Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Les Voies De L'au-Dela et L'essor De L'allegorie Au Moyen Age

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Les Voies De L'au-Dela et L'essor De L'allegorie Au Moyen Age

Article excerpt

Fabienne Pomcl, Les Voies de l'au-dela et l'essor de l'allegone au Moyen Age (Paris: Champion, 2001). 649 pp. ISBN 2-7453-0320-1, euro99.10.

This book, a revised version of the author's these d'etat, is a thorough study of Old French texts treating of a visionary or bodily journey made by a living person into the world of the afterlife. Its repertoire of eleven texts are, for the most part, known to specialists in the field: the Purgatoire de saint Patrick sometimes attributed to Marie de France, the Navigation de saint Brendan, Raoul de Houdenc's Songe d'enfer, and Guillaume de Deguileville's Pelerinage cycle, to naine a few. None, however, is really very well known in any depth. For this reason alone, Fabienne Pomel's book, with its useful and detailed resume of each text and its meticulous analyses, is to be welcomed. She has opened up a body of texts acknowledged to be important, but as yet little studied, and provided a guide to the study of each one individually and of the corpus as a whole.

Pomel begins by posing the question of genre: does this corpus, extending from the mid-twelfth to the late fourteenth centuries, comprise a distinct literary genre? And is there evidence to suggest that medieval authors, scribes, or readers would have thought so? A detailed typological study and a survey of the terms used to designate the texts themselves - voie, songe, pelerinage, conte, and so on - lead to the conclusion that there is no medieval sense of a genre as such, at least not with regard to this body of texts. Pomel additionally examines the didactic and devotional aspects of the texts, bringing out such features as their promotion of mnemonics for the memorization of didactic systems, their use of allegorical imagery as a vehicle for instruction, and their function as exhortations to self-examination and penance. …

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