Dr. Gail Orgelfinger

title.none: Taylor, ed., La Pucelle (Dr. Gail Orgelfinger)

identifier.other: baj9928.0803.013 08.03.13

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Dr. Gail Orgelfinger, University of Maryland, Baltimore County,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2008

identifier.citation: Taylor, Craig, ed. Joan of Arc: La Pucelle. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2006. Pp. xxii, 370. ISBN: $22.00 (pb) 0-7190-6847-9.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 08.03.13

Taylor, Craig, ed. Joan of Arc: La Pucelle. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2006. Pp. xxii, 370. ISBN: $22.00 (pb) 0-7190-6847-9.

Reviewed by:

Dr. Gail Orgelfinger
University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Craig Taylor, Lecturer in Medieval History at the University of York, has selected and translated a generous number of documents that provide historical context, contemporary witness, and posthumous judgments on Joan of Arc, or, as he argues is a more accurate and descriptive appellation, La Pucelle. He also refers to Charles VII as such, regardless of date, and not as "dauphin," even before his coronation, according to French custom. The book, available in both hard and paper copy (this review is based on the paperback), includes maps of France in 1429; the strategic areas contested at the siege of Orléans; a genealogical chart of the House of Valois, to which Charles VII belonged, and a chronology of events central to the career and afterlife of La Pucelle from the battle of Agincourt in 1415 to the sentence of Nullification in 1456, and her canonization in 1920.The volume contains a comprehensive Introduction, keyed to the documents, and five sections of documents: The life of Joan of Arc, beginning with the Treaty of Troyes; the Trial of Condemnation; Debating Joan of Arc; the Nullification Trial; and the Memory of Joan of Arc. I first met Craig Taylor at the 39th International Congress on Medieval Studies in 2004 when I participated in a roundtable discussion on teaching Joan of Arc among the disciplines and lamented, with others, the difficulty of acquiring appropriate course materials for undergraduates. This book is intended for scholar-teachers: those who teach courses on Joan of Arc in various disciplines, and as a ready reference for scholars who would then consult sources in the original languages.

In his Preface, Taylor explains the genesis and rationale for this collection of documents, many of which are available in English translation, in whole or in part, both in other texts, and online. Those translations, which were to form the basis of a document-based history course on Joan of Arc, were not, in Taylor's words, rendered "properly" into English (ix). Thus, his first task was to identify best editions, in the process recovering several sources to which little contemporary attention has been paid. An important choice was to reproduce the trial transcripts' use of indirect discourse (third person and past tense) to emphasize that they are "not verbatim transcripts of the words of witnesses but rather carefully constructed and reshaped interpretations of what was said" (xi). Moreover, the Latin testimony, compiled under the direction of Bishop Pierre Cauchon, was based on the incomplete "French minute," yet there are notable discrepancies. These Taylor identifies in his notes.

An example of Taylor's method may be seen in a famous exchange between Joan and Cauchon on March 1st 1431, when she was asked about the physical form of the Archangel Michael when he appeared to her, "Asked how St Michael looked when he appeared, she answered that she did not see his crown, and she knew nothing about her [sic] clothing. Asked if he was naked, she replied: 'Do you think God does not have the means to clothe him?'" (164). Taylor's base text is the edition by Tisset: Interrogata in qua figura erat sanctus Michael, dum sibi apparuit: Respondit quod non vidit sibi coronam; et de vestibus suis nichil scit. Interrogata an ipse erat nudus: Responsit: Cogitatis vos quod Deus non habeat unde ipsum vestire? (I, 86). Based on a different edition of the trial, Pierre Champion's, Daniel Hobbins' recent translation (which also preserves the original verb tenses "except when doing so would confuse the meaning" (xii), renders Joan's response more colloquially: "Do you think God can't find him clothes?" (75). In Edward Hyams' translation of Régine Pernoud's Joan of Arc: By Herself and Her Witnesses, Joan is made to say "Do you think that God cannot afford to clothe him?" Finally, in his translation of Pernoud and Marie-Véronique Clin's Joan of Arc: Her Story, Jeremy DuQ. Adams writes Joan's answer as "Do you think that God doesn't have the wherewithal to give him clothes?" (116). Granted the diverse Latin and French sources translated into English here, one can see the translator's dilemma. These texts would likely also form the basis of most college courses on Joan. My comparison is not meant to criticize any of the four approaches, but to emphasize Taylor's attempt to be literal and accurate as well as to write clear English.

Given the extraordinary number of documents that have survived, an equal challenge was to decide what not to include. Notable among the omissions is some of the "repetitive testimony" from the early years of the nullification inquiry, as well as the full texts of the original Seventy Articles, later distilled to the Twelve that indicted Joan. Some users will object to these omissions, but scholars, on the one hand, are familiar with them, and students would find them hard going. Taylor also admits that recent critical approaches to medieval gender and culture have not been applied outside the trial records. There is work to be done, for example, on establishing the relationships among the oft-cited 15th century chronicles. Other editorial choices are also explained. As an historian, Taylor argues that chronology is particularly important in evaluating any document in its context; thus, his decision to present the materials sequentially. While this would also make sense as the organizational principle for a course, it would offer some challenges to a thematic approach, in terms of sorting through the materials in the book.

Despite a great deal of cogent analysis, both of issues that affected contemporary attitudes towards Joan, and the documents themselves, Taylor contends in his Introduction: "I do not intend to debate whether Joan was truly inspired by a divine or supernatural power, or simply the victim of mental illness. It seems to me that this is less an historical question than a matter of personal opinion or faith" (3, n. 3). There is, however, a great deal of idiosyncratic human behavior that can be explained without implicating either divine inspiration or mental illness and which, it could be argued, is explicable through political and cultural analysis. Taylor sidesteps some of the critical discussion here. But he is quite right to eschew subjective approaches to this matter, that do lead some scholars to invest far too heavily in what we know of human behavior in the twenty-first century, and not enough in what we do not know about it in the fifteenth. This is certainly a gap in the current Johannic scholarship.

The Introduction is further divided into five sections, following an introduction to the political complexities of the Hundred Years' War in the first three decades of the 15th century: supporters of Joan, enemies of Joan, remembering Joan, gendering Joan, and reading Joan. These discussions are keyed to the documents. Joan's supporters were those who considered seriously the claims of a visionary at a time when prophecy was regarded with skeptical caution, yet not summarily dismissed. Taylor accounts for the currency of prophecies, and describes the importance of the Church's procedures to determine their authenticity, the discretio spirituum. He discusses what can be known or inferred about the first interrogation Joan underwent at Poitiers before she was permitted to join the army at Orléans. Here, too, appear early affirmations of faith in Joan by Christine de Pisan and Alain Chartier. But her enemies greatly outnumbered her supporters, given the complexity of relations among France, Burgundy, and England, as well as the dicey relationship between Church and military authorities. Taylor provides an economical précis of the movement of the trial, in both its political and religious dimensions. He suggests, "It may be more useful to see the trial of Joan of Arc as an expedient solution to the difficult situation in which the English found themselves once Joan had been captured" (29), ransom and outright execution both carrying forward the danger Joan might pose to them. So a trial strictly by the books had to be staged and the interrogation carried out in such a way that Joan would eventually condemn herself out of her own mouth. But it was indeed possible, even necessary, in the Church's eyes, to view Joan's actions, particularly her cross-dressing, defiance of ecclesiastical authority, and association with figures themselves suspect of heresy (such as the mendicant friar Richard) as questionable and worth probing for heretical speech or apostasy.

Two of the last three introductory sections take up the afterlife of Joan of Arc in the forms of the Nullification proceedings and the vexing problems of the contemporary documents. Taylor clearly points out the dangers in accepting any of these documents at face value. The third section attempts to sort out medieval and modern responses to Joan's "gendered identity" (46). This includes the issues of her surname, epithet, virginity, transvestism, and the images constructed for her--as shepherdess, a new Esther or Judith, a visionary. Any one of the topics covered in this introduction could be, and has been, exhaustively treated in any numbers of scholarly books and articles. Taylor's balanced overview would serve as a very useful, but not overwhelming, prelude to classroom study of La Pucelle.

The core of the book is, of course, the 105 documents and excerpts. Each entry is dated, with the source for Taylor's translation and the original language identified, and accompanied by a short explanatory head note. Footnotes provide historical context, definitions of such terms as "Armagnac," identifications of persons mentioned in passing, citations of Biblical passages, and some references to the scholarship. [A brief "Select Bibliography" follows the documents.] Omissions in the documents are generally marked by ellipsis; the nature of the extract is otherwise made clear. In addition to copious selections from the trial testimony, Taylor has included Joan's and others' letters, the anonymous "Ballade contre les Anglais," Christine de Pisan's Ditié de Jehanne D'Arc in Kennedy and Varty's translation, and excerpts from Martin de Franc's Le champion des Dames. There are brief passages from chronicles, and some notable inclusions of contemporary witness, such as item 60: Letter of remission regarding two inhabitants of Abbeville (6 July 1432), extracted from the Journal d'un Bourgeois de Paris, which quotes Joan as uttering an obscenity (235).

As one who regularly teaches a course on "Images of Joan of Arc," I would most likely adopt this book for its convenience and its attempt to render the original documents accurately. Anyone who teaches such a course in any field other than history, such as my own in literature, or one that covers the post-medieval afterlife of Joan of Arc would supplement it as needed and appropriate. Scholars will want it as a ready reference and guide to source documents.


Hobbins, Daniel, transl. The Trial of Joan of Arc. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005.

Pernoud, Régine, Joan of Arc by Herself and Her Witnesses. Trans. Edward Hyams. Lanham, MD: Scarborough House, 1982.

Pernoud, Régine and Marie Véronique Clin. Joan of Arc: Her Story. Rev. 8 Trans. Jeremy Duquesnay Adams. New York: St. Martin's, 1998.

Tisset, P. and Y. Lanhers, Eds. Procès de condamnation de Jeanne d'Arc, 3 vols. Société de I'Histoire de France. Paris: Klincksieck, 1960-1971.