his time. In his arsenal of subversion, sexual gratification is perhaps his most powerful weapon and he uses it to devastating effect in his portrayal of hero, narrator and of the hero’s double who appears in later adventures. If the courtly code exists to socialize the sexual urge, the Joufroi poet reinvests that urge with the power to challenge the constraints of courtly behavior.
The fragmented and highly unsatisfying situation found at the close of the extant text represents the aftermath of this poet’s destructive activities. How are we to respond to such a bombsite? Does the romance represent nothing more than wilful and wanton devastation? In this paper I want to argue that, in fact, Joufroi de Poitiers provides a remarkably perceptive, if very cynical, view of the process of romance composition which makes this a text worthy of our consideration. More important, we should not be worried about its incomplete state, for what our poet has cleverly constructed is a romance which is less unfinished than unfinishable; it therefore throws wide open the whole question of what constitutes medieval ‘romance’.
Un poète-terroriste ?
Amour, mariage et transgression dans Joufroi de Poitiers
Joufroi de Poitiers, roman anonyme et visiblement inachevé du XIIIe siècle, a connu un accueil mitigé de la part des critiques du vingtième siècle. Considéré le plus souvent comme un roman inférieur, manquant d’originalité, il fut édité par John Grigsby, en 1972 ; depuis, peu de critiques s’y sont intéressés.
Ce manque de consideration est peut-être attribuable moins aux vertus intrinsèques du Joufroi en tant que création littéraire qu’à certains problèmes que présente la transmission du texte. Le roman, préservé dans un seul manuscrit, est inachevé et s’arrête abruptement au vers 4613 au recto du folio 80. Le verso demeure blanc, et le dernier vers est le premier élément d’un distique dont la rime est orpheline. L’auteur n’a-t-il pas pu ou n’a-t-il pas voulu achever son texte ? Le scribe a-t-il copié tout ce qu’il avait à sa disposition ou est-ce que les circonstances l’ont empêché de réaliser son travail ? Puisqu’il s’agit d’un unicum, on ne peut savoir si le texte a connu une continuation ; en effet on se sent mal aisé de porter un jugement sur une œuvre inachevée.
Jusqu’ici il n’a pas été possible de suggérer une date plus précise pour notre roman que la première moitié du XIIIe siècle ; certains ont même avancé une date plus tardive. Impossible, donc, d’analyser ses rapports avec d’autres textes.
Le récit semble aussi dégénérer, se désagréger, vers la fin ; au vers 4613 le héros a contracté un mariage précipité avec une dame pour des raisons purement politiques et opportunes ; et cela après avoir déjà convolé en juste noce (cette fois pour des raisons pécuniaires) et divorcé d’une bourgeoise. Or précédemment son commerce avec deux nobles dames qu’il avait séduites ne l’avait pas empêché de poursuivre ses aventures militaires et amoureux.
Tout cela représente une transgression du code courtois établi au début du roman par le poète-narrateur (visiblement calqué sur celui d’œuvres plus anciennes Le Bel Inconnu et Partonopeus de Blois) . Les intrusions abruptes dans le texte de ce narrateur semblent établir un cadre éthique au récit ; mais ce cadre perd son pouvoir contraignant sur le comportement du héros et également sur les inclinations charnelles du poète-narrateur qui s’abandonne finalement à la mêlée sensuelle que cherche son héros.
L’abandon par le héros et le narrateur de leur éthique courtoise représente une transgression du processus de composition qui à la fois établit et sape les conventions déterminant la signification du récit. Ainsi le poète du Joufroi se présente comme un ‘terroriste littéraire’, posant ses mines pour saper les fondations des codes littéraires de son époque. La jouissance sexuelle est l’arme la plus puissante mise à sa disposition dans l’arsenal de subversion, arme dont il se sert de façon dévastatrice dans le portrait du héros, et de son double qui apparaît dans la seconde moitié du texte. Si le code courtois existe pour socialiser le désir sexuel, ici le poète le réinvestit de tout son pouvoir défiant les interdits du comportement courtois.
L’état lacunaire et profondément frustrant de la fin du récit est directement relié aux activités terroristes de notre poète. Mais comment réagir face à ce champ miné? Le roman représente-il que dévastation délibérée et dévergondage éhonté? Dans cette communication je chercherai à démontrer qu’au contraire, Joufroi de Poitiers nous offre une critique très perspicace, bien que cynique, du processus de composition médiévale et qu’en soi cela est digne de notre attention. Plus important encore, le fait que ce roman soit inachevé ne devrait pas nous poser de problèmes ; en fait ce que nous offre ce poète adroit est un roman plutôt inachevable qu’inachevé. Aussi nous oblige-t-il à réévaluer ce en quoi consiste le ‘roman’ médiéval.
Je tiens à remercier mon collègue Mario Longtin dont les précieux conseils sur la redaction de ce texte en français lui ont sans doute apporté tout ce qu’il y a de finesse ; qu’il y restent des faux pas, mea culpa. (PS)
Louise Vasvari, S.U.N.Y. Stone Brook, Dept. of Comp. Literature
“Buon cavallo e mal cavallo vuol sprone, e bona femina e mala femina vuol bastone”: Medieval Literary Representations of Wife Battering
In this paper my aim is to recast through a gender-conscious reading some medieval examples of traditional literary representations of wife battering, so as to assess more accurately textual presentations of male sexual politics through which concepts of women and gender are manipulated, fictionalized, fantasized and poeticized. Wife battering, along with rape and incest, with which I will also be concerned, are forms of sexual terrorism functioning as an institutionalized mechanism manifested through actual and implied violence to frighten and dominate women and to establish social control over them. Such violence is not a breakdown in the social order but, rather, an active factor in producing patriarchal culture, as well as the sign of a struggle for the maintenance of certain fantasies of masculine identity and power. The brutal process of subject[ificat]ion of females operates not merely through real life coercion but also through textualization in folklore and literature, which can function as propagandistic discourses for promoting the ideology justifying violence against women. What is at stake is the representation of “woman”, who needs to be produced in such a manner as to justify her domination while at the same time providing legitimation and social support for those who act out against her (men who beat “nagging” wives, for example). Where dominant discourses on gender construct the categories of woman and man as mutually exclusive and hierarchically related, the representation of violence itself is highly sexualized, and is inseparable from the notion of gender.
I shall be considering the folkloric and literary images of the disorderly, or “unruly woman,” a persistent antifeminist stereotype. She is characterized by her voracious and shrewish female mouth, always in some sense a topside-down displacement of that even more fearful orifice, the vagina. Together they imply an intrinsic relation between female garrulousness, female sexuality, and a world out of order. The best prophylactic to assuage male anxiety about women, both according to oral tradition and to sapiential literature, is their mastery, both as category of knowledge and as sexual object. By way of illustration I shall focus on some oft-repeated marriage plot fictions, in which sexuality and marriage is represented for the purpose of safeguarding the male-dominated social order. These misogynist stories, whether their directed reading is meant to be serious or humorous, are characterized by relentless sadism, verging on pornography. As I shall discuss, misogynist marriage fictions and pornographic discourse have in common the replacement of the real female self and creating an image of woman as a void, whose existence dependent on the real existence of men.
I shall examine how the ideology of wife battering is textualized, tracing it through shifting languages, genres, and intended audiences. I will argue that these retellings are subject to a limited number of conservative metanarratives. My specific examples will include, in addition to proverbs and other examples from oral tradition, two pairs of contrasting stories from two roughly contemporary fourteenth-century frame tales, the Decameron and the Spanish Conde Lucanor, an education book for princes, the former explicitly designated for a female readership and the second for a male aristocratic audience. Each pair of stories purportedly illustrates the case of shrewish woman in need of discipline, contrasted with a good woman needing no correction. But, as we shall see, all the stories just go to prove, as stated in the Italian proverb of the title of this paper (taken from one of the stories) that all women, good or bad, need to be beaten and ultimately reduced to the level of mute animal, or, to translate it into another English proverb: “A woman, a horse, and a hickory tree / The more you beat ‘em the better they be.” Additionally, each of the stories will also be used to illustrate other factors of sexual politics that complicate their spectacular disciplinary programs: these include male homosocial bonding, the need for males to master their wives before they can master other men, the fear of female desire and the need to submit it to control through marital rape and other forms of spectacular domestic punishment, not only of the wife or bride but also of the “terrible mother-in-law.” Finally, the stories promote as positive models of womanhood those who have internalized their batterer’s projected image of them and have mastered the fine art of self-abasement. becoming complicit in their own battering. The only means of self-reclamation of these women, is extravagance within their self-surrender, their subjectivity, desire, and agency unformed and unexpressed.
Elizabeth Chesney Zegura, The University of Arizona, Dept. of French and Italian
True Stories and Alternative Discourses:
The Game of Love in Marguerite de Navarre’s Heptaméron
In her prologue Marguerite de Navarre describes the Heptaméron, labeled “the world of many loves” by Jules Gelernt, as a “French Decameron,” different from its predecessor in only one area: in contrast to the work of her fourteenth-century Italian model, she contends, her stories will be true. While this claim to greater truthfulness than Boccaccio may well have merit, given Marguerite’s more frequent references to local place names, historical figures, and judicial proceedings in her short-story collection, it is also exceedingly difficult to assess. The concept of “truth” itself is multifaceted, after all; and while both recent and traditional scholarship explores intriguing parallels between the Heptaméron, Marguerite’s own life, and the historical record in general, there are also numerous folkloric and literary echoes in her text. Further, protestations of veracity are a rhetorical commonplace in Renaissance literature, even in the fanciful masterworks of Rabelais.
Rather than evaluating the factual basis of stories in the Heptaméron in relation to those of Boccaccio, this study will focus instead on the discursive strategies, both playful and serious, that Marguerite uses to construct and implement her archaeology of truth, particularly in regard to love and marriage. From the outset, first of all, and despite her own aristocratic upbringing and humanistic education, she eschews learned discourse, insisting that information from “gens de lettres” or “those who have studied” will be discounted. If on one hand this statement seems to target Roman Catholic clerics, regularly excoriated by Marguerite and fellow evangelicals for their hypocrisy and unreliable rhetoric, it also implicates official, educated discourse in its entirety, suggesting that veracity or “la vérité de l’histoire” can easily be compromised by a combination of power and artful language. Especially in matters of love and marriage that constitute the major focus of her prose writings, Marguerite demonstrates that truth often resides on the “other side of the blanket,” underneath the public facade of propriety and respectability afforded by wealth, rank, and privilege.
To be sure, Marguerite is not a champion of popular discourse in any conventional sense: her intratextual storytellers and a large percentage of her protagonists are well-to-do, only a few of her stories are scatological, and her own style of writing, while in the vernacular rather than Latin, is clearly educated and at times even erudite. Although popular culture and language do figure occasionally in her narrative, her excavation of truths that are suppressed by learned discourse is achieved through a variety of other methods: she explores the marginalized perspective of women and servants, recognizes body language as a mode of communication, relies heavily on eye-witness accounts and nonverbal evidence, and stages wide-ranging, informal discussions among intratextual storytellers who rarely reach a consensus.
While all are gently born, the ten devisants who introduce and discuss the Heptaméron’s seventy-two short stories differ by age, gender, marital status, station in life, moral standards, and a host of other variables; and these differences are reflected in their widely divergent attitudes toward love, marriage, adultery, and the world in general. Even in such wide-ranging discussions, traditional rules of precedence that privilege patriarchal discourse might be expected to suppress, or at least dominate, the alternative perspectives of women and lower-ranking men. By setting the Heptaméron outside the French court, and provisionally deconstructing the organizing principles of that world in a flood, however, Marguerite circumvents this eventuality, and ensures that a plurality of opinions will be heard, through the invention of an equalizing jeu or game. Stranded in a monastery in the Pyrenees, and waiting for the bridge back home to be rebuilt, the devisants construct a pastime organized not by the highest-ranking male, Hircan, but rather by his young wife Parlamente, a critical thinker often associated with Marguerite herself. Further, it is her serviteur or admirer, a gentleman of lesser rank than her husband, who earns the right to tell the first story, a tale of adultery and murder that hinges upon the testimony of servants.
Finally, and most importantly, the discourses on marriage, love, and transgression that emerge from this experiment, and that constitute the focus of this study, are as diverse as the characters involved. While the divine love that dominates Marguerite’s poetry and theater continues to figure as an ideal in the Heptaméron, serving moreover as a template for a happy marriage or courtly relationship, much of the volume contests rather than affirms the real-world existence of fidelity, honesty, and perfect love. Loving husbands who surreptitiously seduce chambermaids, clerics who disguise their lust with religious rhetoric, women who have their lovers killed to protect their reputations, and incestuous relationships cloaked in respectability are all unmasked by Marguerite’s counter-discourse. In both her short stories and the freewheeling discussions that frame them, the author revisits traditional models of marriage and courtly relationships with a critical eye, questioning the imperative of wifely obedience in the face of marital infidelity, scrutinizing the gap between the rhetoric and reality of “parfaite amitié,” and weighing a host of alternative and unconventional strategies for negotiating the myriad challenges of love.