Eugene Vance

title.none: Chretien, Yvain, ed. Hult

identifier.other: baj9928.9404.005 94.04.05

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Eugene Vance, University of Washington.

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 1994

identifier.citation: Chretien de Troyes. Le chevalier au lion, ou le roman d'Yvain. Series: Lettres gothiques. Paris: Livre de Poche, 1994. ISBN: ISBN 2-253-06652.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: Bryn Mawr Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 94.04.05

Chretien de Troyes. Le chevalier au lion, ou le roman d'Yvain. Series: Lettres gothiques. Paris: Livre de Poche, 1994. ISBN: ISBN 2-253-06652.

Reviewed by:

Eugene Vance
University of Washington.

Professors of French who have the privilege of introducing the romances of Chretien de Troyes in survey courses to undergraduates who know French, or else in seminars where Old French is a concern, will rejoice at the publication of Yvain in this bilingual (Old French/Modern French) edition. This is volume 17 in a series called Lettres gothiques, a title that should not worry those of us who prefer Romanesque. Like the competing series (10/18, and Garnier-Flammarion), Lettres gothiques is intended to make significant works of medieval French literature available in reliable and lowcost editions, and it certainly succeeds. The series is directed by Michel Zink, newly elected to the College de France, and is so far the best of the three series I have just mentioned, and is a bit more pricey. However, the printing and paper are better as well.

It is a remarkable fact that the French are only now producing good and lowpriced editions and translations of their medieval masterpieces. Indeed, with regard to Chretien, the English translations have in general been better than those into modern French. At last, the situation has changed. David Hult's translation is very literal and close, and keeps the reader in close contact with the facing Old French text. There are no embellishments to inflate Chretien's rather direct and fluent style, no metrical scheme, and no search for rhymes. Hult has respected Chretien's tense-aspect, that is, Chretien's rather flexible use of tenses to produce the illusion of temporal perspective in his narrative. Because Hult's translation (which he hardly discusses) is so unpretentious and literal, it constantly points beyond itself to the original language of the romance— certainly a positive effect.

Hult has made a serious project out of the edition itself, carefully explaining his editorial rationale in an introduction, and, in his text, offering variant readings at the bottom of each page.

Hult gives a sober introduction to critical issues raised by Chretien's masterpiece, as well as comments on the manuscripts consulted. There are no running pedagogical notes dealing with the story itself. Hult's bibliography is of modest proportions, but balanced and catholic in substance. Since a vitriolic polemic has been waged against Hult in recent times by Karl Uitti, of Princeton, and since textual editing is not my province, I will stay on the sidelines— and applaud Hult from there for his forthrightness.

Together, Zink and Hult are to be thanked for putting such a fine instrument into the hands of students and colleagues. The edition and translation will surely command the market for some time to come. For those who do not know the series, I should recall that its titles include Chretien's other great romances, as well as editions of Marie de France's Lais, of Villon's poetry (complete), of the Roman de la Rose, of Tristan et Iseut (all the French version, plus a translation of the one in Old Norse), and the Chanson de Roland. Combined with the resources of the other series I have mentioned above, Lettres Gothiques makes the teaching of Medieval French ever so much more interesting and substantial than it was even just a decade ago.