Albrecht Classen

title.none: Busby and Kleinhenz, eds., Courtly Arts (Albrecht Classen)

identifier.other: baj9928.0802.014 08.02.14

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Albrecht Classen, University of Arizona,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2008

identifier.citation: Busby, Keith and Christopher Kleinhenz, eds. Courtly Arts and the Art of Courtliness: Selected Papers from the Eleventh Triennial Congress of the International Courtly Literature Society, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 29 July-4 August 2004. Woodbridge, Suffolk.: D.S. Brewer, 2006. Pp. xiv, 788. $105.00 ISBN-13: 978-1-84384-079-4, ISBN-10: 1-84384-079-0. ISBN: .

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 08.02.14

Busby, Keith and Christopher Kleinhenz, eds. Courtly Arts and the Art of Courtliness: Selected Papers from the Eleventh Triennial Congress of the International Courtly Literature Society, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 29 July-4 August 2004. Woodbridge, Suffolk.: D.S. Brewer, 2006. Pp. xiv, 788. $105.00 ISBN-13: 978-1-84384-079-4, ISBN-10: 1-84384-079-0. ISBN: .

Reviewed by:

Albrecht Classen
University of Arizona

Globally, the International Courtly Literature Society serves as one of the most important umbrella organizations to bring together scholars from many different fields worldwide. Every three years the Society organizes a large conference and publishes selected papers. The last conference took place in Lausanne, July 2007, whereas the present volume contains selected papers from the 2004 conference at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

In the first part the four plenary lectures provide general guidance for the rest of the volume, which consists of a wide variety of papers dealing with courtly art and the art of courtliness, to quote the subheading of that section. The "problem" with this anthology, like many others of this kind, is that it consists of a large number of papers that mostly address, which proves to be the common denominator, courtly literature and culture at large, and each, apart from the plenary papers, deals with detailed, often miniscule aspects in individual texts. There is no cross-fertilization anywhere, and most papers consist of relatively brief discussions of their respective texts. This makes it almost impossible to review this hefty volume because it would be impossible to discuss each individual article in depth, and there does not seem to be a fair system to select some contributions that would stand out, apart from the plenary lectures.

Although the collective of scholars does not focus on an overarching theme, each individual contribution focuses on specific aspects of courtly culture as reflected in literary texts. Some articles are written in French, all others were composed in English. It seems difficult to comprehend this approach. Why are there no papers published in Spanish, Italian, German, Dutch, or Swedish? Of course, the predominant use of English makes it easy for the reader to delve into this rich volume, but it still seems odd then to have some papers in French.

The authors focus primarily on medieval courtly literature as produced in France, Italy, and Germany, though G. Koolemans Beynen looks into a Georgian courtly romance, The Man in the Panther Skin by Shota Rustaveli; Alain Corbellari incorporates the Kama Sutra for his comparative analysis of courtly love; and Yuko Tagaya includes the Japanese The Tale of the Heike into her analysis of the relationship of love and death in courtly romance (in comparison with Malory's The Fair Maidon of Astolat in his Morte D'Arthur).

As to be expected, many of the papers deal with special aspects in the Lais by Marie de France, here with the messengers, side figures, the relevance of fabric as a signifier, poetic space, allegedly monstrous children, and the appearance of Marie's texts in the ms. Harley 978.

Only a few studies concern themselves with Chaucer or other late-medieval English courtly texts. A few deal with medieval German courtly romances, either Gottfried von Strassburg's Tristan or Wolfram von Eschenbach's Titurel. A few authors endeavor to extend their studies by pursuing a comparative perspective, such as Jeanne A. Nightingale, who suggests that Bernard of Clairvaux's sermons might have influenced Chrétien de Troyes in his composition of Erec et Enide, which is interesting but also a bit speculative. Wendy Pfeffer explores food recommendations in a letter by Matfre Ermengaud to his sister. And Richard Trachsler raises the fascinating scepter regarding the proper evaluation of fabliaux within their manuscript context. Considering Ms. Chantilly, Musée Condé 475, he observes that a textual compilation such as this one, containing miracle tales, courtly tales, and fabliaux, would indicate that fabliaux were simply another side of the same coin representing the courtly world.

The ability to play music has always been regarded a central component of courtliness, which finds powerful expression in Baldesar Castiglione's The Book of the Courtier, here discussed by Marco Cerocchi. Other aspects dealt with concern illness in Hispanic chivalric romances (Ivy A.Corfis), justice and equity in L'Advocacie Nostre Dame (Judith M. Davis), didactic aspects (Yasmina Foehr-Janssens), astronomy and astrology in Chaucer (Edward J. Milowicki), and laughter in Chrétien's Perceval (Paul Rockwell). Silvia Ranawake examines the history of song compilations in the late German Middle Ages (ignoring, unfortunately, some of the more recent scholarship), whereas Samuel N. Rosenberg discusses incipit citations in medieval French lyric poetry.

In the introductory paper, C. Stephen Jaeger explores the charismatic function of books and reading in general as presented in medieval literature, resoundingly rejecting Walter Haug's parallel attempts to come to terms with high-medieval courtly literature as entirely fictional and free of any didactic purpose. His argument that Haug, previously a major voice in German medieval literary scholarship, simply resorts to traditional "Geistesgeschichte" in complete ignorance of more recent research and so incorrectly isolates the entire corpus of literary texts from their social context proves to be very convincing and should finally set us straight again in a more complex social-historical reading of courtly romances. Christopher Page illustrates the supreme role of music in the formation of courtliness. Richard and Mary Rouse discuss the manuscripts of Athis et Prophilias in light of the crusade history insofar as each manuscript version from the two-hundred year history of reception reveals certain changes and reflects idiosyncratic interests by the patrons, all somehow connected with the last crusades. In another lengthy study, they explore the circumstances relevant for the production and dissemination of the military manual by Vegetius created in France in the 1320s in support of a new crusade to the Holy Land.

The volume concludes with the English translation by Walter Blue of a verse narrative, Equinec, which allegedly might have been authored by Marie de France as well. This proves to be rather strange because the original is not given, and Blue himself does not provide any information about his source, the manuscript/s and the arguments for Marie's authorship, when, as the editors (only) mention, one manuscript (which one?) attributes the tale to a Gautiers li Bleus. It seems to be a literary hoax (Blue - Bleus), and the text itself contains sufficient clues to confirm this, so I wonder whether Busby or Kleinhenz might have created this marvelous literary joke?

The study of courtly literature is well served with this large tome containing 44 shorter and four longer papers. It would have been nice if an index could have been included.