Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Chretien De Troyes, Que Sais-Je?

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Chretien De Troyes, Que Sais-Je?

Article excerpt

Philippe Walter, Chretien de Troyes, Que sais-je? 3241 (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, I997). 128 pp. ISBN 2-13-48388-7. No price given.

This slim volume lives up to the tradition of the series in that it is concise and informative. Philippe Walter deals clearly with the scant facts known about Chretien, and provides a good introduction to the political and cultural milieu in which he lived and worked. He looks briefly at the youthful Ovidiana, the lyric poems, and the problem of Guillaume d'Angleterre, before examining more closely the influences on Chretien, particularly the role of oral and written sources, the phenomenon of amplification, and the importance of biblical glossing, alongside the readers' demand for recognizable psychological, moral, and social truths, as the writer adapts material to what is acceptable. He treats also the general question of love at the time, the place of matriarchy in the Celtic sources, the use of the merveilleux, the role of scribes in the manuscripts that represent Chretien's work, and stylistic problems such originality, orality, and the use of rhetorical devices. The reader is thus given an excellent introduction to the nature of composition for a twelfth-century writer.

When he comes round to discussing each romance individually, Walter looks for a thread of development from one poem to the next. In this way he finds some perceptive links, while making interesting comments on each one. Thus Cliges is seen as having structural affinities with Erec et Enide, at the same time as marking a progression, such as in its anti-Tristan (or, more precisely, anti-Yseut) stance. …

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