, Volume 85, Issue 1, pp 25–41 | Cite as

La mélancolie du biographe: Le Roman du Castelain de Couci et le deuil de la voix

  • Anthony Allen


Thirteenth-century French courtly narratives are often described as "generic hybrids" because of their extensive play with generic norms. Courtly romance's engagement with generic, discursive and thematic paradigms elaborated in the Old French lyric, in particular, is discernible in the numerous romans featuring "lyric insertions" (romances where pre-existing or new lyric songs are inserted in the narrative frame).

The Roman du Castelain de Couci, examined here, provides an especially interesting and, it is argued, metadiscursive example, since its narrator presents itself as a biographer avant la lettre, recounting the (romanced) story of an authentic twelfth-century trouvère, the Châtelain de Coucy. The songs are inserted at important points of the trouvère's tragic love affair, thus revealing the circumstances of their creation. This article first considers the narrator's self-presentation in the prologue, as well as the shifting meanings of lyric signifiers in the narrative context, in order to illuminate the complex intertextual relationship of this roman to the trouvère's song. Various episodes of the story are then analyzed, all pointing to an elegiac encoding of the loss of lyric solipsistic discourse. Framing these observations in a psychoanalytic conceptualization of mourning, the article concludes by positing melancholia as the symbolic process at the basis of romance's renewed generic and discursive "identity".


Avant Generic Norm Comparative Literature Generic Hybrid Historical Linguistic 
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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anthony Allen
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of French and ItalianOhio State University, 248 Cunz HallColumbsUSA

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