Narcissus and Testimony: Guillaume de Machaut’s Fountain of Love

  • Nicholas Ealy
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


This chapter treats narcissism and selfhood, through the lens of testimony, in Guillaume de Machaut’s Fountain of Love (c. 1360). As a testimony to love, the text relates the encounter between a forlorn lover and a clerk who composes the lover’s lament for his beloved lady. Both learn that unreciprocated vision and speech, due to language’s polyvocal nature, work against their testimonial appeal. The story of Narcissus, at the center of the text, complicates testimony as well, for this is a tale that, having no witnesses who can speak of Narcissus’s demise, resists its own telling. The sole recourse the lover has, I posit, is to resort to the fantastical world of literature and dreams, where his wounds seemingly are healed and desire fulfilled.


  1. Agamben, Giorgio. 1993. Stanzas: Word and Phantasm in Western Culture. Trans. Ronald L. Martinez. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minneapolis Press.Google Scholar
  2. Ahl, Frederick. 1985. Metaformations: Soundplay and Wordplay in Ovid and Other Classical Poets. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Aristotle. 2001. On the Soul. In The Basic Works of Aristotle. Trans. Richard McKeon, 535–606. New York: Modern Library.Google Scholar
  4. Bloch, R. Howard. 2003. The Anonymous Marie de France. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cerquiglini-Toulet, Jacqueline. 2001. “Un engin si soutil”: Guillaume de Machaut et l’écriture au XIV e siècle. Paris: Honoré Champion.Google Scholar
  6. Chrétien de Troyes. 1959. Le Roman de Perceval ou le conte du Graal. Ed. William Roach. Geneva: Librairie Droz.Google Scholar
  7. de Looze, Laurence. 1988. “Mon nom trouveras”: A New Look at the Anagrams of Guillaume de Machaut—The Enigmas, Responses, and Solutions. Romanic Review 79 (4): 537–557.Google Scholar
  8. Delogu, Daisy. 2012. “Laisser le mal, le bien eslire”: History, Allegory, and Ethical Reading in the Works of Guillaume de Machaut. In A Companion to Guillaume de Machaut, ed. Jennifer Bain and Deborah McGrady, 261–275. Leiden: Brill.Google Scholar
  9. Derrida, Jacques. 2000. Demeure: Fiction and Testimony. Trans. Elizabeth Rottenberg. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Felman, Shoshana. 1992. Education and Crisis, or the Vicissitudes of Teaching. In Testimony: Crises of Witnessing in Literature, Psychoanalysis, and History, by Shoshana Felman and Dori Laub, 1–56. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  11. ———. 2002. The Juridical Unconscious: Trials and Traumas of the Twentieth Century. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Gaunt, Simon. 2006. Love and Death in Medieval French and Occitan Courtly Literature: Martyrs to Love. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Giraut de Borneil. 1989. Razon e leuc. In The “Cansos” and “Sirventes” of the Troubadour Giraut de Borneil: A Critical Edition. Ed. and Trans. Ruth Verity Sharman, 130–135. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Griffin, Miranda. 2015. Transforming Tales: Rewriting Metamorphosis in French Medieval Literature. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Guillaume de Machaut. 1909. Poésies lyriques, Vol. II. Ed. V. Chichmaref. Paris: Honoré Champion.Google Scholar
  16. ———. 1993. La Fontaine amoureuse. Ed. Jacqueline Cerquiglini-Toulet. Paris: Editions Stock.Google Scholar
  17. ———. 1999. Le Livre du Voir Dit. Ed. Paul Imbs. Paris: Librairie Générale Française.Google Scholar
  18. Hadot, Pierre. 2000. Le mythe de Narcisse et son interprétation par Plotin. In Narcisses, ed. Jean-Bertrand Pontalis, 127–160. Paris: Galimard.Google Scholar
  19. Haffen, Josiane. 1984. Contribution à l’étude de la sibylle médiévale: étude et édition du MS. BN., F. FR 25 407 fol. 160v-172v: le livre de Sibile. Paris: Les Belles Lettres.Google Scholar
  20. Leach, Elizabeth Eva. 2011. Guillaume de Machaut: Secretary, Poet, Musician. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Leupin, Alexandre. 1986. The Powerlessness of Writing: Guillaume de Machaut, the Goron, and Ordenance. Trans. Peggy McCracken. Yale French Studies 70: 127–149.Google Scholar
  22. Nouvet, Claire. 2009. Enfances narcisse. Paris: Galilée.Google Scholar
  23. Ovid. 1997. Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Books 1–5. Ed. William S. Anderson. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.Google Scholar
  24. Tissol, Garth. 1997. The Face of Nature: Wit, Narrative, and Cosmic Origins in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Žižek, Slavoj. 1989. The Sublime Object of Ideology. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  26. ———. 1992. Enjoy Your Symptom!: Jacques Lacan in Hollywood and Out. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nicholas Ealy
    • 1
  1. 1.University of HartfordWest HartfordUSA

Personalised recommendations