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FREN2102 - The Medieval Period

Value: 0.5 course units
Dr Jane Gilbert
Teaching structure: The term is divided into two halves: Christianity and its Others and The Court, Courtoisie and Courtly Love.
Assessment: one unseen two-hour written examination (100%).

Module Description:

Christianity and its Others

In the eleventh and twelfth centuries, energetic European expansion (in particular through the Crusades in Spain, North Africa, the Middle East and the Eastern Christian empire of Byzantium) coincided with the cultural development of vernacular French literature, which found many of its earliest resources in various non-Christian cultures (Latin, Arabic, Celtic). This module will explore some of the ways in which Old French literary texts represent Christians and the ‘pagans’ with whom they come into contact in encounters dramatized as violent, erotic and/or burlesque. We shall study epic, romance and comic texts. We shall analyse the kinds of desire engaged in the differing representations of the pagan other, and explore also how true to life (or otherwise – mainly otherwise!) these literary pagans were.

The Court, Courtoisie and Courtly Love

The Court provides the setting for much medieval literature. Often depicted as a luxurious place, the epitome of elegance and refinement, it is also seen as a destructive environment, full of jealousy, spite and scandal. We shall look at examples of literature produced for courts and depicting the people who live there. What are the pleasures of such a life, and what are its constraints? To what extent is life governed by codes of courtesy, and what problems do these codes create? In particular we shall examine the code of courtly love, what it was, and how it was problematised in some of the key works of medieval literature.

Preparatory Reading and Set Texts:

Christianity and its Others

  • La Chanson de Roland, ed. and modern Fr. trans. Jean Dufournet (Garnier-Flammarion, series Flammarion bilingue), ISBN 2-08-070554-7.
  • Le Pèlerinage de Charlemagne, ed. and trans. Glyn S. Burgess (series British Rencesvals Publications, 2) (copies will be available at approx. £10 from the  teacher at the beginning of term 1).
  • Robert d’Orbigny, Le Conte de Floire et Blanchefleur, ed. and modern Fr. trans. J-L Leclanche (Champion, series Champion Classiques Moyen Age, 2), ISBN 2745307363.
  • Aucassin et Nicolette, in: Nouvelles courtoises, ed. Suzanne Méjean-Thiolier and Marie-Françoise Notz-Grob (Livre de Poche, series Lettres gothiques, 1997) (see second half of term).
  • Alternatively, Aucassin et Nicolette, ed. Jean Dufournet (Garnier-Flammarion, series Flammarion bilingue), ISBN 2-08-070261-0.

The Court, Courtoisie and Courtly Love

  • Graelent, Guingamor and Le Lai du Trot, all in: Lais féeriques des XIIe et XIII siècles, ed. A. Micha (GF-Flammarion) ISBN 2-08-070672-1.
  • Chrétien de Troyes, Le Chevalier de la charrette, ed. C. Méla (Livre de Poche, series: Lettres gothiques) ISBN 2-253-05401-1.
  • La Châtelaine de Vergi, Le Lai de l'oiselet, and Jean Renart, Le Lai de l’ombre, all in: Nouvelles courtoises, ed. Méjean-Thiolier and M-F Notz-Grob (Livre de Poche, series: Lettres gothiques) ISBN 2-253-06661-3 (Please note: if this edition is unavailable, then alternative arrangements will be made).