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Part 3: Home Truths, Public Truths

Representations of the Self in the Middle English Breton Lays

Joanny Moulin

Résumé

Starting from the fact that in the time gap between the oldest and the newest of the Breton lays the literary character as such can be seen to emerge, this article goes further to remark that women are the roundest characters. It aims to point out the potentially innovative take of research writers who have applied some of the methods of gender and post-colonial studies to the study of theses medieval texts, considering that the lays, especially those that are adapted translations from Marie de France, are the produce of the ‘post-conquest’ socio-cultural context, in all its lasting complexity. For example, the influence of Bernard de Clairvaux, and especially his notion of the fortis femina (strong woman) offers a potentially fruitful interpretative key to the lays, foregrounding the apology of marriage that turns out to be one of their most unifying themes, as a literary equivalent of bridal theology. The point is then illustrated by a brief comparative study of this thematic narrative, more especially in Sir Orfeo, Sir Degaré, Lay Le Freine, and Sir Launfal, with some references to Chaucer’s Franklin’s Tale as a point of comparison.

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  • 1 See Jerry Root, ‘Courtly Love and the Representation of Women in the “Lais” of Marie de France and (...)

1There is a gap of several hundred years between the probable date of composition of the earliest Breton lays, and at least two of them – Lay Le Freine and Sir Launfal – that are adapted from Marie de France (floruit 1160-1210) who was herself translating and versifying much more ancient works from the ‘matter of Bretagne’, and The Franklin’s Tale by Geoffrey Chaucer (1343-1400). One of the most striking differences between the Breton lays and The Canterbury Tales is that of characterisation, as if indeed we were actually witnessing the emergence of the character as literary development in that historical interval. None of the characters in the Breton lays have the roundness of those found in Chaucer’s works and this remark does not suggest any gradation of inherent literary quality, but much rather a difference of emphasis and preoccupation. Compared with Chaucer’s literary figures, the characters in the Breton lays are not even actually ‘types’, although they do belong to, and most of the time stand for, various social classes or categories. In the Breton lays, the characters are strikingly ‘everyman’, with the noteworthy restriction that the female characters are not all ‘everywoman.’ One is tempted to think that this is probably due to Marie de France’s paleofeminism,1 for it is in the lays translated from hers that one finds the roundest characters: Le Freine’s mother, Queen Guenore and Lady Tryamour. The only notable exception is perhaps King Orfeo, who is strongly characterized by his harp – a very Celtic attribute which strikingly evokes the biblical figure of David, the musician-poet king. Remarkably, every one of these lays ends up in marriage, whether contracted or reasserted (as in Sir Orfeo and The Franklin’s Tale). The greater literary sophistication of the women characters goes hand in hand with the paramount importance of marriage, as theme, motif, topic, and structure, which is the classic end of most romance.

2Moreover, women are always linked to the apparition of the marvellous in the narrative: they usher it in. In Sir Launfal, Tryamour is an obvious case in point: she is a supernatural lady. In Sir Orfeo, Heurodis under her ‘ympe-tree’ literally grafts, or plugs, this world onto the realm of fairy – her function as a character in the narrative is – as it were – to hyphenate these two dimensions. In Lay Le Freine, the ‘riche baudekine / That hir lord brought from Costentine’ (137-138), an object laden with oriental associations, operates as a token of recognition between Le Freine and her mother, but also of the heroine’s innate ‘noblesse’ that allows for the intervention of Providence. In Sir Degaré, the anonymous lady whom he marries in the end appears as a minor version of Tryamour, in so far as she provides the impetus for the accomplishment of his character, or self. In The Franklin’s Tale, it is Dorigen’s forlorn repining for her absent husband that brings about the white magic by which Aurelius attempts to seduce her, but the real marvellous dimension, the supernatural that is really foregrounded, is not the trick played by the magician from the University of Orleans, but the mental effect that Dorigen’s extreme ‘gentillesse’ of character ultimately has on both Arveragus and Aurelius.

  • 2 See Vladimir Vernadsky, ‘The Biosphere and the Noosphere’, American Scientist, 33.1, Jan. 1945, p. (...)
  • 3 See S. Forster Damon, ‘Marie de France: Psychologist of Courtly Love’, PMLA, 44.4, 1929, p. 968-996

3In Lay Le Freine, in Sir Degaré, and even more clearly so in The Franklin’s Tale, the marvellous is secularized: it is not projected onto a utopian fairy world, as in Sir Orfeo and Sir Launfal, but envisaged rather in psychological and moral terms. The noosphere – the realm of spiritual forces – is no longer approached through metaphor, but it is understood as a subjective fact: it is the habitat of the essential mettle, the hidden core of a human subject, that has to be proved by the ordeal of adventure. But whether it is represented in one way or in another, the field of adventure reveals the intersubjectivity of the nous; the noological is relational.2 The measure of the relation between the existential axis of adventure, and the noological axis of transcendence is of course love, which also serves to hybridize the pagan worldview in which mortals are regularly abducted by enamoured deities, and the Christian ethos in which a loving God providentially rewards virtuous souls. The pairs of lovers in the Breton lays discussed here, all qualify as good examples of the neo-platonic idea of love as an indefectible union of souls3 – even Guenore and Arthur are well matched in worldly intrigue and violence.

  • 4 Denis de Rougemont, L’Amour et l’Occident, 1939; Paris, Plon, 1972, p. 101.
  • 5 ‘The chora is a modality of signifiance in which the linguistic sign is not yet articulated as the (...)
  • 6 Horace Elisha Scudder (ed.), John Keats, ‘Letter to George and Georgiana Keats’, 21 December 1817, (...)

4In L’Amour et l’Occident, the Swiss cultural theorist Denis de Rougemont wrote: ‘Dans l’optique de l’homme médiéval, toute chose signifie autre chose, comme dans les rêves, et cela sans qu’intervienne aucun effort de traduction conceptuelle.’4 The Breton lays encourage not so much a closed as an open mode of reading: they are not at all allegories, but much rather tissues of allusions and resonances. As we read along, listening to the music of words, a whole semiotic chora5 of incipient ideas resonates in our ears, evocative chords and suppositions, that we feel invited to follow at leisure. This is something like what John Keats called ‘Negative Capability, that is when man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without irritable reaching after fact and reason.’6 Thus, for instance, when the Sir Orfeo poet says:

Ther he seighe his owhen wiif,
Dame Heurodis, his lef liif,
Slepe under an ympe-tre –
Bi her clothes he knewe that it was he.
(405-408)

we can simultaneously understand that Orfeo sees his wife, as dear to him as his own life, or that he literally sees his own life in the guise of Heurodis, or even because the ‘he’ is not gendered, and because of the strange fact that he recognises her by her clothes, we can also imagine that Orfeo sees his own self, with no compulsion whatsoever to immediately make rational sense of these multiple interpretative tracks. The ‘ympe-tree’ (grafted tree), which on the diegetic level serves as a textual landmark looking back to the earlier scene of the abduction of Heurodis, here may take on another function: that of objective correlative of these interpretative variegations – especially if one remembers that the grafting of trees was practised in the medieval period, not merely for the usual utilitarian reasons, but also for aesthetic purposes, to produce trees that grotesquely branched out into several different species simultaneously.

  • 7 For instance, Jean Barnabé, Patrick Chamoiseau and Raphaël Confiant, Éloge de la Créolité / In Prai (...)
  • 8 Shirin Azizeh Khanmohamadi, ‘Salvage Anthropology and Displaced Mourning in the Lais of Marie de Fr (...)
  • 9 Marianne Fisher, ‘Culture, Ethnicity, and Assimilation in Anglo-Norman Britain: The Evidence from M (...)

5The Breton lays are characterised by an openness of interpretation, a multilayered quality, perhaps a hybridity, or even a kind of creoleness,7 containing a mixture of elements belonging to various cultures, from the Celtic Mabinogion to the Bible, the canonical and apocryphal Gospels, or even some Gnostic traditions, as well as classical mythologies. This inclusive / heterogeneous heritage suggests the appropriateness of introducing the work of some modern scholars who apply the tools of postcolonial studies to medieval literature. This line of enquiry is especially relevant to the Breton lays, since they are typically ‘post-conquest’ literary productions, emerging from the colonial hybridization that took place over several centuries in the wake of 1066, and from which the language and Weltanschauung of Chaucer stand out as radically different from those of, say, Caedmon and King Alfred. One such scholarly example is an article on Marie de France by Shirin Azizeh Khanmohamadi, who argues that ‘in preserving Celtic stories in the Lais, Marie was enacting an early form of salvage anthropology: the salvaging of native materials against the losses born of colonial incursion.’8 In a similar vein, Marianne Fisher agrees with Susan Reynolds that ‘Like Geoffrey [of Monmouth], Marie makes a point of blurring the divide between Bretons and Britons, initiating a sense of ethnic indeterminacy that permeates the collection’.9 She further remarks:

  • 10 Ibid., p. 195, p. 197.

Troubled by the violence of authoritarian structures – patriarchy, feudalism, colonialism – the Lais use gendered discourse to interrogate them. The collection establishes an intertextual dialectic, but offers no answers. […] The symbolic capital ascribed to Breton culture is complemented by a lack of ideological investment in martial endeavour. […] Symbolic power here derives from refined behaviour and emotional sensitivity in the field of personal relations.10

  • 11 Claire Vial, ‘There and Back Again’: The Middle English Breton Lays, A Journey through Uncertaintie (...)

6Marianne Fisher is speaking about Marie de France’s Lais, but what she says does bear relevance to the Middle English Breton lays as a whole. One of the clearest illustrations of Fisher’s thesis is probably to be found in Sir Launfal. Claire Vial, in the chapter of There and Back Again devoted to this lay, and especially the section entitled ‘Undermining Arthur – and Others’, has demonstrated the importance of a comic vein, perhaps even a satirical vein that elegantly criticises the violent, male-dominated culture of chivalry, pitting against it the more refined feminine power of Tryamour. Vial concludes that ‘Launfal’s is perforce a man’s world, but (good and bad) women remain in control.’11 Indeed, in the light of such modern approaches to the lays, which put the emphasis on the mutual assimilation of Saxon and Breton cultures, the foregrounding of the issue of marriage, the recurrent theme of rape or raptus (abduction) that in the long run ends in a happy ending as in Sir Degaré, and the greater development of women characters ultimately presented as the wielders of a more refined, softer power, together with the obvious syncretism of Christian and non-Christian world-views, converge to create a unifying context of interpretation for the lays as a whole.

  • 12 For instance, Kenneth R. R. Gros Louis, ‘The Significance of Sir Orfeo’s Self-Exile’, Review of Eng (...)
  • 13 See Irénée, (saint), Contra Hæreses, Paris, J.-P. Migne, 1857.
  • 14 Bernard de Clairvaux, Les Sermons de Saint Bernard sur le Cantique des cantiques, ed. and trans. Pi (...)
  • 15 Jean Mabillon, Bernardi Opera, Praef, generalis, n. 23. See also Doctor Mellifluus, Encyclical of P (...)
  • 16 See B. de Clairvaux, Sermons, ed. cit.; Bernard de Clairvaux, Traité sur l’amour de Dieu, trans. An (...)
  • 17 Shawn M. Krahmer, ‘The Virile Bride of Bernard of Clairvaux’, Church History, 69.2, 2000, p. 304-32 (...)

7Love provides the thematic meeting ground for a dialogism between several cultural discourses, allowing, for instance, The Wooing of Etain12 and the Orpheus story to blend into Sir Orfeo. However, it is rather more thought-provoking that the lays should distinguish themselves from the medieval romance topos of courtly love and fin’amor (as the religion of perfect love) to concentrate on the marriage motif. Each of the Breton lays discussed here is an epithalamium of sorts: literally a poem of the bridal chamber, which happens to be central to the cosmology of the 2nd century Christian Gnostic Valentinius (c. 100-160), where the love between feminine and masculine aeons produces offspring, or emanations.13 Of course, Valentinian Gnosticism is historically far removed from the Breton lays, but thematically perhaps not so alien to it, for the Judeo-Christian tradition is characterized by a long-lasting bridal theology, from the Book of Hosea to Paul’s Epistles, and all the way down to Bernard of Clairvaux’s Sermons on the Song of Songs.14 Bernard of Clairvaux (c. 1090-1153), reformer of monastic life and founder of the Cistercian order, labelled the ‘Last of the Fathers’,15 necessarily exerted some more or less direct influence on Marie de France (c. 1160-1210) and her followers. One of the main themes of Bernard’s Sermons on the Song of Songs is that the soul of the ideal worshipper must be as a bride to God, and he extols as the soul of the highest order that of the fortis femina – the ‘wife of noble character’ (Proverbs 31: 10 sqq) – a soul (anima is feminine) that would combine the meekness and humility of obedience supposedly characteristic of woman, and the highest degree of moral virtue, considered masculine in so far as virtus etymologically derives from the same Latin root as vir (man).16 Central to Cistercian theology is the figure of the ‘virile bride’,17 combining what was seen as a bride’s capacity to love and a manly spiritual strength. As I would like to demonstrate now, the Bernardine figure of the ‘virile bride’ bears some resemblance to the recurring character of the spiritually strong woman in the lays.

  • 18 Herman Northrop Frye, Anatomy of Criticism, 1957; Princeton, N. J., Princeton University Press 2000
  • 19 ‘The standard path of the mythological adventure of the hero is a magnification of the formula repr (...)
  • 20 ‘In the ancient world, [the] descent in search of understanding was known as katabasis’, in Rachel (...)

8Furthermore, it is possible to show that the characters undergo a movement of ‘descent and ascent’ in the lays, which can be accounted for in the terms of Northrop Frye’s Anatomy of Criticism,18 as Claire Vial does, or else with the similar concept of the ‘monomyth’ in Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces.19 This catabasis20 results in a spiritual refining of the self, through a ‘descent’ that reduces it to a mere cipher – better still: a conundrum – and an ‘ascent’ that highlights higher moral values, in which the figure of the ‘virile bride’ or virtuous woman, is regularly instrumental.

9In Sir Orfeo, Heurodis undergoes the ‘descent’ first: threatened with rape (raptus) by the King of Fairies, she inflicts upon herself a disfiguring violence:

Sche crid, and lothli bere gan make;
Sche froted hir honden and hir fete,
And crached her visage – it bled wete –
Hir riche robe hye al to-rett
And was reveyd out of hir wit (78-82).

  • 21 Ellen Caldwell, ‘The Heroism of Heurodis: Self-Mutilation and Restoration in Sir Orfeo’, Papers on (...)
  • 22 In Valentinianism, the emanations of God form male / female pairs called ‘syzygies’, from the Greek (...)

10Virile lady indeed! Why should Heurodis do so, if not to protect her chastity, doing more than emulating St Margaret of Hungary who threatened to cut off her lips to forestall sexual assault?21 Orfeo follows suit, forgoing his kingdom, roughing it for ten years as a hermit in the woods, till ‘All his bodi was oway dwine / For missays, and al to-chine’ (261-262). The castle of the King of Fairies, where he follows Heurodis, although outwardly seeming the paradisiacal perfection of a kingly court, is a nightmarish palace of fragmented bodies. The ‘ascent’ begins when Orfeo undertakes to win Heurodis back not by strength of arms, by the ‘sheltrom’ he had unsuccessfully attempted to use the first round, but by employing his harp and the spiritual spell of art. Similarly, he recovers his kingdom by the power of the Word, telling a parable, a mythos, in the manner of Christ teaching his disciples about the Kingdom of Heaven (556-574). The real hero of the lay is arguably the married couple, the ‘syzygy’22 welded together by a love stronger than death, of which the character of Heurodis proves the mettle from the start.

  • 23 See Cheryl Colopy, ‘Sir Degaré: A Fairy Tale Oedipus’, Pacific Coast Philology, 17.1/2, 1982, p. 31 (...)

11Sir Degaré may be read as a variation on the myth of Oedipus,23 in which the hero comes within a hair’s breadth of slaying his father and marrying his mother, and the Sphinx’s riddle is in a way diffracted into a pair of gloves, a broken sword and the double spell of the father’s prophecy and the mother’s programmatic letter. Here too, the ‘descent’ described by Frye is inflicted first on a woman: it is the initial rape of Degaré’s mother, and the casting away of the child, whose very name, Degaré, bears witness to his essential suppression, that immediately visits on the innocent son the sin of the father. The central element of the lay is found in the remarkable virtue of Degaré’s mother, who endures the rape like a brave soldier, loving her foes in an exemplary imitatio Christi, thinking only of sparing her father’s reputation and peace of mind, although his very possessiveness is the root of her oppression:

Yif ani man hit underyete,
Men wolde sai bi sti and strete
That mi fader the King hit wan
And I ne was never aqueint with man!
And yif he hit himselve wite,
Swich sorewe schal to him smite
That never blithe schal he be,
For al his joie is in me (167-174).

  • 24 C. Vial, op. cit., p. 115.

12The quest that Degaré is thus launched onto at birth, the adventures related in this ‘Bildungslay’,24 open a narrative space in which a supernatural Providence will manifest itself, staying Degaré’s hand very much as God stopped Abraham’s, on the verge of parricide and – in Degaré’s case – incest, to end up in a double marriage that places matrimony on a pedestal, while the sin of the parents, and especially the violence of the father, have been redeemed by the son, or simply left problematically unsolved.

13Lay Le Freine bears a strong resemblance to Sir Degaré, as it were on the distaff side. Le Freine too is abandoned by her mother, whose sins she ultimately redeems by dint of her own virtue. Here too the ‘baudekine’ and other quest objects or tokens of recognition serve a programmatic purpose. But if the action by which Le Freine brings about her mother’s final anagnorisis and redemption is a ruse, it is a ruse of Providence: Le Freine herself, as she cannot know that Le Codre is her sister, is blissfully innocent of the trick. The ‘descent’ that began when her mother cast her away is redoubled when Guroun repudiates her, and completes her humiliation by employing her as a servant at his wedding feast. Christ-like, Le Freine drinks this cup to the dregs by presenting her rival with all she has, and with a light, pure heart too. Her heart is as devoid of petty resentment as a saint’s:

Than to the bour the damsel sped,
Whar graithed was the spousaile bed;
Sche demed it was ful foully dight,
And yll besemed a may so bright;
So to her coffer quick she cam,
And her riche baudekyn out nam,
Which from the abbesse sche had got;
Fayrer mantel nas ther not;
And deftly on the bed it layd;
Her lord would thus be well apayd (359-368).

14There is not the slightest hint of revenge in this last line – ‘well apayd’ meaning ‘well pleased’ – except as double-entendre for the reader who has been forewarned by the poet ‘That hye and his leman also / Sostren were and twinnes to!’ (329-330). This demonstration of Le Freine’s Christian virtue saves both herself and the less-deserving others, Guroun and her mother, whose faults she has literally paid for by her own extreme abnegation.

  • 25 See Stefan Jurasinski, ‘Treason and the Charge of Sodomy in the Lai de Lanval’, Kentucky Romance Qu (...)

15In Sir Launfal, the character of the hero is the arena – the lists – of a psychomachia, a jousting of which his soul is the prize, between Guenore and Tryamour: two strong women who are the embodiments of radically different types of virile virtue. The difference is that Tryamour is no ordinary woman, but a fairy, or perhaps some Celtic goddess like Oisin’s Niamh, as she ultimately abducts him to a Tir na nÓg-like Olyroun, although her name evokes the Christian Trinity of divine love, or some Celtic triad. It may also be that the name of Tryamour points to the trial, the ordeal that she imposes on Launfal. The boon of invincibility that she grants him undermines the ideal of chivalry, by giving him an unfair advantage over his opponents. The taboo that she casts on their relationship nurtures in Launfal the capital sin of pride, and Guenore challenges him into breaking it when she casts aspersions on his character: ‘Thou lovyst no woman, ne no woman the’ (689). The English text here attenuates the Queen’s speech, which in Marie de France’s lai amounts to a downright accusation of homosexuality:25

  • 26 ‘Often have I been told / From women you withold. / And with many a knave, / You strangely behave’, (...)

Assez le m’a-t’un dit suvent
Que de femmes n’avez talent.
Valletz avez bien afaitiez,
Ensanble od eus vus déduisiez.26

  • 27 Gerard Manley Hopkins, Further Letters of Gerard Manley Hopkins, Including his Correspondence with (...)

16The interpretation of the taboo itself had better remain veiled in some mystery. Suffice it to say that Coventry Patmore once cast into the fire a little book of his, where he explained that the love of God is of the same nature as the love between man and woman, because Father Gerard Manley Hopkins, having read the manuscript, said to him with a grave look: ‘That’s telling secrets.’27 This might serve as a conclusive abruption. Indeed, this commentary was merely an attempt to read the Breton lays as a composite modern text, in an experimental effort to highlight what Roland Barthes called the ‘lisibilité’ of ancient texts: the capacity they retain to appeal to modern readers. To some extent, the lays were aiming at something similar from the start, in so far as they were rewritings of more ancient literary texts, like those of Marie de France, which were themselves ‘modernized’ versions of pre-existing stories. What makes the value of these texts for us today, the main reason why they remain powerful poetry, is the challenging, rewarding response they yield to recent critical discourses, derived from postcolonial studies, for instance, or even to the kind of ‘new historical’ approach attempted here, trying to revive some of their resonances with their contemporary contexts. Strikingly, they resiliently respond to that sort of off-beat, ‘décalé’ questioning, and retain a fascinating mystery – one is tempted to say a secretiveness – that calls for renewed rereadings.

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Notes

1 See Jerry Root, ‘Courtly Love and the Representation of Women in the “Lais” of Marie de France and “Coutumes de Beauvaisis” of Philippe de Beaumanoir’, Rocky Mountain Review of Language and Literature, 57.2, 2003, p. 7-24; Benjamin Semple, ‘The Male Psyche and the Female Sacred Body in Marie de France and Christine de Pizan’, Yale French Studies, 86, 1994, p. 164-186; Xiangyun Zhang, ‘Christine de Pizan et Marie de France’, The French Review, 79.1, 2005, p. 82-94.

2 See Vladimir Vernadsky, ‘The Biosphere and the Noosphere’, American Scientist, 33.1, Jan. 1945, p. 1-12; Jacques Monod, Leçon inaugurale au collège de France, Nogent-le-Rotrou, Doupelay-Gouverneur, 1968; Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Le Phénomène humain, Paris, Seuil, 1955.

3 See S. Forster Damon, ‘Marie de France: Psychologist of Courtly Love’, PMLA, 44.4, 1929, p. 968-996.

4 Denis de Rougemont, L’Amour et l’Occident, 1939; Paris, Plon, 1972, p. 101.

5 ‘The chora is a modality of signifiance in which the linguistic sign is not yet articulated as the absence of an object and as the distinction between real and symbolic’; Julia Kristeva, ‘Revolution in Poetic Language’, in Toril Moi (ed.), The Kristeva Reader, New York, Columbia University Press, 1986, p. 89-137, here p. 94; see Plato, Timaeus (52a8, d3), Timaeus and Critias, translated with Introductions by Desmond Lee, London, Penguin Books, 1977.

6 Horace Elisha Scudder (ed.), John Keats, ‘Letter to George and Georgiana Keats’, 21 December 1817, The Complete Poetical Works and Letters of John Keats, Cambridge Edition, Boston, New-York, Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1899, p. 277.

7 For instance, Jean Barnabé, Patrick Chamoiseau and Raphaël Confiant, Éloge de la Créolité / In Praise of Creoleness, Paris, Gallimard, 1989.

8 Shirin Azizeh Khanmohamadi, ‘Salvage Anthropology and Displaced Mourning in the Lais of Marie de France’, Arthuriana, 21.3, 2011, p. 49-69, here p. 51.

9 Marianne Fisher, ‘Culture, Ethnicity, and Assimilation in Anglo-Norman Britain: The Evidence from Marie de France’s Lais’, Exemplaria: A Journal of Theory in Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 24.3, 2012, p. 195-213, here p. 201; Susan Reynolds, Kingdoms and Communities in Western Europe, 900-1300, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1997.

10 Ibid., p. 195, p. 197.

11 Claire Vial, ‘There and Back Again’: The Middle English Breton Lays, A Journey through Uncertainties, Paris, Presses universitaires de France, 2013, p. 149.

12 For instance, Kenneth R. R. Gros Louis, ‘The Significance of Sir Orfeo’s Self-Exile’, Review of English Studies, New Series, 18.71, 1967, p. 245-252.

13 See Irénée, (saint), Contra Hæreses, Paris, J.-P. Migne, 1857.

14 Bernard de Clairvaux, Les Sermons de Saint Bernard sur le Cantique des cantiques, ed. and trans. Pierre Lambert, Paris, Jean du Puis, 1673 ; Œuvres Complètes de Saint Bernard, Charleston, South Carolina, Nabu Press, 2012.

15 Jean Mabillon, Bernardi Opera, Praef, generalis, n. 23. See also Doctor Mellifluus, Encyclical of Pope Pius XII
on St. Bernard of Clairvaux, http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/pius_xii/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xii_enc_24051953_doctor-mellifluus_en.html, last accessed 1 June 2014.

16 See B. de Clairvaux, Sermons, ed. cit.; Bernard de Clairvaux, Traité sur l’amour de Dieu, trans. Antoine de Saint-Gabriel, Rio de Janeiro, Apostolat Positiviste du Brésil, 1895.

17 Shawn M. Krahmer, ‘The Virile Bride of Bernard of Clairvaux’, Church History, 69.2, 2000, p. 304-327.

18 Herman Northrop Frye, Anatomy of Criticism, 1957; Princeton, N. J., Princeton University Press 2000.

19 ‘The standard path of the mythological adventure of the hero is a magnification of the formula represented in the rites of passages: separation-initiation-return, which might be named the nuclear unit of the monomyth’, in Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, 1949; New York, Pantheon 1961, p. 28.

20 ‘In the ancient world, [the] descent in search of understanding was known as katabasis’, in Rachel Jacoff (ed.), John Freccero, The Poetics of Conversion; 1986; Cambridge, Mass., and London, Harvard University Press, 1988, p. 108.

21 Ellen Caldwell, ‘The Heroism of Heurodis: Self-Mutilation and Restoration in Sir Orfeo’, Papers on Language and Literature: A Journal for Scholars and Critics of Language and Literature, 43.3, 2007, p. 291-310. See also A. C. Spearing, ‘Sir Orfeo: Madness and Gender’, in Ad Putter and Jane Gilbert (eds.), The Spirit of Medieval English Popular Romance, Harlow, Pearson Education, 2000, p. 258-272.

22 In Valentinianism, the emanations of God form male / female pairs called ‘syzygies’, from the Greek ‘syzygoi’, ‘yoking together’.

23 See Cheryl Colopy, ‘Sir Degaré: A Fairy Tale Oedipus’, Pacific Coast Philology, 17.1/2, 1982, p. 31-39.

24 C. Vial, op. cit., p. 115.

25 See Stefan Jurasinski, ‘Treason and the Charge of Sodomy in the Lai de Lanval’, Kentucky Romance Quarterly, 54.4, 2007, p. 290-302.

26 ‘Often have I been told / From women you withold. / And with many a knave, / You strangely behave’, in Marie de France, Poésies de Marie de France, ed. B. de Roquefort, Paris, Marescq, 1832, p. 222, 224.

27 Gerard Manley Hopkins, Further Letters of Gerard Manley Hopkins, Including his Correspondence with Coventry Patmore, ed. Claude Colleer Abbott, London, Oxford University Press, 1956, p. 391.

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Joanny Moulin, « Representations of the Self in the Middle English Breton Lays », Études Épistémè [En ligne], 25 | 2014, mis en ligne le 01 avril 2014, consulté le 20 septembre 2017. URL : http://episteme.revues.org/219 ; DOI : 10.4000/episteme.219

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Auteur

Joanny Moulin

Joanny Moulin is Professor of anglophone literatures at Aix-Marseille Université (LERMA, EA 853). Professor Moulin is a historian of literature, and an occasional medievalist, who has published and edited several books and many articles on poets and poetry: Seamus Heaney : l’éblouissement de l’impossible (Champion, 1999), Ted Hughes : la langue rémunérée (L’Harmattan, 1999), Ted Hughes; New Selected Poems 1957-1994 (Didier Érudition, 2000). He is also a biographer, and currently involved in research on the history and theory of biography (Ted Hughes : la terre hantée, Biographie, Aden, 2007 ; Darwin, une scandaleuse vérité, Biographie, Autrement, 2009 ; Victoria, reine d’un siècle, Biographie, Flammarion, 2011 ; Élisabeth II, une reine dans l’histoire, Biographie, Flammarion, 2012).

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