Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Soundscape in Early French Literature

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Soundscape in Early French Literature

Article excerpt

Brigitte Cazelles, Soundscape in Early French Literature (Tempe, Ariz.: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, in collaboration with Brepols, 2005). 186 pp. ISBN 2-503-52361-7. £32.oo/$42.oo/euro5o.oo.

'As I propose to show in the course of this book, the vitality and resonance of French literature in its formative period are intricately connected with an approach to knowledge which qualifies as cross-sensory (synesthesia) and with the use of a language, Old French, whose vocabulary is still closely connected to its sensory roots.' The author thus prefaces (p. 13) five essays, linked, it seems from this last sentence, by the Cratylean assumption of the consubstantiality of Thing and Word. Later, however, we read: 'In striking contrast with its modern counterpart, the Old French "noise" is marked by polyvalence ...' (p. 19), which suggests the 'arbitrariness of the signifier'. In what follows, the reader will often have to ask him- or herself which of these conflicting views is the relevant one. The breadth of the author's reading, rhapsodic rather than symphonic, is not always articulated by a clear argument; in her discussion of the feu d'Adam (3 iff), while the onomatopoeic hahan is as Cratylean as you can get, we move seamlessly to words which denote sound such as clamor and rumor. Trivially, all spoken language is sound. Subheadings like The noise of sin' and 'Senseless moaning' indirectly attribute a variety of meanings to 'noise'. While discussion of Joshua's demolition of Jericho reads the buisine (trumpet") as having 'a severing effect, distinguishing the good ... from the bad ...', the author does not tell us that in the Chanson de Roland the sound of the pagan trumpets has negative connotations. …

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