IMC 2008: Sessions

Session 320: Evil Nature

Monday 7 July 2008, 16.30-18.00

Moderator/Chair:Mary Franklin-Brown, Department of French & Italian, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
Paper 320-aDragon Symbolism and Narrative Difference in Old French Literature
(Language: English)
Karen G. Casebier, Department of Modern Languages, Saint Francis University, Pennsylvania
Index terms: Hagiography, Language and Literature - French or Occitan, Manuscripts and Palaeography
Paper 320-bEspaces gastes: la nature au péril de la pollution spirituelle
(Language: Français)
Sophie Schaller Wu, / Université de Neuchâtel
Index terms: Language and Literature - French or Occitan, Mentalities, Sexuality
Paper 320-cThe End of the World Will Not Take Place: Natural Disasters in French Committed Poetry of the Late Middle Ages, from Eustache Deschamps to Jean Lemaire de Belges
(Language: English)
Vladislava Lukasik, Lomonosov Moscow State University
Index terms: Language and Literature - French or Occitan, Learning (The Classical Inheritance), Mentalities, Politics and Diplomacy

Paper -a:
This paper will compare and contrast the use of dragons as a universal symbol of danger and demonic influence in Renaut de Bâgé’s Le Bel Inconnu and La Vie des père’s Nièce. In Nièce, the use of a dragon to symbolize the devil in a dream allegory allows Maria’s uncle to rescue her from a life of prostitution in the City; when she returns to the Wilderness with her uncle, she becomes a model hermitess, passing her days in prayer, holy meditation, and good works. In contrast to this traditional Christian symbolism, the Fier Baiser episode of Le Bel Inconnu presents a decidedly different image of the dragon. Here, when the hero demonstrates knightly courage by kissing the hideous beast, the dragon is transformed into a beautiful noblewoman who showers Le Bel Inconnu with riches as a reward for breaking the enchantment. Although the physical description and physical attributes of the dragon conforms to entries in contemporary bestiaries (e.g., Guillaume le Clerc and Pierre de Beauvais), the symbolic—and subversive—use of the dragon in Le Bel Inconnu reflects both the secular virtues and rewards of the quest. In contrast, the dream allegory of Nièce illustrates traditional Christian symbolism that inspires a spiritual quest that both parallels and parodies secular romance. The animal symbolism in these works constitutes an example of the conflation of narrative motifs and rhetorical devices in secular and sacred literature, so that the use of the dragon as both dream allegory and chivalric adventure lends further support to Hans Robert Jauss’ notion of the medieval audience as a reader of symbols rather than as a simple reader of literary texts.
Paper -b:
A travers la notion romanesque d’espace gaste, nous nous proposons d’évoquer une nature avilie par les péchés des hommes, une nature qui se présente comme la projection fantasmatique d’une pollution spirituelle. Aux espaces gastes se rattachent en effet des personnages gastes, proprement maléfiques. On y rencontre aussi des personnages physiquement délabrés ou intérieurement dévastés : l’espace maléficié par l’homme affecte ainsi d’autres hommes en retour. Un jeu de miroirs s’instaure entre les personnages et l’espace dans lequel ils se meuvent et, en définitive, la notion de nature se dilue dans la constellation signifiante constituée autour de la notion de dévastation.
Paper -c:
The committed poetry insists on the religious aspect of the natural disaster. The poet predicts that an island will drown under the weight of the sins of its inhabitants: this is a direct cause of the future catastrophe.
But the poems of mourning transpose the disaster at the present. The death of the prince involves confusion in the court which is the microcosm of the world. Lady Nature cannot follow her course any more. Disasters following prince’s death resemble those which accompany the Crucifixion. The poet calls upon the forces of Nature to cause an Apocalypse. But all these forces have fabulous names. And the following day comes: Aurora in tears appears.
Would the Fable become a true poetic language? However, the total mythologisation of the disaster reduces its importance. The Apocalypse is found limited within one microcosm.