16.04.06, Kullmann and Lalonde, eds., Réécritures

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Paul Vincent Rockwell

The Medieval Review 16.04.06

Kullmann, Dorothea, and Shaun Lalonde, eds. Réécritures: Regards nouveaux sur la reprise et le remaniement de textes, dans la littérature française et au-delà, du Moyen Âge à la Renaissance. Studies and Texts, 190; Toronto Studies in Romance Philology, 2. Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, 2015. pp. viii, 396. ISBN: 978-0-88844-190-4 (hardback).

Reviewed by:
Paul Vincent Rockwell
Amherst College

The volume reviewed here contains a collection of essays that emerged from a workshop that was convened in March of 2010 at the University of Toronto. The studies are grouped into three parts that have as their subjects the following: rewritings of French courtly romances; rewritings of historiography and of chansons de geste in the French tradition; and rewritings of primarily French and Provençal material in Italian and Portuguese. There are only a few exceptions to these general categories, which include Franco Pierno's fascinating study of the subtle differences in various Italian translations of the Pater noster prior to the Council of Trent. At the end of the volume Nicholas Arrigo provides an overview of the critical vocabulary commonly used to describe the phenomenon of medieval rewriting, followed by a short history of studies dedicated to this topic. He pays particular attention to research published on the fifteenth-century mises en prose. His article is full of detailed notes and is followed by an extensive bibliography that should prove to be of great use both to established scholars and to students new to the field. Most of the studies treat materials written during the fifteenth century or the Renaissance.

To open the section on courtly romance, Francis Gingras follows the editorial history of the Lancelot-Graal cycle from its thirteenth-century manuscript tradition into the print editions that begin to appear in the fifteenth. What results is a kind of reception study that traces the gradual effacement of Lancelot in favor of the figure of Galaad and speculates on the causes of that evolution. Corinne Denoyelle focuses her attention on the stylistic effects created by the transformation of specific dialogues in the fifteenth-century prose rewriting of Chrétien's de Troyes's Erec et Enide. She concludes that the prose writer attenuated the psychological nuances found in Chrétien's original and that "la relation du couple aux autres est ramenée à une simple opposition binaire du bien contre le mal" (51). Annie Combes examines the fifteenth-century Livre des amours du châtelain de Coucy et de la dame de Fayel, which is a Burgundian prose rendition of a thirteenth-century verse romance. While it remains remarkably faithful to its model (58), Combes nevertheless detects in the later version changes in ideological orientation that she demonstrates by means of a detailed comparison of the prologues of the two texts. The author suggests that, in contrast with the verse text, the plot cannot be read as "une apologie de la fin'amor" (60). Combes maintains that the repeated amplification of passages concerning characters' emotions creates something new in the prose version that she calls "une écriture de l'empathie" (69). Richard Trachsler compares two distinct prose abridgments of Adenet le Roi's Cleomadés, one from the Burgundian milieu, the other found in printed material from Lyon. He reports that the prose writers "réinventent les événements à leur propre guise et recréent en surface un texte qui reste cohérent malgré sa concision" (81). Jane H.M. Taylor contrasts two distinct adaptations of the Tristan material that were composed during the Renaissance. She finds Pierre Sala's version to reflect a conservative "ethos of the louche affair" that she designates with the term galanterie licencieuse (84). She distinguishes this from a different kind of galanterie, represented in Jean Maugin's Nouveau Tristan, that shifts "the romance [of Tristan] towards the linguistic turn that was, in seventeenth-century France, to become an admired facility in graceful compliment" (93).

The second section begins with Dorothea Kullman's welcome overview of epic prologues, in which are found allusions to other versions or performances of the same stories. By that very token, these references, whether they are made to real or fictitious works, imply a metaphorical "prehistory" for the epics in question and, by extension, suggest an image of the process of rewriting. She follows the motifs and arguments used in such prologues over several centuries up through the mises en prose of epic material in the fifteenth. The author concludes that a significant shift occurred in this final period that might well reflect "une image changée de la littérature" (133). Nathalie Bragantini-Maillard highlights the way in which Jean Froissart adapted historical material that was drawn in part from Jean le Bel's Chronique. Book I of Froissart's own Chroniques contains two well-known passages that serve as a lens through which she can view the author's use of dialogue. In each of the three "grandes rédactions" of the book (138), dialogues from episodes concerning the bourgeois of Calais and the banishment of Robert d'Artois are recorded somewhat differently. The author explores the implications of these variations. In one of the most extensive analyses of the collection, Bernard Guidot examines the rewriting of the Enfances Vivien in the Burgundian Roman de Guillaume d'Orange. He reports that the narrator intervenes more frequently in the romance than in the epic, oftentimes to provide moral commentary (165). Stylistic contrasts, and evidence from three episodes that do not exist in the original, are marshalled to support the author's conclusion that the modifications introduced through rewriting "traduisent une nouvelle vision du monde" (183). Special attention is paid to the transformation of the episode in which the bourgeoise seeks the help of the king (173). Madeleine Elson proposes to revisit the theme of religion in the re-written version of the Moniage Guillaume. The robber episode found in Moniage I, II and the Roman de Guillaume is used as a point of departure to highlight a gradation of attitudes towards the monks represented. The author then attempts to link the variations she finds in these rewritings to religious experience in the fifteenth century, and in particular to the ideology of the Devotio Moderna.

The final section is dedicated to the kind of rewriting that crosses linguistic boundaries. It opens with a study by Eugénia Neves Dos Santos that examines passages from the thirteenth-century Portuguese translation of the post-vulgate Lancelot-Graal cycle. Particular attention is paid first to the representation of the grail, and then to the rich polysemy of the Portuguese word coita, which condenses in a single term the absence, the desire, and the douleur that figure so prominently in the themes of the cycle. Peter Wunderli compares the franco-italian version of Berte as grans pies found in manuscript V13 to the version composed by Adenet le Roi. The distinct representations of the socio-political context of the story are contrasted in preparation for a more detailed discussion of the role of women in the franco-italian text. Maria Predelli gives a fascinating introduction to the Italian verse cantari that integrate material drawn from the French Arthurian tradition. Their probable sources were in prose Italian translations of French romances that began to be produced in the middle of the thirteenth century. The author maintains that the cantari were composed for public performance before a decidedly bourgeois audience, and gives examples that reflect the formal and thematic consequences of the texts' "théâtralisation" (273). Shaun Lalonde details the rewriting of Provençal vidas and razos in the fourth story of the fifth day of Boccaccio's Decameron. The author concludes that Boccaccio used these forms in order to parody courtly lyric (284).

The editors of this collection are to be commended for assembling a fine volume of articles dedicated primarily to materials that have been understudied and underappreciated. While the specificity of each study might well impede some readers' desires for theoretical synthesis, the mechanisms of a certain kind of medieval rewriting are nevertheless here on full display. The resulting mosaic demonstrates how pervasive the phenomenon of rewriting was in the period, and makes a significant contribution to our understanding of literary production in the later centuries of the Middle Ages and the early Renaissance.

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