Academic journal article Medium Aevum

The Song in the Story: Lyric Insertions in French Narrative Fiction, 1200-1400

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

The Song in the Story: Lyric Insertions in French Narrative Fiction, 1200-1400

Article excerpt

Maureen Boulton, The Song in the Story: Lyric Insertions in French Narrative Fiction, 1200-1400 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993). xv + 327 pp.; 1 plate. ISBN 0-8122-3199-6. $39.95.

This interesting study of a significant trend in later medieval French narrative finds its main weakness in its major strength. Although not every text listed in the appendix detailing texts with narrative insertions is dealt with in the body of the book, the desire for comprehensiveness means that depth of analysis is frequently sacrificed to breadth of coverage. The book is generally organized thematically according to perceived functions of the lyric elements within the fiction (as character-revealing monologue, as descriptive or plot element, as message between characters in the fiction). However, the chapter on the fourteenth-century dit is genetically based and the chapter 'The song as refrain' is the only one that confronts the knottily interesting problems of the relationship of literary form and poetic structure. Within these chapters texts are treated chronologically, usually in discrete sections. As a result the most stimulating chapters are the introduction and the conclusion, which deal in theoretical approaches and questions of principle. The main chapters, by contrast, are frequently no more than lists of insertions, or very general 'surveys' (the expression is used twice by the author), paying as much attention to non-lyric intrusions in the narrative as to lyrics. From this point of view the section on the Tristan en prose in the chapter 'Songs as monologues' is perhaps the most disappointing, being litde more than a list of tides and references to Curtis's edition or Löseth's analysis. This is pardcularly disappointing since we are frequently given glimpses of the temporal manipuladons, shifts in point of view, and problematics of the relationship of diegesis to extradiegetic reality which the intrusion of the lyrics imposes, and the insights gained would benefit from further investigation. …

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