Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Tristan et Iseul: Genese D'un Mythe Litteraire

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Tristan et Iseul: Genese D'un Mythe Litteraire

Article excerpt

Jacques Chocheyras, Tristan et Is Genese d'un mythe litteraire, Nouvelle bibliotheque du moyen age 36 (Paris: Champion, 1996). 272 pp.;15 figures. ISBN 2-85203-551-0. F. Fr. 250.

This is the kind of book one normally approaches with trepidation. The chances of there being a desirable unity to Jacques Chocheyras's work seem slim, since it is made up of nineteen independently conceived articles. Of these articles, written over a number of years, from 1981 onwards, half have already been published and are scattered in various journals and collaborative volumes. Moreover, the presence of maps and other diagrams may lead one to anticipate the rather depressing kind of literary study in which geographical names and locations are related to places mentioned in romance in a crudely mechanical and uninspired manner. But one's worst fears are soon allayed. A concern for coherence is plain, for the articles are not presented in order of writing but are separated out roughly according to theme into three main sections, `De l'histoire a la legende', `De la legende au roman', `Du roman au mythe'. There is also a general thesis which emerges: namely, that the Tristan legend as we know it represents an attempt to Christianize a pre-existing pagan story, and we should understand specifically that Tristan and Iseut, once they have established their association, retreat from a full sexual relationship and practise a policy of what Chocheyras terms chastete formelle. One must admit that this thesis does not immediately convince: there are places in Beroul's text where restraint of any kind seems the last thing on the lovers' minds. The volume may have other weaknesses. Given the nature of the book, there are obvious cases of repetition where the same body of material is drawn upon more than once for much the same purpose. …

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