Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Marie De France and the Poetics of Memory

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Marie De France and the Poetics of Memory

Article excerpt

Logan E. Whalen, Marie de France and the Poetics of Memory (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 2008). xii + 208 pp. ISBN 978-0-8 1 3 2-1 509-9. $59.95.

In this book, Logan E. Whalen explores the importance of memory in the texts attributed to Marie de France, arguing that she uses vivid visual description in order to enable her readers and authence better to fix her narratives in their memory. The rhetoric and techniques of memory provide a fruitful means of drawing together the Lais, Fables, LEspurgatoire seint Patrit^ as well as La Vie s einte Au dree, recendy added to the corpus of the author dubbed the first female author in French, about whom so little is known and so much is written. While these texts are dated to the late twelfth century, before the boom in medieval mnemonic treatises, Whalen argues that they prefigure many of the techniques deployed in these treatises. References to memory by Marie de France are often a means of constructing or cementing authority: Whalen emphasizes that the name 'Marie' is frequendy found in this corpus alongside appeals to remembrance. Indeed, rather than a personal name, in Whalen's argument, 'Marie de France' becomes more or less synonymous with the practice of calling attention to the importance of memory for the establishment of a literary heritage and the construction of authority within it.

Since Whalen claims that Marie de France's interest in the figures and vocabulary of memory makes her stand out in the later twelfth century, some sustained comparison with other literary works from this period might have been apt. The anonymous lai Désiré, for example, opens and closes with references to memory; and Whalen's discussion of rings and birds as symbolic objects around which memory clusters calls to mind the magic ring in Melion and the swan in Doon. …

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