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Orality and Textual Reworking in Floriant et Florete: Another Note on a “Patchwork Romance”

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The thirteenth-century Arthurian verse romance Floriant et Florete reflects what one might call an extreme case of textual reworking. That is, it has been shown to include a particularly large amount of material—from minimal formulaic expressions to multi-line passages—that can be found elsewhere in medieval French texts. Much remains to be said, however, about the complexity and extent of these phenomena, be it within the corpus of Arthurian romances or in medieval literature in general. By assuming a critical stance toward previous studies on the subject and discussing new examples of textual data, the present article aims to further elucidate the various types of ‘intertextuality’ and ‘interdiscursivity’ at play in Floriant et Florete and to reflect on the manner of its composition.

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  1. Paris assumed Floriant et Florete to be the source text of Claris et Laris rather than vice versa. This viewpoint has been questioned by later scholars who edited Floriant; cf. Williams (1942: 15), and, most recently, Combes and Trachsler (2003: xxiv ff). Excerpts of these and other primary texts are, unless indicated otherwise, cited after the editions included in the references; see ‘Appendix’ for a list of short titles. The formatting of cited passages has been unified as follows: all verse lines begin with uppercase letters; instances of direct speech are delimited by upper double quotes (“…”); expanded abbreviations are not marked, with the exception of the excerpt from the Conte du Graal in (4c) where italics are used for this purpose. Underlining is used to emphasize textual parallels; marks formal and/or semantic proximity.

  2. The number of parallels between Floriant and Claris alone amounts to over 250 lines (cf. Trachsler 2009: 425). A list of passages shared by these two romances is included in an annex to the translation of Claris by Pierreville (2008: 691–710); cf. Combes and Trachsler (2003: xxxviii–li) for a broader overview on the works from which Floriant borrows, and Busby (1995) for borrowings from the romances of Chrétien de Troyes. Earlier studies pointing out formal parallels between Floriant and other medieval texts include Warren (1906) (between Floriant and Dolopathos), and Levy (1975) (between Floriant and Jean Renart’s romances).

  3. See Trachsler (2009), as well as Busby (1995) who discusses the position of this romance within the Arthurian intertext and, in particular, with regard to the founding oeuvre of Chrétien de Troyes.

  4. Phenomena of intertextuality and interdiscursivity may, in turn, be considered within the framework of an individual textual genre (e.g. Arthurian verse romance) or at an intergeneric level (e.g. in different genres of medieval narrative literature). For an approach to these concepts with regard to the “genre” of Arthurian romance in the wake of the oeuvre of its “inventor”, see Schmolke-Hasselmann (1998, orig. 1980), and Combes et al. (2013).

  5. For an overview of these concepts and their various theoretical interpretations, see Raible (1994); on the notions of conceptual orality and literacy/scripturality, see Koch and Oesterreicher (1985). In line with the image of the medieval ‘intertext’, the term ‘textuality’ will be used here (cf. also Doane and Pasternack 1991); note, however, that the German term Schriftlichkeit (vs. Mündlichkeit) as used by Koch and Oesterreicher seem more objective than the English equivalents.

  6. Although traditionally viewed as characteristic for the “performative”, and thus tendentially ‘oral’, genre of chanson de geste, more recent research suggests that formulaic constructions persist in later octosyllabic literature as well (cf. Vitz 1999). See Trachsler (2009: 415–420) for a discussion of previous scholarship on this issue.

  7. Cf. Levy (1975: 73–74). Cited passages have been adapted following the editions listed in the references.

  8. That the same construction reappears in prose texts, detached from its initial “rhyme substituting” role, seems to further support the hypothesis of its conventionalized status. Consider the following passage from the Prose Tristan: “Dame, fait il, se m’aïst Diex, je le vous dirai, ne ja ne vous en mentirai de riens […]” (§167: ll.102–103).

  9. For examples of analogous and similar constructions involving choir in combination with pasmé, cf. Tobler and Lommatzsch’s (1915–2002) Alfranzösisches Wörterbuch (TL), entry pasmer, sub-entry pasmé, as a participle meaning “unconscious” (vol. 7: 418).

  10. A few prominent structural parallels shared by the three segments: They begin with two coordinated declarative main clauses; the second of these is preceded by a temporal adverbial clause introduced by et quant ele; they end in an emphatic exclamation uttered by the character who in the preceding lines has been described as having fainted and revived.

  11. That is not to say that it was introduced into the sphere of medieval French literature by Chrétien. Coincidentally, one encounters remarkably similar passages in the corpus of chanson de geste; e.g. in the Jerusalem Continutation of the Crusade Cycle: “De la dolor qu’ele a chiet a terre pasmee / Et quant elle revint, si s’est escrïee: / “Lasse!” ce dist la dame, “Com sui maleüree!” / Perdu ai mon saigneur qui tant ot renommee.” (11168–71).

  12. This instance of borrowing is noted by Busby (1995: 275), who provides can impressive list of parallels between Floriant and the Conte du Graal (cf. 274–276); for a list of these and other textual parallels, see also (Combes and Trachsler 2003: xxvi–xxvii).

  13. Parallels between the final four lines of the passages (Floriant, 985–988 and Conte du Graal, 2177–80) have already been noted by Busby (1995: 274). For the manuscript abbreviations used in (4c), see Busby (1993: ix–xxxix). The semi-diplomatic transcription of the passage in MS A is by the author of the present article; variants indicated are taken from Busby’s edition (1993). Note that the list of variants mentioned in the table above is selective, focusing on the most marked divergences between the various copies of the Conte du Graal and Floriant.

  14. Consider the lexical variant vassal at l. 2172 (vs. vallet in MS A). Apart from divergences in the first and last lines of the passage, where the author of Floriant has most likely innovated on the basis of his hypotext, variation between MS A and Floriant is largely limited to functional words (e.g. l. 2170 Et vs. Puis; l. 2172 Et vs. Lors, ça vs. ci).

  15. The importance of aural reception, and thus oral performance, with regard to Floriant is emphasized by Busby (1995: 273–274).

  16. Echoes and elaborations in later Arthurian romances of the passage in Erec illustrated in (5) have been discussed, in particular, by Schmolke-Hasselmann (1998: 189 ff.) (on Erec and Meraugis; see example (5a) and n. 20 below); Busby (1995: 265) (Erec and Floriant); Combes and Trachsler (2003: xlix) (Erec and Claris / Floriant); Fontaine (2009: 97 f.) (Erec, Meraugis and Claris).

  17. Combes and Trachsler note the instance of citation involving Claris and Floriant on the basis of Erec (2003: xlix).

  18. The lengthy poem of over 2600 lines is placed after the epilogue of the second book of the Miracles (vol. 4: 439–543 of Koenig’s edition) and is followed by further lyric texts in honor of the Virgin Mary, including the Saluts Nostre Dame, a song and several prayers (cf. vol. 1: viii for an overview).

  19. The passage in Meraugis has not gone unnoticed to previous scholars: Rita Lejeune, who noted the similar sequences in Jean Renart’s works exemplified in (5c), spoke of a “tirade vraiment curieuse” (1935: 300 ff.); Schmolke-Hasselmann maintained that, “It is difficult to judge whether the fourfold extension of the sequence signifies a deliberate exaggeration in the application of Chrétien’s stylistic technique” (1998: 191); Fontaine speaks of Raoul’s intention of parodying Chrétien by amplifying the passage (2009: 97); see also Burr (2001), who interprets the sequence within the framework of a gender approach to Meraugis.

  20. The 13th century religious lai Virge glorieuse pure nete et monde [an Old French interpretation of the Latin sequence Ave gloriosa virginum regina, according to Spanke (1983: 348)] contains the following sequence: “Tu es li pors / Et li despors, / Li deduis & la joie, / Tu es confors / Et li acors, / Chemins & droite voie / A celui ki te proie” (Jeanroy et al. 1901: 70); in a prayer to the Virgin (Ave dame, de cui volt naistre…), found in the 14th century MS London, British Museum, Harley 2955, one reads: “Dame qui estes nostre confors, / Nostre salut, nostre depors, / …” (Priebsch 1908: 212).

  21. On the vocabulary of affectivity in medieval French lyric in general, see Lavis (1972).

  22. It seems possible that the author of Claris was aware of the passage in Meraugis, when one considers that the discourse in the latter refers to Meraugis’ beloved Lidoine and that the addressee of Claris’ discourse is Queen Lydaine (cf. Fontaine 2009: 98). The transposition of this fragment into Floriant, then, has severed this onomastic connection. A possible connection between these two romances was already suggested in the early study by Klose (1916: 263 ff).

  23. For a more extensive list of examples, cf. TL, entry juene, sub-entry for the expression in question, “‘die Alten und die Jungen’, antithetische Formel der Aufteilung” (vol. 4: 1832 ff).

  24. Similarities between the prologues of Floriant and Erec are discussed by Busby (1995: 262 f).

  25. Cf. n. 2 on the relationship between these two romances.

  26. This argument has already been presented by Combes and Trachsler (2003: xxv). The same impression is conveyed by the instances of borrowing noted by Pierreville (2007: 691–710). My further argumentation on this subject is inspired by Trachsler (2009: 425 ff).

  27. As, for instance, in the Roman de Troie: “Mout ot sa gent bien / O la tranchant espee nue” (ll. 7171–72). The narration of the sequences is reminiscent of the characteristic style used in epic chansons de geste, which has traditionally been associated with performative orality and the use of formulas (see n. 6 above). On this stylistic particularity in Floriant, see Bouchet (1999).


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Endress, L. Orality and Textual Reworking in Floriant et Florete: Another Note on a “Patchwork Romance”. Neophilologus 100, 1–18 (2016).

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