The Freedoms of Fiction for Gender in Premodern France

  • Helen Solterer
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)

Abstract

A major shift in meaning in the word “franchise” can be traced through French and English literary and political writing. Assessing the change within the framework of the fifteenth-century controversy over Alain Chartier’s “Belle Dame sans merci,” we see that the various fictive forms of the “Belle Dame” enabled readers to imagine women’s public and emotional states as provocatively free.

Keywords

Arena Pier Defend Populus Stake 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes

  1. 1.
    Alain Chartier, “La Belle Dame sans merci,” Poèmes, ed. James Laidlaw (Paris: Union Générale d’Editions, 1988), p. 167. All translations are mine unless otherwise noted.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Andreas Capellanus on Love, ed. and tr. P. G. Walsh (London: Duckworth, 1982), pp. 102–3.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    On the retro vision of Paris’s Court of Love, see Jacqueline Cerquiglini-Toulet, La Couleur de la mélancholie: la fréquentation des livres au XIVe siècle, 1300–1415 (Paris: Hatier, 1993), pp. 55–6. On the typecasting of the “belle dame,” see Anne Berthelot, “Le Dit de la panthère d’amour ou la courtoisie menacée,” Francographies 1 (1995): 251–63, and Berthelot, “La Belle Dame sans mercy, ou la dame qui ne voulait pas jouer,” in La Fin’amor dans la culture féodale: Actes du colloque du Centre d’Etudes Médiévales de l’Université de Picardie Jules Verne (Greifswald: Reineke, 1994), pp. 13–21; see also William Kibler, “The Narrator as Key to Alain Chartier’s La Belle Dame sans Merci,” The French Review 52.5 (April 1979): 714–23; Giuseppe E. Sansone, “La Belle Dame sans Merci et le langage courtois,” Le Moyen Français 39–40–41 (1997): 513–26.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    On this controversy, see my Master and Minerva: Disputing Women in French Medieval Culture (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1995), pp. 176–99.Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    Baudet Herenc, “Le Parlement d’amours fut tenu au jardin de plaisance contre la Belle Dame sans mercy,” in Le Jardin de Plaisance et fleur de rethorique, facsimile of the edition published by Antoine Vérard, vers 1501 (Paris: Firmin-Didot, 1910), vol. 1, fol. 141. The poem goes under several titles, including Les Accusations, Le Jugement, and Le Procès de la Belle Dame sans merci.Google Scholar
  6. 7.
    Sir Richard Ros, “La Belle Dame sans mercy,” Chaucerian and Other Pieces, ed. Walter W. Skeat (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1907), p. 309. Despite an attribution in the manuscript to Ros, this translation was usually attributed to Chaucer.Google Scholar
  7. 8.
    The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy (1860), authorized translation from the 15th edition, S. G. C. Middlemore (New York: Albert and Charles Boni, 1935), p. 389. This is the point of departure for the volume Rewriting the Renaissance: The Discourses of Sexual Difference in Early Modern Europe, eds. Margaret W. Ferguson, Maureen Quilligan, and Nancy J. Vickers (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986), p. xv. The editors put it briskly into question, looking at a Venetian nun’s experience and the way it illustrates “precisely women’s lack of freedom” (p. xv). Equality and freedom are cited together—a sign of our revolutionary heritage, even when it comes to the case of women.Google Scholar
  8. 10.
    Ipomédon: poème de Hue de Rotelande, ed. A.J. Holden (Paris: Klincksieck, 1970), p. 103.Google Scholar
  9. 11.
    See Thelma Fenster, “La Fama, la femme, et la dame de la Tour: Christine de Pizan et la médisance,” in Au Champs des escriptures, ed. Eric Hicks (Paris: Champion, 2000), pp. 461–77; and Kristen Neuschel, Word of Honor: Interpreting Noble Culture in Sixteenth-Century France (Ithaca, N.Y: Cornell University Press, 1989).Google Scholar
  10. 13.
    Jean Renart, Le Roman de la rose ou de Guillaume de Dole, ed. Félix Lecoy (Paris: Champion, 1977), vv. 160–1. See also The Romance of the Rose or of Guillaume de Dole, ed. and trans. Regina Psaki (New York: Garland Press, 1995).Google Scholar
  11. 14.
    “Guigemar,” Les Lais de Marie de France, ed. Jean Rychner (Paris: Champion, 1966), vv. 211–12.Google Scholar
  12. 15.
    Les Miracles de Nostre Dame par personnages, eds. Gaston Paris and Ulysse Robert, 8 vols., SATF (Paris: Firmin-Didot, 1876–93), vol. 4 (1879), p. 254.Google Scholar
  13. 16.
    Aucassin et Nicolette, chantefable du XIIIe siècle, ed. Mario Roques (Paris: Champion, 1954), II, 38–41.Google Scholar
  14. 17.
    All quotations from Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun, Le Roman de la Rose, ed. Armand Strubel (Paris: Librairie Générale Française, 1992).Google Scholar
  15. 18.
    Elizabeth Spelman, Inessential Women: Problems of Exclusion in Feminist Thought (Boston: Beacon Press, 1988).Google Scholar
  16. 19.
    See Catherine Brown, “Muliebriter: Doing Gender in the Letters of Heloise,” in Gender and Text in the Later Middle Ages, ed. Jane Chance (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1996), pp. 25–51.Google Scholar
  17. 21.
    Quaestiones disputatae. De malo, q. 15, a. 3, in Opera omnia, ed. Vernon J. Bourke (New York: Musurgia, 1949), vol. 8, p. 387. See also Alain de Libera’s discussion, Penser au moyen âge (Paris: Seuil, 1991), p. 208.Google Scholar
  18. 22.
    The Riverside Chaucer, ed. Larry D. Benson (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1987). This passage is reminiscent of one on de Meun’s Rose, ll. 9407–10: “Ja de sa fame n’iert amez qui sires veust estre clamez; Car il covient amors morir quant amant veulent seignorir” [He who wants to be acclaimed sire will not be loved by his wife; When a lover wants to rule the roost, it is the death of love]. The key term again is seignorir.Google Scholar
  19. 23.
    Maistre Nicole Oresme: Le Livre de Politiques d’Aristote, ed. Albert Douglas Menut (Philadelphia, Pa.: Transactions of the American Philosophical Society 60, part 6, 1970), p. 257. Oresme also defines freedom as “la supposition de policie democratique”[the given of democratic politics], p. 257.Google Scholar
  20. 24.
    Georges Duby, “The Nobility in Medieval France,” in The Chivalrous Society, trans. Cynthia Postan (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1977), p. 96.Google Scholar
  21. 27.
    Karen Sullivan, “The Inquisitorial Origins of Literary Debate,” Romanic Review 3 (1997): 27–51.Google Scholar
  22. 28.
    See Patricia McCune, “The Ideology of Mercy in English Literature and Law, 1200–1600,” Ph.D. thesis, University of Michigan, 1989.Google Scholar
  23. 29.
    “La Cruelle Femme en Amour,” ed. Arthur Piaget in “La Belle Dame et ses imitations,” Romania 31 (1902): 322–409.Google Scholar
  24. 30.
    Marc Bloch, Feudal Society, vol. 1, trans. L. A. Manyon (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1962), p. 255.Google Scholar
  25. 32.
    See Colette Beaune’s review of franc/France in “La France et les Français,” Naissance de la nation France (Paris: Gallimard, 1985), pp. 417–53, esp. pp. 418–29. See also The Birth of an Ideology: Myths and Symbols of Nation in Late-Medieval France, trans. Susan Ross Huston, ed. Fredric L. Cheyette (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1991), pp. 284–92. Beaune does not consider Christine de Pizan’s writing.Google Scholar
  26. 33.
    Jean Lemaire de Belges, La Concorde des deux langages (1510), ed. Jean Frappier (Geneva: Droz, 1947), v. 583, p. 31.Google Scholar
  27. 36.
    Beaune, Naissance de la nation France, pp. 424–29 [Birth of an Ideology, pp. 288–92]; Michel Winock, “Joan of Arc,” Lieux de Mémoire, ed. Pierre Nora (Paris: Gallimard, 1992), vol. 3, 3:675–730.Google Scholar
  28. 37.
    Le Livre de l’Advision Cristine, ed. Christine Reno and Liliane Dulac (Paris: Honoré Champion, 2000). There is also the edition of Mary Louis Towner (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America, 1932), p. 79.Google Scholar
  29. 38.
    Benjamin M. Semple points out Christine’s inquiry in the Advision into “the liberty of thought” (“The Critique of Knowledge as Power: The Limits of Philosophy and Theology in Christine de Pizan,” in Christine de Pizan and the Categories of Difference, ed. Marilynn Desmond [Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1998], p. 112). See also Rosalind Brown-Grant, Christine de Pizan and the Moral Defence of Women: Reading beyond Gender (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), pp. 101–2.Google Scholar
  30. 39.
    Alain Chartier, Le Quadrilogue Invectif ed. Eugénie Droz (Paris: Honoré Champion, 1950), p. 9; Fifteenth-Century English Translations of Alain Chartier’s Le Traité de l’Espérance and Le Quadrilogue Invectif ed. Margaret S. Blayney (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980), p. 148.Google Scholar
  31. 40.
    See Bernard Guenée, Un Meurtre, Une Société: l’Assassinat du duc d’Orléans. 23 novembre 1401 (Paris: Gallimard, 1992).Google Scholar
  32. 41.
    Joël Blanchard, “L’Entrée du poète dans le champ politique au XVe siècle,” Annales E.S.C. 41, no. 1 (January–February 1986), 43–61; Claude Gauvard, “Christine de Pizan et ses contemporains: L’Engagement politique des écrivains dans le royaume de France aux XIVe et XVe siècles,” in Une Femme de lettres au Moyen Age: Etudes autour de Christine de Pizan, eds. Liliane Dulac and Bernard Ribémont (Orléans: Paradigme, 1995), pp. 105–28.Google Scholar
  33. 43.
    Christiane Marchello-Nizia, “Amour courtois, société masculine et figures du pouvoir,” Annales E.S.C. 36 (1981): 969–82. Georges Duby, Mâle moyen âge: de l’amour et autres essais (Paris: Flammarion, 1988).Google Scholar
  34. 44.
    Jean de Montreuil, “Traité contre les Anglais” (ca. 1409–13), Opera: L’Oeuvre historique et polémique, eds. Ezio Ornato, Nicole Grévy, and Gilbery Ouy, vol. 2 (Turin: G. Giappichelli, 1975), p. 168.Google Scholar
  35. 47.
    Antoine Loisel, Institutes coustumieres (Paris: Abel L’Angelier, 1611, third edition, transcription, facsimile [Mayenne: Floch, 1935], #310), p. 54.Google Scholar
  36. 50.
    “A law called the Salic law … and furthermore it is true according to custom and common usage maintained and observed in this realm that a woman is deprived of the right of succession, as of the right to feudal property; her sons and descendents are also deprived and prevented from succeeding; this is publicly upheld” [Une loy nomme la loy sallicque … et si est vray en oultre que par la coustume et usaige notoirement gardées et observées en ce royaulme, toutesfoys que une femme est déboutée d’une succession, comme d’aucun fief, les filx qui descenent d’elle sont forcloz et déboutés; et ainsi en use l’en publicquement notoirement] Jean Juvenal des Ursins, “Audite celi” (1435), in Ecrits politiques de Jean Juvenal des Ursins, ed. P. S. Lewis, vol. 1 (Paris: Klincksieck, 1978), pp. 156, 158.Google Scholar
  37. 52.
    See my discussion in “Fiction versus Defamation: The Quarrel over the Romance of the Rose,” The Medieval History Journal, 2.1 (1999): 132–39. See also Giorgio Ronconi, Le origini delle dispute umanistiche sulla poesia (Mussato e Petrarca) (Rome: Bulzoni, 1976).Google Scholar
  38. 53.
    See the remarks by Thelma Fenster and Mary Carpenter Erler in their edition Poems of Cupid, God of Love: Christine de Pizan’s Epistre au dieu d’Amours and Dit de la Rose; Thomas Hoccleve’s “The Letter of Cupid” (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1990), pp. 4–5.Google Scholar
  39. 56.
    Leonard Johnson, Poets as Players: Theme and Variation in Late Medieval French Poetry (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1990).Google Scholar
  40. 57.
    “Mais, je diray par ficcion, le fait de la mutacion comment de femme devins homme” [I shall say, through fiction, the fact of this transformation/mutation, how it was I become a man from a woman]. Le Livre de la Mutacion de Fortune, ed. Suzanne Solente (Paris: A. & J. Picard, 1959), vol. 1, ll. 150–53.Google Scholar
  41. 58.
    Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex, trans. H. M. Parshley (New York: Vintage Books, 1989), pp. 714–15. Toril Moi identifies Beauvoir’s thinking with freedom: “Since her most fundamental social and individual value is freedom, Beauvoir’s feminism should rightly be referred to as a ‘feminism of freedom.’” What Is a Woman? And Other Essays (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), p. 388.Google Scholar
  42. 59.
    Bertrand de la Borderie, L’Amye de Court, in Le Miroir des femmes, vol. 1, Moralistes polémistes au XVIe siècle, eds. Luce Guillerm, Jean-Pierre Guillerm, Laurence Hordoir, Marie-Françoise Piéjus (Lille: Presses Universitaires de Lille, 1983), p. 205.Google Scholar
  43. 60.
    For discussion of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century notions of liberty in relation to the condition of women, see Joan Wallach Scott, Only Paradoxes to Offer: French Feminism and the Rights of Man (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1996).Google Scholar
  44. 61.
    At the Heart of Freedom: Feminism, Sex, and Equality (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1998), p. 24.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Thelma S. Fenster and Clare A. Lees 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Helen Solterer

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations