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

By David Grant Cowling | Go to book overview

2
'UNG LIEU DE SI GRAND SEURETÉ: THE BODY AS A BUILDING (II)

Nous pourrons tous congnoistre l'armour grande que iceluy benoist Sainct Esperit, conducteur de toutes bonnes euvres, a a nous, quant il mect peyne de nous ediffier ung lieu de si grand seureté. Et si ne fault pas dire que ce lieu soit cornme ung lieu de prison, car nous avons nostre liberal arbitre de en sortir quant il nous plaira. Mais tant y a que mauldit sera celuy qui n'y vouldra faire sa demeure tant qu'il sera en ceste vallee de misere, car mieulx ne sçauroit estre ne en meilleurté.1

In the secular tradition, the castle of the body can be an extremely perilous place, and the consequences of capitulation to the besieging forces can be dire. Contemporary devotional texts that exploit the metaphor of the body as a building start from the same basic premiss but, optimistically, stack the odds in favour of the defenders. Gabrielle de Bourbon, patroness of the rhétoriqueur Jean Bouchet, shares with other writers of devotional allegories a desire to foreground the protective function of the building she describes in her Fort Chasteau pour la retraicte de toutes bonnes ames: such an edifice, constructed at the behest of the Holy Spirit, offers the best chance of defence in an imperfect world. Yet despite Gabrielle's links with Bouchet, which will be explored below, it would be inaccurate to view Le Fort Chasteau as a direct response to the sexually frank material of the Roman de la Rose and its rhétoriqueur progeny; rather, it belongs to a tradition of medieval writing which, although sharing a stock of metaphors with the secular tradition, is largely autonomous. Points of contact, where they occur, are conditioned both by similar elements in the used part of the source domain (gates and doors, walls and windows, the siege and capitulation) and by the range of connotations of the shared metaphorical stock, especially the

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1
Gabrielle de Bourbon, Le Fort Chasteau pour la retraicte de toutes bonnes ames, Paris, Bibliothèque Mazarine, MS 978, fol. 31r. Further references will be incorporated into the text.

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