Session Title

Medieval Genre Again: Redefining the Normative Hybridity of Medieval French Generic Conventions

Sponsoring Organization(s)

Special Session

Organizer Name

Christine V. Bourgeois

Organizer Affiliation

Univ. of Kansas

Presider Name

Peggy McCracken

Presider Affiliation

Univ. of Michigan-Ann Arbor

Paper Title 1

Generic Villainy: Rutebeuf at the Limits of the Fabliau

Presenter 1 Name

Frederic Dulson (Univ. of California, Berkeley Graduate Student Prize Winner)

Presenter 1 Affiliation

Univ. of California-Berkeley

Paper Title 2

Hybrid Harmony: The Old Occitan Descort and Dante's Theory of Language

Presenter 2 Name

Christopher Davis

Presenter 2 Affiliation

Northwestern Univ.

Paper Title 3

The Anonymous Hagiographer: Divine Authorship and Authorship as Divine

Presenter 3 Name

Christine V. Bourgeois

Paper Title 4

Generic Hybridity and Queer Sexuality in Nicole de Margival's Dit de la panthère

Presenter 4 Name

Charlie Samuelson

Presenter 4 Affiliation

King's College London

Start Date

15-5-2016 8:30 AM

Session Location

Schneider 1220

Description

We know that there are cross dressers, hermaphrodites and werewolves in medieval literature—and mixed race characters, transgressions of social levels, beastly men and manly beasts, saintly laymen and secularized saints. We know that texts were frequently compiled by various people, and that this bears on our understanding of them. We know that manuscripts are complex, variegated objects with particular histories of transmission and of collective creation. We know that medieval conceptions of genre, at least in vernacular text, map only partially and often problematically onto our current ones; in fact, being generically hybrid seems to be more the rule than the exception. The acknowledgement of the intricate and multidimensional levels of hybridity that characterize medieval literary culture has been among the central concerns of literary scholarship over the last thirty years.

This conclusion, while compelling, has been repeated time and again in recent scholarship, often with little discussion of its implications. We know, for example, that Chrétien de Troyes’ romances drew on various literary traditions to often dissonant effect, that high medieval saints’ lives borrow heavily from secular narrative, or that the borders between lyric traditions and romance become increasingly hazy in the thirteenth century—and yet we still spend a lot of time proving it. What has remained tantalizingly allusive are attempts to respond to the all-important—and all too frequently unarticulated—question: so what? If, that is, we know that hybridity was such a rampant motif operating on so many levels in medieval literary culture, what can be gained by taking hybridity as the point de départ rather than the point d’arrivée? And if the hybrid is characterized as unusual, how unusual is it finally, either in medieval texts or in modern critical assessments of them? What could come “after” hybridity? Is there a viable, even better, critical alternative? What are the future possibilities for hybridity, and how can they take stock of the limits of contemporary articulations of the notion?

Our panel will address these questions by examining a cross-section of thirteenth- and early fourteenth-century medieval textual traditions and their use of both thematic and formal hybridity. Charlie Samuelson will speak about the limits of the binary opposition of narrative to lyrics when studying lyric insertion; focusing on Nicole de Margival’s Dit de la panthère, he will explore how generic hybridity bleeds into a larger anti-binary engagement with important rhetorical and ethical implications. Christine Bourgeois will address the intersections of human and divine authorship in vernacular hagiography, and particularly the blending of individual authorial innovation with Biblical text. Christopher Davis will examine the aesthetics of linguistic and formal hybridity in the medieval lyric tradition, focusing on the troubadour genre of the descort and Dante’s stunningly multilingual lyric Aï faux ris. And, Fred Dulson will explore generic limits of the fabliaux. The result will, we hope, be a nuanced conversation about the normativity of the hybrid in medieval literature and its potential implications for future scholarship.

Christine Valerie Bourgeois

This document is currently not available here.

Share

COinS
 
May 15th, 8:30 AM

Medieval Genre Again: Redefining the Normative Hybridity of Medieval French Generic Conventions

Schneider 1220

We know that there are cross dressers, hermaphrodites and werewolves in medieval literature—and mixed race characters, transgressions of social levels, beastly men and manly beasts, saintly laymen and secularized saints. We know that texts were frequently compiled by various people, and that this bears on our understanding of them. We know that manuscripts are complex, variegated objects with particular histories of transmission and of collective creation. We know that medieval conceptions of genre, at least in vernacular text, map only partially and often problematically onto our current ones; in fact, being generically hybrid seems to be more the rule than the exception. The acknowledgement of the intricate and multidimensional levels of hybridity that characterize medieval literary culture has been among the central concerns of literary scholarship over the last thirty years.

This conclusion, while compelling, has been repeated time and again in recent scholarship, often with little discussion of its implications. We know, for example, that Chrétien de Troyes’ romances drew on various literary traditions to often dissonant effect, that high medieval saints’ lives borrow heavily from secular narrative, or that the borders between lyric traditions and romance become increasingly hazy in the thirteenth century—and yet we still spend a lot of time proving it. What has remained tantalizingly allusive are attempts to respond to the all-important—and all too frequently unarticulated—question: so what? If, that is, we know that hybridity was such a rampant motif operating on so many levels in medieval literary culture, what can be gained by taking hybridity as the point de départ rather than the point d’arrivée? And if the hybrid is characterized as unusual, how unusual is it finally, either in medieval texts or in modern critical assessments of them? What could come “after” hybridity? Is there a viable, even better, critical alternative? What are the future possibilities for hybridity, and how can they take stock of the limits of contemporary articulations of the notion?

Our panel will address these questions by examining a cross-section of thirteenth- and early fourteenth-century medieval textual traditions and their use of both thematic and formal hybridity. Charlie Samuelson will speak about the limits of the binary opposition of narrative to lyrics when studying lyric insertion; focusing on Nicole de Margival’s Dit de la panthère, he will explore how generic hybridity bleeds into a larger anti-binary engagement with important rhetorical and ethical implications. Christine Bourgeois will address the intersections of human and divine authorship in vernacular hagiography, and particularly the blending of individual authorial innovation with Biblical text. Christopher Davis will examine the aesthetics of linguistic and formal hybridity in the medieval lyric tradition, focusing on the troubadour genre of the descort and Dante’s stunningly multilingual lyric Aï faux ris. And, Fred Dulson will explore generic limits of the fabliaux. The result will, we hope, be a nuanced conversation about the normativity of the hybrid in medieval literature and its potential implications for future scholarship.

Christine Valerie Bourgeois