“Maps out new territory that offers an in-depth investigation of a crucial aspect of medieval literature. The notion of ‘the other within’ promises (and delivers) insight into what differentiates as well as brings together past and present concerns.”—Matilda Tomaryn Bruckner, author of Chrétien Continued: A Study of the “Conte du Graal” and its Verse Continuations
Contributors to this collection consider the multiplicity and instability of medieval French literary identity, arguing that it is fluid and represented in many different ways. Inherently unstable, identity is created, re-created, adopted, refused, imposed, and self-imposed. Additionally, taken together the essays posit that an individual may identify with a group, existing within it, and yet remain foreign to it.
One of the most prominent examples of this device occurs in the Conte du Graal by Chrétien de Troyes, who is often credited as the inventor of the modern novel. The tale opens with the hero, Perceval, hunting alone in the forest, lost in his own pursuits and his own thoughts. His “alone-ness” and self-absorption are obvious as he moves toward an integration into society. When he emerges from the forest, he is both accepted and yet even more “different.”
The focal point of the book is identity in flux, regardless of whether the individual is part of a community or not. This illustrates the breadth of perspectives from which one may view the “other” within oneself. The essays examine the complexity of the notion of self through a wide range of lenses, from marginal characters to gender to questions of voice and naming. The works analyzed span genres—epic, romance, lyric poetry, hagiography, fabliaux—and historical periods—dating from the twelfth century to the late Middle Ages.
Adrian P. Tudor is senior lecturer in French in the School of Histories, Languages and Cultures at the University of Hull. He has authored and coedited numerous books, including Grant Risee? The Medieval Comic Presence. Kristin L. Burr is professor in the Department of Modern and Classical Languages at Saint Joseph’s University. She is coeditor of The Old French Fabliaux: Essays on Comedy and Context.
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