12.06.09, Fauriel, Historie de la poésie provençale

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Wendy Pfeffer

The Medieval Review 12.06.09

Fauriel, Claude. Schöning, Udo. Historie de la poésie provençale, volumes I, II, III. Recherches littéraires médiévales. Paris: Classiques Garnier, 2011. Pp. lxxiii+550, 454,518. ISBN: 978-2-8124-0312-5, 978-2-8124-0313-2, 978-2-8124-0314-9.

Reviewed by:
Wendy Pfeffer
Univeristy of Louisville

A number of recent publications have demonstrated a growing interest in the historiography of literary study. To this end, we have seen the recent publications of Ursula Bähler on Gaston Paris and Alain Corbellari on Joseph Bédier, among others. In the same vein comes this significant effort by Udo Schöning to make better known to scholars of the twenty-first century, the thinking of Claude Fauriel, holder of the chair in "littérature étrangère," created for him at the Sorbonne in Paris.

As Schöning notes, in our day, Fauriel is poorly known if not completely unknown (1:i), though the French scholar has been the subject of several recent doctoral dissertations (Mochonkina, 2006; Pouzoulet, 1996, Homutescu, 1997 to name three). To his nineteenth- century contemporaries, Fauriel was something of a marvel for the breadth of his knowledge. He published some of his research and lectures before an untimely death in 1844 (Chants populaires de la Grèce moderne, 1824; Histoire de la Gaule méridionale, 1836 for example). His lectures on Occitan literature, Histoire de la poésie provençale, were published posthumously in 1846, under the editorial supervision of Mary Clarke (perhaps his mistress) and Jules Mohl, a friend of Fauriel's whom Mary would shortly marry (I:xvii). While some of Fauriel's conclusions have been superseded by later scholars, there is much of merit in his work.

First, the author. Claude Fauriel was born in St-Etienne, France in 1772. Son of a relatively poor family, Fauriel was educated at the Collège of Tournon and at the Seminary St-Irénée in Lyon, where he may have learned Latin, Greek, Italian and English (I:v). The seminarian drops out of sight during the early Revolutionary period, but resurfaces in 1792, when documents show him holding in various administrative positions in the region of St. Etienne. Sent to Paris, he spent four and one-half months at the Ecole normale supérieure, a period of study that Schöning describes as decisive (I:v). As of 1799, Fauriel established himself in Paris, working first for the police and then as a journalist. Schöning describes Fauriel as an autodidact, who taught himself German, Basque, Arabic and Sanskrit among other languages (I:xiii). He makes contact with important Parisians in the world of letters (Mme de Staël, Mérimée, Stendhal), politics (Guizot) and science (Ampère) and builds connections outside of France with scholars and authors in Germany, Denmark and Italy.

In 1830, following the July Revolution, Fauriel was called to the Sorbonne, where his first lectures were on Occitan literature. Fauriel was very conscious of his choice of first "foreign" literature; he noted that medieval Occitan literature was the first literary corpus of modern Europe (I:xiv and I: Preface vii) and recognized that the language and its literature were foreign to his nineteenth-century audience.

Good teacher that he must have been, Fauriel assumes his audience knows nothing, for the professor uses the topic of Occitan (which he calls Provençal) literature as a springboard for a discussion of the history of much of Western literature. The three volumes reviewed here begin with several introductory chapters before addressing the influence of the Greeks on southern France, the history of the Midi during the Barbarian invasions, the origins of the Occitan language (which Fauriel sees as a precursor to French), and then three chapters on Walter of Aquitaine, whom Fauriel relates to the Nibelungenlied (I: 270), using that lead to launch into a discussion of Icelandic eddas, before returning to the Nibelungenlied, and then somehow connecting this story back to a fictional Walter of Aquitaine (see I: 381).

We have a chapter on Guilhem IX of Poitiers, the first troubadour, and several chapters discussing troubadour lyrics, first love-songs, then popular lyrics, Crusade songs and satirical works. Fauriel then addresses romances in Occitan, and (Old French) epics of the Charlemagne cycle, before turning to Arthurian romances. These two sections on Old French texts serve as a long introduction to Occitan epic. In volume three of this reprint, we have chapters on Occitan romances and epics. Fauriel attempts to prove that Chrétien de Troyes and Wolfram von Eschenbach both used themes and episodes first composed in a now-lost Occitan Perceval story (III: 124-126, 143-144). Fauriel discusses the Song of the Albigensian Crusade (his translation of this work had been published in 1837) before turning to Aucassin et Nicolette. He then turns to questions of medieval transmission and concludes with a chapter on medieval poetics. As appendices, we have additional comments on the Song of the Albigensian Crusade and a lengthy list of romances, organized by theme (Round Table, Greek mythology, Roman and Greek figures etc.).

What this quick summary shows is how widely Fauriel reached to argue in favor of medieval Occitan literature. While some of his arguments no longer hold water, his discussions can be interesting. He quotes Occitan authors frequently and at length, albeit only in French translation. The treatment of non-Occitan material opens this work to a wide range of interests. His list of romances, known or missing, is very useful for scholars now seeking the lost corpus of Occitan literature (see Klingebiel). That a number of young scholars have written doctoral dissertations on Fauriel and his studies proves his continuing interest.

There remain a few questions. How can today's students use this work, which reprints Fauriel's original as is? We may mock some of his judgments--speaking of Guilhem IX, the first troubadour, for example, Fauriel observes, "Les pièces qui nous restent de lui, en très-petit nombre, considérées en elles-mêmes et quant à leur mérite poétique, ne sont d'aucun intérêt" (I:466). Fauriel has more esteem for Bernart de Ventadour, who, he assumes, is expressing his emotions in his lyrics (II:22). The scholar does consider Bernart a major poet, citing works in which "le talent de Bernard semble parvenu à sa maturité" (II: 24). Then follows Fauriel's norm, to cite an entire lyric in French translation, for example, "Ce n'est pas merveille si je chante mieux que nul autre troubadour" (II: 26). It would have facilitated subsequent use of this reprint to have marked quotations such as this one with the appropriate reference to Pillet-Carstens, in this case, PC 70, 31.

Who is likely to purchase this three-volume set, other than the relatively small community of Occitan scholars and those research libraries whose budgets are not suffering? My sense is that editorial failings such as the one signaled above limit the use of this reprint by students, though the diligent scholar can find any number of interesting translations of Occitan material. Schöning's detailed introduction to the three volumes and the surprisingly long bibliography that accompanies that essay certainly merit our attention. Still, the Table of Contents is not supplemented by an index of topics or authors, so the only way to find material is to read the entire work, Fauriel's intent, obviously, but perhaps of less interest today.

Works Cited

Bähler, Ursula. Gaston Paris et la philologie romane. Publications romanes et français 234. Geneva: Droz, 2004.

Corbellari, Alain. Joseph Bédier: Ecrivain et philologue. Publications romanes et françaises 220. Geneva: Droz, 1997.

Homutescu, N. Claude Fauriel, l'un des initiateurs de la philologie romane en France. Thesis, perhaps Padova, 1997.

Klingebiel, Kathryn. "Littérature perdue des troubadours." 213-221 in Le Rayonnement de la civilisation occitane à l'aube d'un nouveau millénaire. Actes du 6e Congrès international de l'AIEO (Vienna, 12-17 September 1999), ed. Georg Kremnitz et al. Vienna: Praesens, 2001.

Mochonkina, Elena. Un philologue romantique, Claude Fauriel (1772- 1844). Lille: Atelier national de reproduction de thèses, 2006.

Pouzoulet, Christine. La construction du modèle de Dante comme poète national de l'Italie romantique: de Mme de Staël à Quinet, l'exemple de Claude Fauriel (1772-1844) et du réseau de ses relations. Lille: Atelier national de reproduction de thèses, 1996.

Sgoff, Brigitte. Claude Fauriel und die Anfänge der romanischen Sprachwissenschaft. München: Univ. Diss. 1994.

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Author Biography

Wendy Pfeffer

Univeristy of Louisville