Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Conversation and Storytelling in Fifteenth- and Sixteenth-Century French Nouvelles

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Conversation and Storytelling in Fifteenth- and Sixteenth-Century French Nouvelles

Article excerpt

Kathleen Loysen, Conversation and Storytelling in Fifteenth- and Sixteenth-Century French Nouvelles, Currents in Comparative Romance Languages and Literatures 129 (New York: Peter Lang, 2004). 190 pp. ISBN 0-8204-6818-5. £35.00.

The intersection between conversation and storytelling - when and how the act of storytelling becomes an act of writing - is the focal point for this comparative study of four late medieval French texts: Les Évangiles des quenouilles (1466-74), Les Arrêts d'Amour (14605), L'Heptaméron (1540s), and Les Propos rustiques (1546). These four works are prime candidates for a discussion of orality and literacy because they all self-consciously represent an oral narrative within a text. While Rabelais might also be an obvious choice for this study, Kathleen Loysen excludes him not only because his characters are not 'confined to a single locale for the sole purpose of talking to one another' (p. 6), but also because she chose to investigate other narrative trends in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Ultimately, Loysen does just that, and provides compelling readings of acts of orality and the self-conscious writing that permeate these texts.

As part of her comparative project, Loysen traces each author's concern with the representation of truth. Devoting one chapter to each text, Loysen systematically questions whether there is one truth, or a 'never ending supply of perspectives' (p. 13), whether the work privileges one speaker or many, and how the stories are recorded. Often, she discovers that by detailing storytellers' interruptions, disagreements, and lack of consensus, the author undermines the very quest of uncovering truth. These conclusions are based on a careful examination of different discourses: direct, indirect, the narrator's authority, and 'characterological freedom of speech' (p. 16). Not surprisingly, Loysen's results are often contradictory, indicating a fluidity and openness of the genre, rather than an inconsistency in the style. In the Heptamenn, for instance, Loysen finds that although the storytellers often disagree with each other's conclusions and, by extension, morals, Marguerite had a deep investment in assuring that her stories were considered truthful. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.