Academic journal article Medium Aevum

L'Imaginaire Dans L'aeuvre De Guillaume De Machaut

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

L'Imaginaire Dans L'aeuvre De Guillaume De Machaut

Article excerpt

Isabelle Betemps, L'Imaginaire dans lde Guilluma'ceuvre de Guillaume de Machaut, Bibliotheque du XVe siecle 59 (Paris: Honore Champion, 1998). 472 pp. ISBN x-85203816-1985. F. Fr. 385.00.

We have, of course, graduated from the old view of Guillaume de Machaut: the view that he is a consummate musician who dabbled in sadly conventional verse. Excellent studies like Jacqueline Cerquiglini's `Un engin si soutil' (Paris, 1985) have made us aware of the complexity with which he constructs his self, and the intelligence with which he manipulates audience expectation. This could, however, lead us to see Machaut as alarmingly solipsistic - and this dense book, a revised version of a doctoral thesis, offers a corrective. It aims to demonstrate the poet's openness to experience, by investigating what stocks the imagination of a fourteenth-century poet: Machaut may seem to take refuge in the hermetic, closed, self-consistent world of allegory, but he is in fact profoundly open to real experience, deeply immersed in the sociocultural realia of his time. Betemps is admirably broad-based: she covers cosmography, cosmogony, medicine, faculty psychology, meteorology ... Her book is constructed to a dialectical pattern. A first part (`Le Miroir du monde) addresses the serenely ordered universe on which Machaut drew; it is based on a broad and fruitful reading in the scientific and pseudo-scientific literature of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, and it draws, with admirable completeness, not just on the more canonical of Machaut's works, but also on things much more rarely glanced at, such as his Prise d'Alexandrie. Of its nature, this section is descriptive rather than analytical; this can make it seem rather ploddingly exhaustive, and one longs, from time to time, for a bit more editorial discretion: how useful, for instance, is Machaut's `bestiary'? …

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