Framing the Family: Narrative and Representation in the Medieval and Early Modern Periods

By Rosalynn Voaden; Diane Wolfthal | Go to book overview
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THE LEPER IN THE MASTER BEDROOM:
THINKING THROUGH
A THIRTEENTH-CENTURY EXEMPLUM

SHARON FARMER

This article focuses on a single story about an encounter between a charitable noblewoman and a male leper. The tale, which was told as an exemplum, or illustrative story for preaching purposes, was repeated in a number of preaching texts of the thirteenth through fifteenth centuries.1 As far as we know, however, the early thirteenth-century cleric, Jacques de Vitry, was either the author of the story or the first person to write it down, sometime between 1227 and 1240.2 Later authors of exempla collections who included the story often cited Jacques de Vitry as their source, and even in those collections without explicit citations,

1 Frederic C. Tubach, Index exemplorum: A Handbook of Medieval Religious Tales, FF Communications 86, no. 204 (Helsinki: Suomalainen Tiedeakatemia, 1969), 237 (no. 3020); Thomas Frederick Crane, The Exempla or Illustrative Stories from the Sermones Vulgares of Jacques de Vitry (London: D. Nutt, 1890; repr. New York: Burt Franklin, 1971), 174–75. In Stith Thompson's index of folk motifs this story falls under K 2112.2, “Leper (beggar) laid in queen's bed. She is thus incriminated”: Motif-Index of Folk-Literature, 6 vols. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1955–1958), 4: 475. See also Harriet Goldberg, Motif-Index of Medieval Spanish Folk Narratives, MRTS 162 (Tempe: MRTS, 1998), 110; eadem, Motif-Index of Folk Narratives in the Pan-Hispanic Romancero, MRTS 206 (Tempe: MRTS, 2000), 59.

2 For the dating of Jacques' “Sermones vulgares” see Alberto Forni, “Giacomo da Vitry, Predicatore e ‘sociologo’,” La cultura: Rivista trimestrale di filosofia, letteratura e storia 18 (1980): 34–89. There is no complete edition of the “Sermones vulgares.” For the two sermons “Ad hospitalarios et custodes infirmorum” I have used: Bibliothèque Nationale de France (henceforth BNF), ms. lat. 3284, fols. 101v–107v. The Latin texts of the exempla stories in Jacques' sermons were published separately by Crane, The Exempla. Unless otherwise indicated, all English translations are my own.

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