Academic journal article Medium Aevum

The Arthur of the French: The Arthurian Legend in Medieval French and Occitan Literature

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

The Arthur of the French: The Arthurian Legend in Medieval French and Occitan Literature

Article excerpt

The Arthur of the French: The Arthurian Legend in Medieval French and Occitan Literature, ed. Glyn S. Burgess and Karen Pratt, Arthurian Literature in the Middle Ages IV (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2006). xii + 637 pp. ISBN 0-7083-1964-5. £65.00.

Arthurian literature in medieval French and medieval France articulates concerns of love, kingship, virtue, and history, and includes some of the most enthralling and influential works in European literature. This is an enormous topic, both in scope and importance, and the contributors to and editors of the fourth volume in the 'Arthurian Literature in the Middle Ages' series have proved more than equal to the daunting task of presenting, cataloguing, and analysing the various French manifestations of Arthur and his court in the Middle Ages, and beyond. The fourteen chapters are organized roughly chronologically by text, author, or genre. The list of contributors constitutes an inventory of distinguished Arthurian scholars: to those who work on medieval French Arthurian literature, their names are as familiar as the names of Arthur's courtiers. Each chapter has a thorough bibliography (although some are more up to date than others), standing in addition to the volume's overall bibliography. These, along with the thorough index, and an index of manuscripts which transmit French Arthurian texts, mean that scholars and students will find this an invaluable reference work. Indeed, I can imagine in years to come that scholars will wonder how they ever coped without it.

As Pratt's pithy, lucid introduction reminds us, 'French' and 'Arthurian' are by no means straightforward terms when defining a corpus of texts for this book to examine. To this end, Gaunt and Harvey's chapter on the Occitan tradition is salutary, pointing out that Arthurian material, so popular and revered in northern France, tended in the south to be the subject of either glancing reference or farcical parody. Similarly, Middleton's meticulous chapter on the manuscripts of French Arthurian literature, judiciously placed at the beginning of the volume, reminds the reader that the division of Arthurian material into discrete, complete texts is a modern invention which does not always reflect the reality of manuscript transmission. …

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