Building the Text: Architecture as Metaphor in Late Medieval and Early Modern France

By David Grant Cowling | Go to book overview

I
'IL N'Y A PLUS NOBLES LOGIZ QUE SONT CONS': THE BODY AS A BUILDING (I)

On parle des grans edifices
De palais et nobles maisons
Ouvrés des maistres artifices,
De charpentiers et de massons
Pour logier princes et barons:
Mais il n'y a jusques en Barrois
Plus nobles logiz que sont cons:
Car on n'y poeult logier que roix.1

This humorous celebration of the female anatomy, attributed to the Burgundian indiciaire Jean Molinet, hinges around a metaphor whose wide diffusion at the end of the Middle Ages made it a vehicle for bawdy wit and for serious moral teaching, for secular narratives of the sexual act and for devotional instruction on the threats to female chastity.2 Sometimes, as in the case of Molinet, the work of a single writer illustrates both extremes, bridging the ideological gap that separates secular allegories from their devotional counterparts (which will be discussed in the next chapter).3 The conceptual metaphor THE HUMAN BODY IS A BUILDING was, and of course still is, extremely widespread in many cultures. Leonard Barkan remarks: 'The analogy between man's mortal existence and a castle, tabernacle, or citadel seems

____________________
1
M. Schwob, Le Parnasse satyrique du quinzième siècle: Anthologie de pièes libres ( Paris: Welter, 1905; repr. Geneva: Slatkine, 1969), 151. Further references will be incorporated into the text.
2
For the sense of the term indiciaire (official court historiographer), see H. Naἴs, "Grand temps et longs jours sont, monsieur l'indiciaire", in Mélanges de linguistique française et de philologie et littatéure médiévales offerts à Monsieur Paul Imbs ( Strasbourg: Klincksieck, 1973), 207-18.
3
In addition to the texts discussed below, Molinet writes a poem "qui se poeult adreschier soit a la vierge Marie ou pour un amant a sa dame" ( Les Faictz et dictz, ed. N. Dupire, 3 vols. ( Paris: Société des Anciens Textes Français, 1936-9), ii. 531-5). See also G. Duby, Le Temps des cathédrales: L'Art el la société 980-1420 ( Paris: Gallimard, 1976), 304.

-23-

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