Proverbs in Medieval Occitan Literature

Wendy Pfeffer

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"The most insightful study of the functioning of proverbs in any medieval literature. . . . Demonstrates the importance of proverbs in the troubadour lyric. . . . A significant contribution to the current debate on medieval literacy and medieval mind-sets . . . , interdisciplinary in its impact."--William Calin, University of Florida

"An excellent survey of the use of proverbs in troubadours’ poetry. . . . Persuasively establishes a link between the use of proverbs and a higher degree of literacy in medieval Occitania than previously assumed."--Eliza Miruna Ghil, University of New Orleans

Proverbs in Medieval Occitan Literature is the first analysis in English of the use of proverbial materials in the literature of southern France from the 12th and 13th centuries. Wendy Pfeffer argues that proverbs are important in troubadour literature for what they tell us about troubadour training, troubadour audiences, and the mentality of southern France during this period.
Pfeffer shows that the proverbial material of troubadour literature indicates a different level of literacy in its audience than has been previously assumed. She also demonstrates the hitherto unappreciated formal aspects of troubadour works and the surprisingly broad range of source material incorporated in them.
No careful analysis of the proverbial material in this literature has been carried out since the late 19th century, and that work was incomplete, marred by flawed texts, and never available in English. Pfeffer provides a meticulous survey of this literature, establishing historical and stylistic periods and offering astute and insightful analyses of major poets to illustrate the characteristics of each period.

Wendy Pfeffer is chair and professor of French in the Department of Classical and Modern Languages at the University of Louisville. She is also coauthor of Three Medieval Views of Women (1989).

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"Successfully demonstrates that proverbs were an integral part of the literary corpus of the troubadours and that there was an audience expectation of proverbial material and references to proverbs.-- Parergon

"The study does demonstrate convincingly the importance of proverbs in the poetry of the troubadours."-- Speculum

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