Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Medieval Narrative and Modern Narratology: Subjects and Objects of Desire

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Medieval Narrative and Modern Narratology: Subjects and Objects of Desire

Article excerpt

Evelyn Birge Vitz, Medieval Narrative and Modern Narratology: Subjects and Objects of Desire (New York and London: New York University Press, 1989 (hard covers), 1992 (p/b)). χ + 256 pp. ISBN 0-8147-8761-4, £35.95 (hard covers); ISBN 0-8147-8766-5, £19.50 (p/b).

This review marks the paperback issue of this book, which contains seven essays that first appeared as árdeles in journals between 1973 and 1980 and have since been slightly revised and sandwiched between an introduction and conclusion. Given this history, the volume is remarkably coherent. Beginning with studies of autobiography (one on Abelard, two on the Roman de la Rose) which analyse the medieval representation of the first-person subject, it develops an exploration of subjectivity in a variety of Old French thirdperson narrative texts, including La Fille du comte de Pontieu, the Vie de saintAlexis, and Marie de France's Lais.

Evelyn Birge Vitz's writing has a remarkable capacity to mimic spoken style: it is fresh, accessible, and witty - enormously appealing. And I would defend her essays against the allegation, recently published in this journal (Roger Pensom, 'Zumthor and after: a survey of some current trends in the reading of Old French literature', MS, 62 (1993), 294-306 (pp. 299-300)) that they are theoretically obtuse. Vitz sets medieval texts in dialogue with the writings of Greimas (and other modern narcologists) to explore (on the one hand) what narratological categories such as subjectivity and desire involve in medieval literary works, and to expose (on the other) the culturespecific assumptions underlying Greimas's thinking. …

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