Clergie, Clerkly Studium, and the Medieval Literary History of Chréétien De Troyes's Romances - PDF

Otterbein University Digital Otterbein Modern Languages & Cultures Faculty Scholarship Modern Languages & Cultures 2011 Clergie, Clerkly Studium, and the Medieval Literary History of Chréétien

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Otterbein University Digital Otterbein Modern Languages & Cultures Faculty Scholarship Modern Languages & Cultures 2011 Clergie, Clerkly Studium, and the Medieval Literary History of Chréétien De Troyes's Romances Levilson C. Reis Otterbein University, Follow this and additional works at: Part of the French and Francophone Literature Commons, Medieval Studies Commons, and the Modern Languages Commons Repository Citation Reis, Levilson C., Clergie, Clerkly Studium, and the Medieval Literary History of Chréétien De Troyes's Romances (2011). Modern Languages & Cultures Faculty Scholarship. Paper 20. This Article is brought to you for free and open access by the Modern Languages & Cultures at Digital Otterbein. It has been accepted for inclusion in Modern Languages & Cultures Faculty Scholarship by an authorized administrator of Digital Otterbein. For more information, please contact CLERGIE, CLERKLY STUDIUM, AND THE MEDIEVAL LITERARY HISTORY OF CHRÉTIEN DE TROYES S ROMANCES Levilson C. Reis Modern Language Review 106 (2011): DOI: /modelangrevi Abstract This article traces the development of medieval literary history across the thirteenth century through manuscript readings of Chrétien de Troyes s romances. Redefining clergie as the clerkly pursuit of learning, the author argues that scribes played an important role in shaping Chrétien s romances and establishing their place in medieval literary history. Through a close examination of manuscript collections centered on Cligés, the author delineates synchronic and diachronic shifts in the organization and presentation of Chrétien s individual manuscripts, while evaluating the roles that different scribes and compilers played in the formation of a Chrétien corpus and the development of a romance genre. Keywords: French medieval romance; Chrétien de Troyes; Cligés; medieval literary history; manuscript culture; author corpus; romance genre; chevalerie; clergie. Levilson C. Reis 2 CLERGIE, CLERKLY STUDIUM, AND THE MEDIEVAL LITERARY HISTORY OF CHRÉTIEN DE TROYES S ROMANCES More than fifty years ago, Jean Frappier officially placed Chrétien de Troyes among the greats in French literary history in a monograph that would become the standard study of the man and his works. 1 While there is no doubt that Chrétien was French, despite some lingering questions about who the man really was, the question of whether his works should be classified as French or English national literature has been the object of intense critical discussion. 2 Although the linguistic, nationalistic, and genre-specific notions of modern literary history have sharpened the debate, attempts to classify vernacular medieval literature according to cycles specific to certain countries date back to Jean Bodel s articulation of the three matters of France, Britain, and Rome in his Chanson des Saisnes at the turn of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. In the prologue to Chrétien s Cligés (c. 1176), however, the narrator proposes a different literary historical model, based on the cycle of translatio studii, the passage of literary patrimony from the ancients to the moderns, which offers an even earlier point of departure for tracing the development of medieval literary history. 3 Whilst the narrator s conceptualization of this cycle has been widely recognized as a reformulation of the larger universal historical topos of translatio studii et imperii, 4 it bears some distinguishing features. The narrator replaces the age-old concepts of imperium (imperial rule) and studium (ancient learning) in terms of the twelfth-century ideals of chevalerie (chivalry) and 3 Clergie, Clerkly Studium, and Medieval Literary History clergie (clerical learning) and then narrows down their translatio from Greece to France, passing through Rome. The passage is worthy of quotation: Que Grece ot de chevalerie Le premier los et de clergie, Puis vint chevalerie a Rome Et de la clergie la somme, Qui or est en France venue. (ed. Méla and Collet, ll ) [C]hivalry and learning first flourished in Greece; then to Rome came chivalry and the sum of knowledge, which now has come to France. (p ) The geographical specificity of translatio and the reframing of the concepts of imperium and studium as chevalerie and clergie require some discussion especially in the context of Cligés. First, while it would be expected that a French-speaking poet would claim France as the heiress to a Graeco-Roman political and cultural hegemony, it is odd that he would chronicle a hero s journey from Greece to an Arthurian Britain with towns identifiable to those of contemporary twelfth-century England. Conflating these diegetical and extradiegetical elements in Cligés, some scholars came to recognize England as the seat of a political power and literary culture. 7 Diametrically opposed to such a point of view, Jean Frappier and others have adamantly maintained that Chrétien had specifically mentioned France in the prologue, dismissing the wider context of late twelfth-century Europe which encompassed a linguistic and cultural sphere of France that stretched from Levilson C. Reis 4 the Angevin British Isles to Norman Sicily to the Frankish crusader states in Palestine. 8 Nonetheless, as it will be discussed later, the fictional English setting of Arthur s world in Cligés does not exclude a politically specific France or an ethnically specific Frankish identity. Second, the narrator s reformulation of the Latin concepts of imperium and studium in terms of chevalerie (chivalry) and clergie (clerical learning) poses a new set of important questions, not the least of which concern the conceptual equivalence of terms. Imperium and chevalerie, on the one hand, are not exactly coterminous especially in the sense that the concept of chivalry would take in twelfth-century France. 9 In Cligés, for example, how could a Greek knight s journey to measure himself against the Knights of the Round Table at Arthur s court represent the devolvement of imperium rather than chevalerie, that is, military rather than political power? How would this journey represent such a transfer from Greece to France rather than to England? Studium and clergie, on the other hand, may be conceptually equivalent, for both require a zealous pursuit of knowledge. 10 Yet, what would a presumably Latin tale of chivalrous deeds borrowed from antiquity contribute to medieval knowledge (in the sense of Par les livres que nous avons Les faiz des anciens savons (ed. Méla and Collet, ll ; Through the books we have, we learn of the deeds of ancient peoples and of bygone days, p. 123)? Considering that the high level of learning and knowledge attained in twelfth-century scholastic and literary circles was due to the dedicated work of clerics, who translated classical works of whatever genre or source into the vernacular, the question above should be recast: What role did redactors, copyists, and compilers of the 5 Clergie, Clerkly Studium, and Medieval Literary History manuscripts of Chrétien s romances, for example, have on the development of what one could call medieval literary history and specially that of Chrétien de Troyes s romances? Reflecting the cleric s pursuit of learning and knowledge, clergie (despite its Greek etymology) is conceptually very close to the Latin studium in connoting the zeal and intellectual effort applied to the acquisition of knowledge, which sustained the work of monastic scribes and would later found the medieval university concept of studium generale. 11 Evoking an analogous scenario in the prologue to Cligés, the narrator claims that the source of the romance of Cligés lies in a book taken from Saint-Pierre s aumaire (library) in Beauvais. 12 Paronomastically, the term aumaire (aumeire or almeire) recalls the connection that existed between the monastic libraries and scriptoria through the figure of the armarius, the director of a monastic scriptorium, who provisioned clerics with the literary works to be copied. As the manuscript copies of Chrétien s romances testify, by the thirteenth century workshops, copy-shops, and market-stalls appeared, independent from ecclesiastical control, much like the one that the scribe Guiot advertises at the end of Yvain: Cil qui l escrist guioz a non Devant nostre dame de val Est ses ostex tot a estal (BN, MS f. fr. 794, fol. 105 r c; He who wrote it is named Guiot, and his market-stall is located in front of Notre-Dame-du-Val, my translation). By then, the work of professional copyists had become more complex requiring compilers, illuminators, and binders, each bringing, as we shall see, a different conception to the organization and presentation of the manuscript collection. Focusing on Érec and particularly Cligés, given the narrator s ostentatious awareness of literary history in the prologue, this essay examines the role that clerkly cultures (redactors, scribes, copyists, and compilers) in different places and times, more and more Levilson C. Reis 6 alert to the concept of author corpora and literary cycles, played in establishing the literary history of Chrétien s romances. This approach necessitates a preliminary discussion of the manuscripts of Chrétien de Troyes romances that delineate a literary historical pattern seen from the point of view of the modern reader; a reader, caveat lector, who can examine several manuscripts at the same time, well aware that all these manuscripts were copied from different exemplars and by different scribes at different dates and locations. Among the earliest extant manuscript collections containing all five romances that offer a point of departure for this examination are Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale (BN), MSS fonds français (f. fr.) 1450 (localized to Picardy) and 794 (localized to Champagne), followed by later thirteenth-century author-based collections BN, MSS f. fr (dated to the third quarter of the thirteenth century; localized to Ile-de-France) and (dated to the third quarter of the thirteenth century; partially localized to Ile-de-France 13 ). See Table 1 below: TABLE 1: Manuscripts of Cligés used in this article BN, MSS 13th century Localization Content and placement of Chrétien works* by collection f. fr nd quarter Picardy Roman de Troie, Roman d Énéas, Roman de Brut, Dolopathos É, P, C, Y, L as adjuncts to the Roman de Brut f. fr nd quarter Champagne É, L, C, Y headline the collection as a separate cycle Athis et Prophilias, Troie, Brut, Empereurs de Rome, P, FC, SC f. fr mid century Ile de France É and C f. fr rd quarter Ile de France Y, L, C Champagne *É= Érec et Énide; C= Cligés; L= Lancelot; Y= Yvain; P= Perceval, FC= First Continuation, SC= Second Continuation 7 Clergie, Clerkly Studium, and Medieval Literary History Although it is now generally agreed that both manuscript collections date roughly to the second quarter of the thirteenth century, this examination takes into account the possibility, which some philologists have advanced, that BN, MS f. fr precedes BN, MS f. fr. 794 by at least a quarter century. 14 Such a chronology of production would support my hypothesis that the shift in the presentation of the romances now attributed to Chrétien de Troyes from adjuncts in Wace s Roman de Brut in BN, MS f. fr. 1450, in a pattern of organization that emphasized the notion of translatio studii et imperii, to that of an author-centred corpus in BN, MS f. fr. 794 reflects a discernable literary historical mouvance in the manuscript transmission of Chrétien s romances. The proposition of an earlier date for BN, MS f. fr could offer to the modern reader unfamiliar with medieval literary historical cyclicity a more diachronous sense of the literary history of Chrétien s romances. Notwithstanding, further examination of the patterns of presentation and organization of the romances in these two early thirteenth-century collections in relation that of late thirteenth-century author-based codices leads to the conclusion that scribes different conceptions of their manuscripts may be the true catalysts of a larger diachronic process. Compared to the set of early thirteenth-century large-format compilations, the late thirteenth-century author-based manuscript collections BN, MSS f. fr and exhibit considerable codicological changes in the manuscript transmission of Chrétien s romances which attest to the formation of the author s corpus and the formalization of the romance genre. Because of the narrator s listing of the poet s previous compositions in the first lines of Cligés, the prologue itself constitutes a landmark of medieval literary history and has Levilson C. Reis 8 played a decisive role in the early formation of a Chrétien corpus especially in the context of the first two romances, Érec and Cligés. The prologue situates the author and his work astride an established literary tradition and an inchoate oral vernacular French literary form only to set Chrétien and his œuvre further apart from the ancient matter by instituting a source for Cligés in the Arthurian material. 15 Although the references to Ovidian sources and the Latin manuscript found at Saint-Pierre Church in Beauvais, upon which Cligés was purportedly drawn, echo the Latin locations of translatio, the reference to the matter of Britain in the very first line of the prologue, coupled with the announcement of a story of a hero of Arthurian lineage, may have raised the audience s horizon of expectation for an Arthurian tale in spite of the fact that he was half-greek. The opening reference to Érec et Énide, if not chronologically placed, is strategically located to engage the horizon of expectation of an audience of Cligés (c. 1176) familiar with the first romance (c. 1170). 16 In Érec et Énide, Chrétien had set in place the chronotope that would characterize the prototypical beginning of his subsequent romances: an opening festive religious celebration, an Arthurian court setting, a recurring knightly hero, and the impulse for the romance hero s adventurous quest. 17 The first line of Cligés enacts for the first time the horizon of expectation of an audience familiar with Érec s adventures at Arthur s court, his marriage to Énide, and the conflict between his knightly and marital duties. The audience may have been ill prepared, however, for what turns out to be a story of a half-arthurian, half-greek knight set at the Greco-Byzantine court. The narrator s sudden switch to the account of the erstwhile adventures of the hero s father at Arthur s court might have been strategically used to provide a point of entry into the unconventional 9 Clergie, Clerkly Studium, and Medieval Literary History mise en scene of an Arthurian hero in an oriental setting. Thus, this introductory part of the romance would finally correspond to the horizon of expectation set forth in the first line of Cligés. In terms of literary history, as it will be discussed later, this part of the story has a great deal to tell about how an audience s familiarity of certain cycles or genres such as genealogies, the matters of France, Britain, and Rome, or the chansons de geste might have affected the reception of Chrétien as well as the formation of the corpus of his romances and the development of the romance genre itself. Because Chrétien s romances first appeared amidst the matter of antiquity and the genealogical history of the kings of Britain, their generic specificity qua romances may have subsumed under the historiographical content of both BN, MSS. f. fr and 794. As the codicological organization of MS f. fr in particular indicates, some of Chrétien s romances may have been unrecognizable. In keeping with the organizing principle of translatio studii et imperii, the scribe intercalated Chrétien s romances in Wace s Roman de Brut (c. 1155) without quire breaks or rubrics as though they were an integral part of history of the kings of Britain. 18 To achieve a seamless interpolation, the scribe removed the existing prologues to Chrétien s romances except that to Cligés. Despite the intervening Perceval, without its prologue, and a fragment of its First Continuation, the prologue to Cligés serves as a turning point between the coronation of Érec and Alexander s adventures at Arthur s court, both of which are privileged over the more romance-like focus on the psychological ruminations of the heroes and heroines in the first part of Érec and the second part of Cligés. Much has been made about the extensive cuts the scribe made to the first part of Érec, which deals with hero s married life, and the second part of Cligés, which centers on Cligés Levilson C. Reis 10 and Fénice s relationship. 19 The number of omissions is relatively small, namely 355 lines in Érec and 127 in Cligés. The quantity is not as significant as the quality of the cuts. In the first romance, for example, the scribe eliminated the physical and moral portraits of Érec (ll ) and that of Énide (ll , , , and ) and the nature of her submissive relationship to Érec (ll , , and ). 20 In the second romance, the scribe suppressed the psychological nuances of Fénice s love for Cligés (ll , , and ) and, most significantly, the passages where Fénice refuses Tristan and Yseult s adulterous model (ll ), not to mention, the sadistic handling of Fenice s dead body (ll ). 21 By shortening his redaction of the first half of Érec and the second part of Cligés, the Picard scribe privileged parts of these two romances that had to do with royal histories at the expense of the more sentimental or psychological aspects of the romance genre. Despite the connection that the narrator establishes between He who wrote Érec and Énide and Cligés in the latter s prologue in BN, MS f. fr (fol. 188 v b1), even the more experienced modern reader, not to say manuscript editor, was hard-pressed to understand some specific peculiarities of BN, MS f. fr In his edition of the Roman de Brut in BN, MS f. fr. 1450, Antoine Le Roux de Lincy, found it difficult to explain the transitional line Or commence oevre Crestien between the last line of Cligés (fol. 207 v a) and the first one of Yvain (fol. 207 v b) which, devoid of a prologue proper, fuses seamlessly with the pseudo-historical nature of the Brut. 22 As Le Roux de Lincy notes, these singularities of BN, MS f. fr. 1450 11 Clergie, Clerkly Studium, and Medieval Literary History jettent quelque jour sur un point de notre histoire littéraire [...] que nous proposons seulement comme un doute [...] on sera porté à croire que ce dernier vers est une faute de copiste et qu il faut lire: Or ci fine oevre Crestien; d autant plus que, dans le prologue d Erec et d Enide [sic], Chrétien déclare formellement qu il est l auteur dudit roman d Erec. [...] et si l on réfléchit que ce prologue qui indique Chrétien comme auteur d Erec manque dans quelques manuscrits (nommément dans celui-ci), on peut croire, d après le vers cité plus haut, que Chrétien de Troyes n aurait pas fait le roman de Cliges [sic], ni les traductions d Ovide, ni le fameux Tristan dont parlent plusieurs littérateurs, sans qu aucune bibliothèque d Europe n ait encore pu nous en fournir une copie. 23 The insertion of Chrétien s romances in the Brut, the scribal attribution of only Yvain to Crestiens, and the fact that the scribe privileged the epic parts of Érec and Cligés indicate that, at least for the medieval audiences of BN, MS f. fr. 1450, Chrétien s romances were received in the pseudohistorical framework of the Roman de Brut. 24 Therefore, the Érec and Cligés transmitted in this codex prove to be the least conducive to the early formation of a Chrétien corpus and to the establishment of a French literary history of Chrétien s Arthurian romances. In BN, MS f. fr. 794, the self-proclaimed Champenois scribe, Guiot, conceived of Chrétien s works as a separate set and gathered the first four of them (É
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