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«A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in French in the University of Canterbury by ...»

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Amplification as gloss in two twelfth-century texts:

Robert de Boron's Joseph d'Arimathie


Renant de Beanjeu's Li Biaus Descouneiis

A thesis

submitted in partial fulfilment

of the requirements for the Degree


Doctor of Philosophy in French

in the

University of Canterbury

by Joanne Rittey

University of Canterbury


Where does a literary text originate and how is it fonned? What are the influences at work

on the writer as he produces his work and can these be perceived by the audience or reader?

The focus of this study is the literary process which took place when a medieval writer wrote. This is conducted with reference to two texts representative of the period around the end of the twelfth century to the beginning of the thirteenth century: Robert de Boron's Joseph d'Arimathie and Renaut de Beaujeu's Li Biaus Descouneus.

The vocabulary which I have chosen in order to approach these questions, notably antancion, gloser la lettre and the technique of amplification, highlight the awareness of fiction, or fictional creation, called for by these writers. Both Robert and Renaut are builders of stories, elucidating and expanding the material at their disposal. The original idea is conceived in the poet's mind. This is then the starting point for a construction which relies on the combination of learned literary tradition with its patterns and codes and the wealth of material derived from antecedent sources. This study demonstrates that this seemingly artificial construct is individualised through the application of poetic antancion. Despite evidence of extensive borrowing from a number of different sources, both Robert and Renaut can be credited with producing texts which exhibit an authorial perspective which departs from the original source and take a new direction. The way in which they achieve this is the subject of my research.

I~UG 1999 Contents Abstract Acknowledgements Abbreviations Introduction

The Antanci'on

Chapter One:

Chapter Two: The Antecedent Sources

Chapter Three: The Presence of the Author

Chapter Four: The Consequences of Genre

Chapter Five: The Portrayal of Character

Chapter Six: Techniques of Description

Chapter Seven: Techniques of Repetition




Acknowledgements lowe a great debt to a number of people who have supported me during the writing of this thesis. To Margaret Burrell, lowe thanks for her multi-faceted role of supervisor.

Her suggestions, questions, ruthless but very skilful editing and her coffee have been invaluable. I have been greatly encouraged in my work by the other doctoral students and staff in the French Department at Canterbury. Working alongside these people has been both a joy and a privilege. To Michelle Downer for her patience in assisting with formatting and final prints. To Glyn Burgess for reading and commenting on my work in its early stages. To Alison Pickering for proofreading the thesis.

I thank those entities forming part of, or associated with, the University of Canterbury, which supported me financially as a research student: the Canterbury University Vice Chancellor's Committee; The Federation of University Women for the Sadie Balkind Scholarship; those responsible for the Claude McCarthy Scholarship.

–  –  –

For reasons of brevity, the following abbreviations are used in the footnotes and bibliography.

BBSIA Bulletin Bibliographique de la Societe Intemationale Arthurienne

–  –  –

My project involves the close textual analysis of two late twelfth-century romances:

Robert de Boron's Joseph d'Arimathie and Renaut de Beaujeu's Li Biaus Descouneiis, and a classification of the literary and generic conventions and norms found in them.

Both Robert and Renaut are engaged in the art of literary manipulation. That is to say, in having recourse to certain literary techniques, they seek to engage the attention, affection, sympathy, and interest of the reader. To that extent they can be said to be shaping the way in which the reader receives and responds to their romances. The way in which the writers achieve this is through the imposition of their determining will and the subsequent manipulation of plot, process and character. This study relies on the textual evidence provided by the Joseph and the Descouneiis to support the claim that their authors were very much aware of the manipulative power of literature.

For the purposes of this thesis, I have classified the author's determining will as antancion, a classification which here requires justification. This justification is the subject of the first chapter, but in terms of a preliminary discussion, an acknowledgement of Douglas Kelly and his extensive work on the function of the author in medieval romance is necessary.

Over the course of my thesis I refer frequently to Douglas Kelly and, in particular, to his book, The Art of Medieval French Romance. 1 Kelly's study seeks to define artistic conceptions and methods of composition from the recorded statements of medieval poets and scribes. From these authorial interventions, Kelly proposes the documentation of the emergence of medieval French romance as the authors and their public understood it.

However, the explicit statements of intent ascribed to the authors are not the only means of expressing the determining will, or antancion, of the author. The methods of composition and techniques for elucidating the central issues of a text, I group under the heading, amplification.

William Ryding devotes a considerable part of his book, Structure in Medieval Narrative, to an explanation of amplification. The aim of Ryding' s essay is 'to study the structure of medieval narrative in a general way', as opposed to the specialized treatments of specific texts undertaken in other studies. Ryding sees length as being a 'matter of central importance' in terms of analysing 'the common elements of narrative structure within the medieval tradition'.2 For Ryding, 'the impulse to amplify narrative, to give it fullness and magnitude, appears to have been the most important determining factor' in the development of the structural style of medieval narrative. 3 In general, according to Ryding, 'the idea of amplification was simply to make a story longer and more effective by providing more in the way of circumstantial detail,.4 Ryding makes two classifications of amplification: rhetorical and material. Ryding's explanation of rhetorical amplification resides mainly in the addition of details acquired through rhetorical conventions. As far as Ryding is concerned, medieval writers are not discerning in their amplification, and he has them amplifying all of the narrative data 'without stopping to consider the advantages of selective expansion, of developing only the dramatic portions and of summarizing matter of only secondary importance in the progress of the story,.5 This practice he compares with the original meaning of the term, as employed by the classical writers. For them, 'amplijicatio had nothing to do with lengthening a narrative, but was directed at the manner of presenting an idea, giving it grandeur and magnitude, exalting its importance or heightening its effect. But the rules for amplification, originally intended to give fullness to an exposition, were ultimately applied to narrative and came to mean spinning out the story, lengthening, widening, and heightening, stuffing it with the full complement of rhetorical devices'.6 Material amplification concerns the addition of new narrative matter, either from outside the text, in the form of episodes borrowed from other works, or from within the text through the varied repetition of previous episodes. These additions either perform the function of clarifying what has been related or act simply as a means of lengthening the narrative.

Ryding's division of amplification into material and rhetorical works very well in the Vie de St Alexis to which he applies it; however, for the more sophisticated techniques used by the authors under discussion in this thesis, his classification is too simplistic.

Amplification in these texts works as a unifying device in that it indicates and intensifies authorial antanci'on.

Kelly and Ryding explore much that is relevant to my thesis; however, my argument will go beyond the parameters established in their discussions. In this study I have narrowed the focus as much as possible to concentrate on an examination of antanci'on and its amplification from various perspectives, and each of my chapters is devoted to one of these viewpoints. Frequently these viewpoints overlap. For instance, it is difficult to talk about antecedent sources, termed here, materia remota, without referring to generic conventions and traditions, or to discuss characterization without mentioning description.

Nevertheless, I have attempted to keep such overlapping to a minimum.

The first chapter considers the literary context in which Robert and Renaut were writing and addresses the issue of whether literature is a product of an acquired skill or the result of natural talent. That is, is literature a question of imitation or inspiration? In order to answer this question, we gauge the appropriateness of the term antanci'on as a means of addressing the craftsmanship involved in producing literature. This leads to an evaluation of the major influences at work in Robert and Renaut as twelfth-century writers of romance, placing them alongside the artes poeticae tradition, as well as their vernacular literary contemporaries, notably Chretien de Troyes.

The second section of my study presents a survey of the antecedent sources upon which Robert and Renaut are said to have based their texts with the emphasis on the way in which the authors both exploit this materia remota and adapt it to suit their own antanci'on.

The third chapter attempts to discern the author's presence from his interventions and selfconscious comments about his craft. This section explores the possibility that the poets might use their own role as creator to enhance their antanci'on. This is treated in six categories which bring to the fore the deliberate nature of fiction. The poets choose the places where they interrupt the narrative explicitly to point out what they are doing. By emphasizing the distinction between the diversion and the narrative, they highlight the distance between fiction and its creator.

The fourth chapter examines the generic context in which Robert and Renaut place themselves. Since both texts exhibit features deemed typical of the romance genre, this chapter examines the effects of the inclusion of these features and how this relates to authorial antanci'on.

The fifth chapter explores the possibility that characterization may act as a device of amplification whereby characters serve as vehicles for conveying authorial antanci'on.

Characters are not to be seen in terms of their psychological or emotional development, but are to be viewed more in terms of what they offer to the interpretation of the central ideas of their respective authors.

In the sixth section, the device of descriptio is looked at in terms of its elucidatory function. That is, the English word, description, falls short of all that is implied by the Latin term as used in the contemporary treatises of Geoffrey of Vinsauf and Matthew of Vendome. Description not only ornaments the text to make it attractive, but also adds further material to enhance the meaning. The discussion divides descriptio into three components, ranging from simple to complex.

The final section of my thesis looks at the way in which repetition acts not only as a structural device, but is an integral part of poetic design. At its most simplistic level, this chapter intends to emphasize how recurrence, whether it be of simple words or complex motifs, attracts audience attention and insists on being noticed. The argument is then developed to explore the way in which repetition acts as a technique for refining the narrative and reinforcing the key themes.

The following chapters attempt to determine how the reader can perceive an author's antanci'on, or mental conception of his work, through rhetorical technique. While Robert and Renaut do not explicitly state what their respective antanci'ons are, the alert reader can deduce it from the signposts provided. These signposts are the rhetorical techniques to which the poet has recourse in order to control the way in which the reader understands the text. Interest lies in the way Robert and Renaut involve their readers by giving them clues, crafting their texts to direct the attention of the reader to the most important parts of the story.

While I am aware that authors and poets may equally be women as men, for reasons of style and concision, I have referred to the author as 'he' throughout.

The English translation of the Old French quoted in the body of my thesis is provided in an appendix. The number in parentheses immediately following Old French quotation in the text corresponds to the same number in the appendix.

Douglas Kelly, The Art of Medieval Romance (Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1992).

William Ryding, Structure in Medieval Narrative (The Hague: Mouton and Co., 1971), p. 37.

Ryding p. 162.

Ryding p. 79.

Ryding, p. 66.

Ryding, p. 66.

–  –  –

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