The Imaginary Body: Framing Identity in Ami et Amile
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- Sinclair, F.E. Neophilologus (2008) 92: 193. doi:10.1007/s11061-007-9070-z
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The Old French version of Ami et Amile (c.1200) is a chanson de geste which forms part of the Cycle du roi, but its focus is neither genealogical nor intertextual. The narrative privileges the individual, rather than the communal, an emphasis which is bound up with its distinct hagiographic tone. The interplay between the epic and the hagiographic, between multiplicity and oneness, and between action and stasis shapes the narrative of Ami et Amile, and its preoccupation with producing and maintaining a coherent and cohesive identity. This notion of identity is explored through the transmutations of the masculine body, as represented by the two companions, Ami and Amile. These are twinned entities; their physical sameness is a product and symbol of the miraculous and the divine, and marker of their state of grace. This symbolic twinship, its dissolution, and its renewal becomes the focus for a narrative play between difference and sameness that patterns the relationships between the characters and provides a focus for the chanson’s dialogue between the epic and the hagiographic.