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Telling the Story in the Middle Ages

Telling the Story in the Middle Ages: Essays in Honour of Evelyn Birge Vitz

Series: Gallica
Copyright Date: 2015
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Telling the Story in the Middle Ages
    Book Description:

    Much of our modern understanding of medieval society and cultures comes through the stories people told and the way they told them. Storytelling was, for this period, not only entertainment; it was central to the law, religious ritual and teaching, as well as the primary mode of delivering news. The essays in this volume raise and discuss a number of questions concerning the strategies, contexts and narratalogical features of medieval storytelling. They look particularly at who tells the story; the audience; how a story is told and performed; and the manuscript and social context for such tales. Laurie Postlewate is Senior Lecturer, Department of French, Barnard College; Kathryn Duys is Associate Professor, Department of English and Foreign Languages, University of St Francis; Elizabeth Emery is Professor of French, Montclair State University.

    eISBN: 978-1-78204-484-0
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. List of Contributors
    (pp. xi-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)
    Kathryn A. Duys, Elizabeth Emery and Laurie Postlewate

    The storyteller on the cover of this book stands on the margin, both inside and outside the story.¹ Will he momentarily step into the hall to begin his entertainment at the feast going on inside? Or will he turn his eyes our way instead and launch into the Arthurian romance that has already begun within the frame to his right? Either way, his vielle is raised to play an overture whose melodies have grown so faint that we can now only imagine them. His eyes are trained on the courtly revelry beside him, as are the eyes of the kneeling...

  7. Part I: Speaking of Stories

    • ‘Of Aunters They Began to Tell’: Informal Story in Medieval England and Modern America
      (pp. 13-30)
      Linda Marie Zaerr

      Evelyn Birge Vitz has suggested that ‘if we can see and hear the medieval romances performed, we will understand many new things about their dramatic and interactive capacities: their performance quality’.¹ As one of the performers she has inspired and encouraged, I have performed medieval English and French romances in many ways, with and without music, on a quest to understand how they might have been embodied by minstrels. I would like to extend her injunction in a new direction, turning to informal contexts, and considering a mode of storytelling that moves beyond thegestourin the feast hall and...

    • The Storyteller’s Verbal jonglerie in ‘Renart jongleur’
      (pp. 31-46)
      Marilyn Lawrence

      Representations of storytellers and their performance within medieval narratives provide rich material for study. Particularly revealing in this regard is a subset of medieval narratives in which characters temporarily assume the identity of a professional storyteller. In such key moments, readers or listeners witness the process by which an actual, extradiegetic storyteller constructs the fictional figure of an intradiegetic storyteller. The tale of ‘Renart jongleur’ – branch Ib of theRoman de Renart– is one such narrative. This story, wherein Renart disguises himself as an inept Breton minstrel, shows us how the author constructs Renart’s identity as a storyteller.¹...

    • Plusurs en ai oïz conter: Performance and the Dramatic Poetics of Voice in the lais of Marie de France
      (pp. 47-60)
      Simonetta Cochis

      The human voice resonates in Marie de France’s narrativelais. She says in her prologue that ‘plusurs en ai oïz conter / nes vueil laissier ne obliër’ (I heard many of them told / I do not want to let them go or forget them [ll. 39–40]).¹ Today we still discuss her crafting of a collection of stories to join the succession of poets and performers who retransmittedaventuresand made them memorable.² Modern readers and scholars of Marie’slaisconnect to this continuum of reception and transmission, bringing individual approaches and knowledge to their analyses, as Marie suggests:...

    • Who Tells the Stories of Poetry? Villon and his Readers
      (pp. 61-74)
      Nancy Freeman Regalado

      It has been my extraordinary good fortune to have been Timmie Vitz’s partner in medieval studies throughout our entire career at New York University, starting in 1968. It was my privilege to follow her leadership in our many shared enterprises including the NYU College of Arts and Science Medieval and Renaissance Studies Program (where I served as Director after she stepped down in 1992), our ongoing Colloquium in Orality, Writing, and Culture (started in 1987), and our two-year series of workshops on Storytelling in Performance in history, law, literature, music and medicine (2004–06). Together, we worked with remarkable students,...

  8. Part II: Inscribing Stories

    • The Audience in the Story: Novices Respond to History in Gautier de Coinci’s Chasteé as nonains
      (pp. 77-92)
      Kathryn A. Duys

      Gautier de Coinci shaped his great Marian collection, theMiracles de Nostre Dame, as one long storytelling session, and like all good storytellers he incorporated personally meaningful allusions to engage his audience and stimulate a lively response.² His listeners and readers were many – highborn men and women, lay and clerical, all friends – but foremost among them were his neighbors, the nuns of Notre Dame de Soissons.³ He dedicated his work to them at the heart of his collection within two monumental poems, the ‘Miracle of the Chaste Empress’ and its commentary, Gautier’s sermon on chastity,La Chasteé as...

    • Effet de parlé and effet d’écrit: The Authorial Strategies of Medieval French Historians
      (pp. 93-110)
      Cristian Bratu

      Milman Parry’s seminal work on Homeric verse introduced the idea that voice and performance may have played a part in the creation and reception of medieval histories and chronicles, thus opening a new field of scholarly exploration. Known by different names – orality, vocality, performance – this was an area where the written word was surrounded by allegedly uneducated, illiterate or semi-literate voices, and did not have absolute authority.¹ Evelyn Birge Vitz has been among the most avid listeners and interpreters of these voices, and has also actively helped younger colleagues to hear and examine them. After reading herOrality...

    • Or, entendez! Jacques Tahureau and the Staging of the Storytelling Scene in Early Modern France
      (pp. 111-122)
      Kathleen Loysen

      Well into the early modern period and beyond, French authors such as Martial d’Auvergne and Marguerite de Navarre remained devoted to the literary representation of oral storytellers. Indeed, far from producing texts with writerly, externalized narrators attached to them, they created images of storytelling circles, scenes that remind readers of how medieval storytelling was thought to have taken place: groups of people, gathered together, orally exchanging stories either with or without the physical presence of a book. Such works provide a fascinating blend of text and represented voice: printed pages which appear to speak, on which nearly all the words...

    • Telling the Story of the Christ Child: Text and Image in Two Fourteenth-Century Manuscripts
      (pp. 123-140)
      Maureen Boulton

      Medieval narrative, as Evelyn Birge Vitz has demonstrated repeatedly, is eminently performable. It could be recited by minstrels and jongleurs before groups large or small, or read aloud in intimate settings. Characters in romances sometimes enact the stories they read within it, and modern students can learn about medieval narrative through their own performances.¹ Performance can also provide a fruitful perspective for thinking about religious narratives: in addition to being recited or read aloud, religious texts were designed by their authors to influence behavior and they often admonished the audience, which might comprise an individual reader. Thus the listener or...

    • Authorizing the Story: Guillaume de Machaut as Doctor of Love
      (pp. 141-154)
      Joyce Coleman

      I first met Timmie Vitz in 1992, when as a graduate student I gave a paper on ‘Aural History’ in a Modern Language Association session that she and Nancy Freeman Regalado had organized.¹ Timmie and Nancy swept me up into their joint passion for the study of medieval narrative performance, and I have benefited immeasurably, both professionally and personally, ever since. Timmie has been an endlessly kind and encouraging mentor and friend, her scholarship an inspiration, her pedagogical and website innovations a marvel. I have been very lucky to know Timmie and to have been her friend and admirer all...

  9. Part III: Moving Stories

    • Retelling the Story: Intertextuality, Sacred and Profane, in the Late Roman Legend of St Eugenia
      (pp. 157-170)
      E. Gordon Whatley

      Modern scholars of medieval hagiography have recognized for some time that the phenomenon ofmouvance, or variation and adaptation in the retelling and recopying of the stories of the saints, can offer important insights into the shifting values, agendas and anxieties, as well as the language and literary tastes, of medieval writers, readers and devotional communities. Timmie Vitz, to whom it is a pleasure and a privilege to dedicate this essay, has contributed significantly to the impressive body of scholarly work on the oral and written adaptation of Latin legends into the European vernaculars during the High and Late Middle...

    • Ruodlieb and Romance in Latin: Audience and Authorship
      (pp. 171-186)
      Elizabeth Archibald

      What did it mean in the Middle Ages to write the sort of narrative that we now call a romance in Latin, or to read one? We have much evidence of the Church’s disapproval of romance, yet romances in Latin exist: they must have been written mostly by clerics, and aimed at a largely ecclesiastical audience (of course many vernacular romances were also written by clerics). Stephen Jaeger and others have argued that the rapid development of the romance genre in the twelfth century was an attempt by clerics to try to establish civilized standards among the knightly class, but...

    • Turner a pru: Conversion and Translation in the Vie de seint Clement
      (pp. 187-204)
      Laurie Postlewate

      The turning of the human soul to God in conversion and the textual turning, or translation to the vernacular, are parallel and complementary transformations in the anonymous thirteenth-centuryVie de seint Clement.² The narrative of the conversion of Clement I, a former pagan who under the tutelage of the apostle Peter became the bishop of Rome, was translated and adapted from composite Latin sources; its reworking into some 15,000 lines of Anglo-Norman octosyllabic couplets exemplifies how hagiographic texts reflect the ideological concerns and textual practices of their time.³ Of course, both conversion and translation are common motifs in hagiography. The...

    • Stories for the King: Narration and Authority in the ‘Crusade Compilation’ of Philippe VI of France (London, British Library, MS Royal 19.D.i)
      (pp. 205-218)
      Mark Cruse

      From the moment he assumed the French throne in 1328, King Philippe VI announced his intention to go on crusade. While his activities over the next eight years yielded little militarily, they did leave a significant documentary trail that provides insight into the late medieval understanding of crusade. One artifact stands out – London, British Library, MS Royal 19.D.i – a manuscript that reveals the extent to which storytelling and communication were crucial to crusade ideology and planning. It is designed to highlight the king’s need to acquire a wide range of knowledge about foreign lands through stories and reports,...

    • Le Berceau de la littérature française: Medieval Literature as Storytelling in Nineteenth-Century France
      (pp. 219-236)
      Elizabeth Emery

      Predominantly literate societies have tended to trivialize oral storytelling, dismissing it as a genre belonging to children and the underprivileged, those without the political or intellectual means to record their narratives for posterity. Such attitudes have often resulted in the infantilization of populations that rely largely on oral traditions, despite the complexity and sophistication of their narrative structures and mnemonic systems. This was as evident in British explorers’ disdain for the orally transmitted stories of India and Africa as it was in Caribbean plantation owners’ condescension toward slaves and their ‘childish’ storytelling circles.¹ Within France, such prejudices extended to ‘primitive’...

  10. Storytelling Tribute:: An Ode to Friendship

    • Retelling the Old Story
      (pp. 239-244)
      Samuel N. Rosenberg

      A good story is hard to forget. It doesn’t let you tell it only once and then shelve it forever. Nor does it suffer immutability. It wants to be told repeatedly, and each new telling is somehow, deliberately or not, different from those that have gone before. A good story evolves over time, changing language and medium, shifting audience, altering focus, recasting its purpose and motivation. Surely, no tale in Western literature has undergone so many tellings, retellings, adaptations, reshapings, revisions and translations as the many-faceted tale of King Arthur and his knights. This creative and recreative work began in...

  11. INDEX
    (pp. 245-260)
    (pp. 261-262)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 263-265)