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Sacred Fictions of Medieval France

Sacred Fictions of Medieval France: Narrative Theology in the Lives of Christ and the Virgin, 1150-1500

Series: Gallica
Copyright Date: 2015
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 394
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  • Book Info
    Sacred Fictions of Medieval France
    Book Description:

    The story of the life of Christ and his mother was told in many texts in various French vernaculars (Anglo-Norman and Old Occitan, as well as Old and Middle French) between the middle of the twelfth century and the end of the fifteenth; there are more than a hundred such texts, extant in at least 400 manuscripts. These "sacred fictions" are the subject of this book. Given that the principal events in the lives of Mary and Jesus were well known to potential audiences, the choice of genre was the most important decision facing a medieval author. The writers of these works made deliberate formal choices which their audiences recognized and which provided one frame of reference for reading them. Professor Boulton here classifies the different lives of Mary and Jesus according to the various narrative forms they take: epic, romance, allegory, chronicle, and meditative text. In addition, because a text's embodiment in its codex reflects how it was encountered by medieval readers, each chapter considers the transmission of the texts, as well as their often radical alteration in different manuscripts when they survive in multiple copies. Maureen Boulton is Professor of French at the University of Notre Dame.

    eISBN: 978-1-78204-515-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-20)

    This book presents a general (and preliminary) survey of the many texts which retell the lives of Christ and his mother in various French vernaculars (Anglo-Norman and Old Occitan, as well as Old and Middle French) between the middle of the twelfth century and the second half of the fifteenth century. These texts vary greatly in narrative form (epic, romance, allegory, chronicle, and meditation) and were written both in verse (in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries) and in prose (in the fourteenth and fifteenth). Their popularity with medieval readers may be estimated both from the large number of different texts...

  6. 1 Sacred Romances: Genealogy, Lineage and Cyclicity
    (pp. 21-80)

    Before it came to designate a literary genre, the old French wordromanindicated the (vernacular) language of a text. A work inromanwas set off from Latin, the learned and liturgical language, and aimed at a lay rather than a clerical audience. The ‘translation’ of Classical learning from Latin to romance was a major element of themise en roman, at least implicitly, but often explicitly.¹ The genre designatedromanemerged in the course of the twelfth century with numerous distinctive, if not exclusive, characteristics. The first of these was its formal structure, the octosyllabic couplet (also used...

  7. 2 Sacred Epic and the Diffusion of Anti-Jewish Sentiment
    (pp. 81-140)

    Thechanson de geste, which typically recounts the wars of historical (and pseudo-historical) French heroes in the manner of an epic, has long been treated as the oldest genre of vernacular narrative in France. Nevertheless, for most of its recorded history it co-existed with the romance and was subject to many of the same influences. Thus, while the Old French epic probably originated in an oral tradition, the earliest surviving examples from the twelfth century (theChanson de Roland, Gormont et Isembart, theChanson de Guillaume), already reflect written, and often clerical traditions. The laterchansons de gestewere composed...

  8. 3 Sacred Allegory and Meditation
    (pp. 141-190)

    Allegorical writing clearly fascinated medieval writers and readers, but modern critics have been slower to share their enthusiasm – to such an extent that Hans Robert Jauss opened his survey of medieval allegorical forms with an examination of critical dismissals of the genre.¹ Since then, critics have increasingly come to appreciate allegorical writing, and particularly the sub-genre of the spiritual quest, which concerns us here.² Inherent in the mode is a kind of double vision:

    They [readers] are expected to see both the visionary world as it is seen by the stumbling narrator and the same world in its universal...

  9. 4 Sacred Histories: the Chronicles of Jean d’Outremeuse and Jean Mansel
    (pp. 191-228)

    The tradition of combining sacred and profane history began in the early fourth century with Eusebius, whose GreekChronicleconflated the chronological canons of the Hellenistic historians of Mesopotamia and Egypt with those of the Greeks, Romans, Hebrews, and Christians; he reconciled them into summary annals covering the history of the world from Creation (which he placed in 5198 B.C.) to the year 324. His annals were translated into Latin by Jerome, and were used and reused as the basis for similar chronicles and histories throughout the Middle Ages.¹ Building on that tradition, early Christian historians like Isidore of Seville...

  10. 5 Sacred Imaginations: Lives of Christ and the Virgin in Texts of Affective Devotion
    (pp. 229-284)

    One of the distinctive features of late medieval society was the intensity of religious feeling among the laity, particularly ‘the literate, the leisured and in urban populations’,¹ who hungered for a form of spirituality that went deeper than the minimal observances required by the Church. One manifestation of this desire was the development and spread of ‘Books of Hours’, which from the middle years of the thirteenth century gave lay people access to a form of spirituality that had long been restricted to the cloister. Composed of elements borrowed from the monastic prayer-book called the ‘Breviary’, the Book of Hours...

  11. Epilogue: Lives and Afterlives
    (pp. 285-298)

    As the previous chapters of this book have shown, vernacular lives of Christ and Mary achieved a broad circulation in France from the twelfth century onwards, and were cast in many different narrative forms. Their popularity is clear from the numerous individual narratives that were composed, as well as from the extensive circulation of many of those narratives, and is a result of the effectiveness of narrative theology. The earliest French lives of Christ and the Virgin appeared in the twelfth century, with the poems of Wace and Herman de Valenciennes, who adopted the forms of romance and epic, respectively....

  12. Appendix: Lists of Manuscript by Chapter
    (pp. 299-328)
    (pp. 329-364)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 365-380)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 381-383)