Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Joan of Arc: The Early Debate

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Joan of Arc: The Early Debate

Article excerpt

Deborah A. Fraioli, Joan of Arc: The Early Debate (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2000). x + Z35 pp. ISBN 0-85115-572-3. L45.00.

This book is unique by its concentration on the lively debate which went on chiefly in 1429 around the theological principles of the doctrine of the discernment of spirits and their application to Joan. Deborah A. Fraioli treats all relevant texts in, as nearly as possible, chronological order, and presents them with detailed, shrewd, stimulating, and admirably documented commentaries abounding in valuable cross-references. It emerges that, between March and September 1429, there was a truly serious theological debate around Joan's mission. Many of the issues raised at the trial which led to her death at the stake were often discussed during this debate (including, for example, the matter of her male attire). Chapter i focuses on Archbishop Jacques Gelu's fairly sceptical stance in the four letters he wrote in response to questions put to him by the dauphin's counsellors; chapter ii treats the anonymous De quadam puella (to which we owe the first expression of Joan's claim to be from God); chapter iii, the summary conclusions published after Joan's examination at Poitiers; chapter v, Joan's Lettre aux Anglais, her verbal gauntlet thrown before the English at the walls of Orleans; chapter vi, Gelu's De puella aurelianensi dissertatio, in which the archbishop reveals his readiness to trust in the Maid; chapter vii, Christine de Pizan's Ditie dejehanne d'Arc in which Fraioli discerns the poetess's efforts to overcome the unease felt in certain quarters about Joan's mission; chapter viii, the De mirabili victoria (attributed, almost certainly erroneously, to Gerson), a pro-Joan polemic which Fraioli shows to be of doubtful theological value although contemporaries clearly thought it had such a value; chapter ix, Dupuy's Collectarium historiarum which concludes by insisting that Joan was indeed from God; chapter x, the tract by a Parisian cleric charging the Maid with the suspicion of heresy and calling for her case to be turned over to the Inquisition; and, lastly, as a kind of postscript, chapter xi, a section in Martin Le Franc's 1442 Champion des dames in which the Champion argues in favour of Joan's divine mission and the Adversary against it. …

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