Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Esope Au Feminin: Marie De France et la Politique De L'interculturalite

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Esope Au Feminin: Marie De France et la Politique De L'interculturalite

Article excerpt

Sahar Amer, tsope au feminin: Marie de France et la politique de l'interculturalite, Faux Titre 169 (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1999). iv + 246 pp. ISBN 90-420-- 0607-2. Hfl. 85.00/F. Fr. 255.00/L25.50.

Sahar Amer seeks to remedy the tendency, which she sees as widespread, to ignore the indirect Arabic influence on medieval French literature, and in particular on Marie de France's Fables. Pointing to the number of scholars from England who, in the course of the twelfth century, travelled abroad in search of Arab scientific or philosophical wisdom, she plausibly surmises that alongside this knowledge there would have been the transmission of a storytelling tradition, even if only orally. Marie de France would doubtless have been aware of this intellectual and cultural contact, and while the Romulus Nilantii, an eleventh-century Latin prose compilation, has long been accepted as the fundamental source of the first forty of her Fables, the influence of an eighth-century Arabic collection, the Kalilah iva Dimnah, is also detectable in the Fables in general. Marie may well have known of this collection orally through an English translator (the mysterious Alfred of the epilogue?), and used it to reinterpret in her own way existing fables. The Romulus Nilantii reflects the Christianization of the Latin fable tradition, which was always basically didactic in intent, and the exempla it contains deal unambiguously with good and evil within a rigid moral framework. The Kalilah wa Dimnah, on the other hand, was not destined for a clerical readership, although it contained didactic elements. It was deliberately literary and entertaining, and invited the reader to discover a deeper meaning through his own interpretation, as it propounded no rigid, universal truth. …

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