The Name of the Ruse and the Round Table: Occitan Romance and the Case for Cultural Resistance
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Occitania defined its political identity in cultural terms, and as distinct from the rest of France. In the literary battle for poetic mastery Southern lyricism made its conquest of the Northern courts, but the all-pervasive pan-European spirit of Northern French courtly romance made few in-roads into the South, as the scarcity of examples attests.
Using Jaufre, this article argues that its narrative mechanism suggests a comic encoding of resistance to the conventions of the roman courtois. Jaufre lampoons knightly heroism through the construction of the hero and his adversaries, chief among them Taulat de Rogimon, whose very name means “table” in Occitan. He is an anti-Round Table, a personification of moral and social disorder. Jaufre's other opponents are fragmentary aspects of the principle he represents. Having analysed his and other names in the romance, the other meanings of taulat are considered – namely “writing table” and “gaming table” – in order to suggest that this is a romance about subtle and playful literary composition. The conceptual integrity of the courtly romance seems impossible to maintain in the different social fabric of Southern France, and resistance to it is supported by other texts, such as the vida of Elias Fonsalada.
KeywordsComparative Literature Historical Linguistic Round Table Political Identity Conceptual Integrity
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