The Old Talks Series: “François Rigolot: Renaissance Medievalist”

Also available in PDF.

allegorical parrot is allegorical

In a doubtless welcome break from previous “Talking About Talking” posts, and from complaining about Unfortunate Facts of Life, we return to the comparative solidity of the regular weekly “Talking” post series.


Setting the scene:

57th Annual Meeting of the Renaissance Society of America

Montréal, 24-26 March 2011

The RSA and Princeton Renaissance Studies sponsored six special sessions on “Le Texte de la Renaissance: Honoring François Rigolot.”

And that is what we did: past students, then-current students, colleagues, all friends. Because that is what good people deserve. Although it did mean depriving poor FR of the rest of the conference and imposed many, many, many talks on him. But he is a gentleman and a scholar, and a man with the patience of a saint and the aplomb of a diplomat; he also claims to have enjoyed himself.

With thanks to the splendid Cynthia Nazarian for organizing things and people, and for coming up with the informal term “Rigolomania” for the event and with the epithet “Oceans of Rigolotians” for the participants.

It is always good to see scholarly community in action in this way: to meet up with one’s immediate intellectual family (I am fortunate in having four such families, due to the hasards of historical accident); and for an academic parent to have all their offspring assembled around them, to see how the seeds they have sown have grown in various directions, cross-fertilized, borne fruit, scattered to the four winds and taken root elsewhere, and spread and continued knowledge.

While I wouldn’t want to reduce matters to simplistic dichotomies; Mars/Venus, chimpanzees vs. bonobos; what I think we have is less of the macho Modern scholarly metaphor based on hunting and dissemination, though admittedly, being human—all too human, perhaps more consciously and conscientiously human via engagement with Renaissance humanism—some of my fellow-Rigolotian siblings are, alas, not immune. Instead, more—even amongst the more aggressive and/or right-leaning of the clan—of the feminist / humanist metaphor of cultivating, cueillir, récolter, collecting (including curiosities), cataloguing, and curating.

What brings both these aspects of human culture together in happy harmony is, of course, the Dive Bouteille.

Trinquons donc.

A toast: to François Rigolot.

Le Cinquiesme Livre (posthume) : édition princeps de 1564 (BNF, Rés. Y2 2168). Calligramme de la Dive Bouteille : bibliothèque municipale de Lyon (Rés. 807 489 / Lyon, Jean Martin, 1567)

From the other FR: Le Cinquiesme Livre (posthumous) : ed. princeps, 1564 (BNF, Rés. Y2 2168). Calligramme : bibliothèque municipale de Lyon (Rés. 807 489 / Lyon, Jean Martin, 1567)


While François Rigolot may be best known as a groundbreaking Renaissance scholar, he is also a groundbreaking Medievalist and has been key to bringing the two fields closer together.

This may be most obvious in his work on the transitional zone between these periods, on late 15th- to early 16th-century poetry (from,, Jean Lemaire de Belges to Clément Marot). Yet Rigolot’s contributions to literary criticism have also had a broader renovative impact on the larger literary field, including the literature of medieval France: lyric and literary subjectivity, poetic persona, écriture féminine, and paranomasia.

This paper endeavours to redress the balance, in homage to Rigolot the Medievalist. Its first part summarizes his influence on, and reception by, medieval literary studies. Its second part offers a close-reading of poetry from the late 12th to early 13th centuries—another transitional period—as a practical demonstration of the usefulness of Rigolot’s innovations.  


SESSION 40211, 26 March 2011: “Le texte de la Renaissance: Honoring François Rigolot VI: Critical Perspectives” (programme p. 339)

[caveat: very much in note form, as this was written as a talk for oral performance including some improvisation and inbuilt flexibility to respond to audience reaction; sparing you excisions, hand-waving, plot-synopses, rough-gist translations, and other summary textual executions]

I’ll start with an apology: I’m a Medievalist. Renaissanceurs may make jokes about this sort of thing, but being fundamentally a Medievalist, or maybe being a Medieval fundamentalist, I did interpret Cynthia’s call to arms literally: this paper is more about François Rigolot’s work than anything else. I’m a double interloper here, as I’ll be talking about Medieval material and writings from the last 40 years or so. This talk is essentially a rough sketch of the levels or degrees of the medieval and medievalism in the Rigolot corpus.

As a side-note, I am actually quite surprised that there aren’t more medievalists here, given the number of Princeton graduate students who would have taken François’ courses and for whose theses he would have been a second reader. It’s unfortunate that we don’t have anything like this in the literary humanities

mathematics genealogy project

or you might have an even more striking view of François’ direct influence on medievalists. We don’t have a database like this, though there have been some books on intellectual genealogies, of course–such as the recent book by Francesco Carrappezza, and the Web of Science citation index, which you might have thought would provide useful data for tracing networks of influence, is so incomplete as to be categorically untrue.
Misfortunes indeed.

The Medieval, and Medieval conjunctions, in François’s work.

Now, the crossing of boundaries, or a more subtle and sophisticated blurring of such lines, is readily discernible in a large number of Rigolot works, on Lemaire de Belges, Marot, and other poets in the liminal zone between what’s traditionally defined as medieval and renaissance–and, since the work of Rigolot and Zumthor, looks to be less of a black/white dividing line and more of a grey zone. On Lemaire de Belges, for example:

Chercher à déduire cette persona d’un instantané textuel prétendument définitif, revu et corrigé par “l’auteur” ou reconstitué par l’érudition, me semble une dangereuse illusion de la critique. Si des médiévistes éminents comme Robert Guiette et Paul Zumthor ont insisté sur la “mutabilité fondamentale” de la traditions textuelle au Moyen Age, on ne saurait sous-estimer cette même mouvance, ce plurale tantum de la réalité littéraire dans des œuvres qui s’écrivent et se publient depuis l’apparition de l’imprimerie.

Pour donner une base concrète à cette étude, j’ai choisi le cas le plus illustre, ou du moins oublié, des poètes dits “rhétoriqueurs”, Jean Lemaire de Belges, parce qu’à la jonction entre Moyen Age et Renaissance, entre tradition manuscrite et édition imprimée, ses textes présentent des perspectives remarquables du point de vue qui nous intéresse ici

Intentionalité du texte et théorie de la persona: le cas des Épîtres de l’Amant Vert”, in Floyd Gray, Poétiques: théorie et critique littéraires (1980): 188-9

But references to medieval texts pepper the Rigolot corpus liberally. Leaving aside Dante and Petrarch and how Medieval or Renaissance they might be; attention is directed towards the Roman de la Rose in the earliest of the Rigolot “Amant vert” articles, “Rhétorique et “poésie” à l’aube du XVIe siècle: la double postulation de l’Amant Vert.” In what is not an entirely happy criss-cross of relations between Petrarch and Lemaire de Belges, and Dante and Jean de Meun, we find en parallèle and three parallélisme in a little over half a page (533), accompanied by rapport, transpose, dyptique, substitue; on the unhappy note, opposées, rivaliser, and–setting up the Amant Vert as a “discorde” in counterpoint to the Concorde des deux langages. But that “discorde” does have a positive side, in the lexical associations of pp. 533-34: a “conference”, a dialogue.

There is a marked contrast with the more usual, if you’ll forgive me, “renaissancism” of restricting intertextual reference to the Classical.

Speaking as a medievalist, it’s tremendously heartening to see in Rigolot’s work a relationship to the medieval that is not just compassionate and tolerant but actively open and accepting, healthy, and verily vigorous than the anti-medievalism that medievalists come, all too often, to expect; anti-medievalism, in that it reads, to the medievalist eye, as a rejection and repudiation, that elephant-in-the-room other anxiety of influence. Rigolot offers the medievalist reader quite the opposite, thus reminding, I hope, any honest medievalist into recognising that they, too, had prejudices and expectations, just like any other reader; and embarrassing them into just being a reader. Statements such as these don’t only rehabilitate renaissanceurs in the eyes of medievalists; they remind medievalists that they are readers and critics, and reading a critical text. That’s especially pertinent for a text about textual intentionality:

Le texte des Épîtres de l’Amant Vert atteste donc […] la mise en place d’une voix poétique complexe, écartelée entre les solicitations également pressantes des divers codes métalinguistiques. Voix angoissée devant une tradition littéraire doublement écrasante et désabusée par les excès d’une rhétorique à laquelle elle se doit pourtant de rester fidèle.
—“Rhétorique,” 534

Going a stage further, in the Rigolot catalogue (and this is only the MLA one, there are of course other works that are not on here…), we see topics of equal interest to medievalists:

MLA search (PDF of HTML)

feminism, identity, dialogue and other human relations, the position of the individual with regard to the collective, religion, literary subjectivity, prefaces, readership, reception, metamorphosis, anthropomorphism, exemplarity. and ethics … and I would stress dialogue here: not just Bakhtinian dialogism, but also a more active version: this co-authored volume on Christine de Pisan, for example:

[skim down list above to CdeP]


Yes. Parrots.

Screen shot 2011-03-26 at 8.30.28 AM

Some pre-Renaissance parrots, including several Medieval ones:

  • Early 13th c.: Arnaut de Carcassès, Novas del papagay

    Screen shot 2011-03-26 at 8.25.18 AM

    And a reminder of other psittacotic parallels diachronic and synchronic…

  • Fraye de Joy e Sor de Plaser
  • Before 1230: Attar, Farîd-ud-Dîn, The Language of Birds (Persian, sufi)
  • Mid-13th c.: Brunetto Latini, Li Livres du tresor
  • 1279-1325: Gallego-Portuguese pastourelle, King Dinis of Portugal
  • Late 14th c.: nouvelle, La Dame et les trois papegaulz (feat. An Occitan Parrot)
  • 14th c. Dutch version
  • Le Chevalier au papegau

NB I shall not, emphatically not, be arguing for influence on and inspiration for Lemaire de Belges of earlier parrots, nor making claims about other people “getting” parrots first, none of the old ur-text competitive business. First, such things are difficult to prove on the facts, the material evidence; second, anyone who’s ever met a parrot, or the idea of a parrot, is aware of psitaccotic pecularities; thirdly, because some rather more interesting–to my mind–matters arise from the comparison of these two texts, and what happens to them in much later reception. What draws the critical eye is what is commentated on and debated and how, and the terms of debate.

I would like to go to one particular pre-Lemaire parrot:  the early 13th century Occitan novas del papagay, of Arnaut de Carcassès. [Rapid outline of plot… here’s one at fr.wikipedia… ] Amorous fire, Promethean.

There is a central parrot. It is a parrot-poet: increasingly so, moving from simple parroter of its master’s words, to being a parrot-poet, as it “finds” and “makes”–both words and stratagem–thus moving from joglar performance to trobador composition; moving from passivity to catalysis, if not into full agency; and destabilising regular poet/patron relations and roles. Like the Amant Vert, it’s a parrot as distinct from other birds; especially, I think, from birds that sing, naturally rather than artificially, and sing in concert. Translated to a different time, different cultural milieu, somewhat different background social structure, but there is a kinship between these two texts’ representations of the poetic persona, of striving to break free of tradition and allotted roles, and become a new sort of poet.

This novas is part of a set–and present as such in its main manuscript, R, BNF fr. 22543–that includes another important piece on the nature of poetic identity, Ramon Vidal de Besalú’s Abrils issi e mays intrava, a long dialogue between two professional court poets, one younger, one older, talking shop. (Note that the term “poet” isn’t used in either of these texts, though.)

Jean Lemaire de Belges, Les Épîtres de l’Amant Vert, is online at the BNF Gallica:

Arnaut de Carcassès, Novas del Papagay: not currently online

So: elements in common of questioning, parody, roles and role-play, subversion. In the terms of Rigolot’s “Intentionalité du texte”, we’re looking here for:

instabilité du rapport maître/esclave

[un] lapsus du possessif qui surgit dans le texte

un lien de subordination cherche à se rompre

le refus de la convention littéraire entraîne une rupture de la grammaire du récit qui est en elle-même symbolique d’un désir de libération.

—“Intentionalité,” 203

Comparative study of je and similar grammatical instability to that in the Amant Vert [translation/paraphrase, underlining pronouns etc…]; text: ed. Jean-Charles Huchet, Nouvelles Occitanes du Moyen Age (Paris: GF, 1992):

Screen shot 2011-03-26 at 8.31.58 AMDins un verdier de mur serrat,
a l’ombra d’un laurier folhat,
auzi contendr’ un papagay
de tal razo com dirai.
Denant une don es vengutz
e aporta.l de lonh salutz
e dis li: “Dona Dieu vos sal,
messatje soy. No’us sapcha mal
si vos dic per que soy aisi
vengutz a vos en est jardi.
Lo mielher cavayer c’anc fos
vos tramet salutz cen mil vetz,
e per mi que l’ametz,
car senes vos no pot guerir
del mal d’amors que.l pay languir. dic may, per ma fe,
per que.l devetz aver merce:
car, play, morir vol per vos
may que per autre vieure joios.”

Note the “100,000 for you…” nodding to kisses via Catullus; that number often reappears in Occitan amorous literature, for kisses, embraces, emphasizing the innumerability of encounters and infinity of time, and poetic caresses (poems, words, pet-names, etc.); sometimes (Flamenca) interchangeably, all allusively at once. And the parrot’s barely transmitted his message. He starts adding his own material to it, overstepping the mark and the bounds of convention and decency straight away.

[Dame:]Screen shot 2011-03-26 at 8.31.09 AM
trop me paretz enrazonatz

E peza.m per amor de vos,
car es tan azautz ni tan pros,
car m’auzetz dar aital cosselh

Note: “vos“? including the external audience getting seduced? or dictating response? there’s a sense of fear as well as admiration; would a very special parrot such as this one count as bestiality and therefore taboo? or is this merely the taboo of love across class borders and the master/servant line?

Papagay, trop es bel parliers.
Par me, se fossetz cavayers,
que jen saupratz dona prejar.

Diabolical parrot ends list of reasons to love Antiphanor with threat:

Screen shot 2011-03-26 at 8.31.38 AMLo dieu d’amor e las vertutz
say que vo’n rendran mals salutz,
et yeu meteys, que dezir n’ay
de vos tot lo mal que poirai,
s’en brue d’ora no m’autreyatz
que s’el vos ama vos l’amatz.
—Papagay, si Dieu m’acosselh, dic que.m meravelh
car vos tan gent [sabetz] parlar;

Note: uncanniness, and shifting animality/anthopomorphism; and amorous deities…

The lady gives the parrot her ring, enabling the parrot to return from the parlamen, joyos, and retell the tale.

[Parrot to master]
[…] Senher, ja may
non er noiritz tal papagay
que tan digua per son senhor
com yeu ay dig per vostr’ amor.

The tale grows in the retelling…and the parrot adds his own suggestion to the plot, setting fire to tower so as to enable the lovers’ encounter. We are party to the joy of parrot; a joy that increases with the retelling and sharing. Unlike the Jean Lemaire de Belges version, the parrot only nearly dies. He is saved by the Lady’s love, indirectly, mediated via his master. Role are reversed as master become intermediary for the parrot. The master’s grant joy is accompanied by his servant’s petite (presaue-)mort. All’s well that ends well, especially if it ends with a witty Last Word from Arnaut himself (allegedly; still witty, maybe more so, if it’s someone else, perhaps acquainted with him; or ironic or sarcastic; or if it’s a full playful senhal):

De vas quatre locx s’es empres,
e.l crit se leva demanes:
“A foc!” crido per cominal.
E la dona venc al portal
e a ubert senes comjat
de las gachas e mal lor grat.
Antiphanor intr’ el verdier,
en un lieg dejotz un laurier
ab sa dona s’anet colcar.
E lunhs homs non o sap contar
le gaug que fo entre lor dos,
cals pus fo del autre joyos:
vejaire lor es, so m’es vis,
c’aquo sia lur paradis.
Grans gautz es entre lor mesclatz.
E.l foc fo totz adarmortatz,
ab vinaigre.l fan escantir.
E.l papagay cuget morir,
tal paor ac de son senhor.
A l’enans que poc venc vas lor
e es prop del lieg pausatz
e ac lor dig: “Car levatz?
Anatz sus e departetz vos,
que.l foc es mortz tot ad estros!”
Antiphanor, ab cor marrit,
s’es levat e pueys l’a dit:
“Dona, que voldretz vos mandar?
—Senher, vulhatz esforsars
de far que pros tan can poiretz,
en est segle tan cant vieuretz.”
Fay se vas el, baiza.l tres vetz.
Antiphanor s’en torna leu,
com filh de rey, ab son corrieu.
So dis n’Arnautz de Carcasses,
que precx a faitz per mantas res
e per los maritz castïar
que volo lors molhers garar,
que la laisso a lor pes anar,
…que may valra
e ja degus no.y falhira.
(260-99, end)

[note: con- / cor- usage with the usual Guilhem de Peitieus sexual wink]
[note: the ever-comic drawing of The Veil Of Propriety…]
[note: underlined first-person utterances of ambiguous attribution, parrot/poet slippage]

Notes: impossibility of retelling–heaven follows previous threat of hell–agency: passive “fire was put out”: by whom? See what happens here at the end of the poem–what happens to the poetic persona. [In the fuller draft version of this piece on the Papagay, there’s a section on salutz, with particular reference to Arnaut de Mareuil, and on some more curious approaches to the tornada (starting with some of the very earliest Occitan lyric–Guilhem IX–and some early verse narrative texts).]

or, the parrot unchained...

or, the parrot unchained…

For present, Rigolotian purposes: there is a certain textual, intertextual, resonance to be observed between our Papagay and the Amant Vert, around issues of grammatical instability or destabilisation that is allied to thematic subversions and ruptures. “Intentionalité du texte” is echoed in Lafont’s 1988 comments on the Papagay:

En secouante son joug le texte se constitue “dans le sense de l’histoire” et accueille l’élément nouveau qui régénère l’épître pour en faire justement le genre littéraire le plus important au début du 16e siècle.
—Rigolot, “Intentionalité”, 203

[…] le je épique est un masque de récitant qui efface autant qu’il désigne un “auteur”. Le problème de l'”auteur”, du “faiseur de texte” est un autre problème que celui du “moteur de texte”. […] Le texte se meut donc, lancé par une instance initiale de distique, sur un “je” qui reproduit l’ouï en dire.

[from auzi contendr’un papagay to de tel razo, com ye’us dirai: shift away from epic je]

Le praxème razo dans cet espacement des temps désigne ce qui circule, le contenu signifiant élaboré par une praxis spécifique, celle de la narrative versifiée, disons d’un terme moderne: de la littérarité.
—Robert Lafont, “Des nouvelles du Perroquet,” Revue des langues romanes XCII.2 (1988): 383-96; here, 386

Something similar to what happens to the early 16th century epistle happens also to early 13th century Occitan verse narrative; with influences, confluences, convergences and so on from such a variety of modes of writing–alba, tenso, epic, hagiography, canso, amor de lonh–as to throw all categorizations back up in the air every time the can of generic worms is reopened. I guess they breed, mutate, and fester.

Now–and I’m being very careful to restate this: suggestions on descendance and influence would be another matter, and another paper, and a whole other bunch of worms. I’m not suggesting any linear connection between these texts; after all, independent simultaneous genesis and mutation are as frequent in literature as they are in biology, and there’s that tricky element of non-written transmission and development occurring alongside that in written works.

What’s interesting here is a familial connection between these two texts–and their respective periods–at a second degree, in a recent phase of their reception-histories, from the 1970s onwards. Mapping discussions of the Novas del Papagay, we have some basic points of similarity: time period, input of Zumthor and Zink key critical texts. Key difference: question of manuscript versions and their relative values (that’s a debate that goes back to Paul Meyer and Savj-Lopez, around 1900). But a crucial move in the debate, by Keith Busby: on a point of subjectivité littéraire of the text, a matter of textual persona, and of mouvance. So we’re into similar terms of debate. Here’s some of it:

Limentani (whilst main interest in relationship between versions of the text, and generic question–book being about the narrative “exceptions” to the general rule that Occitan literature is, typically and overwhelmingly, lyric poetry):

une rielaborazione in senso narrativa

il poeta alluda a quello schema, ma voglia al tempo stesso evaderne

ostacoli da superare con l’astuzia […] occasioni di sviluppi drammatici, anzi piuttosto idillio o parodia di questo

il pappagallo è abile e ciarliero, ed è questa ruffianesca eloquenza l’elemente su sui il poeta insiste di piú

—Alberto Limentani, “Cifra cortese e contenimento del narrativo nelle “Novas del papegai,” L’Eccezione narrative: la Proenza medievale e l’arte del racconto (Turin: Einaudi, 1977): 61-77

Il est temps, aujourd’hui, nous semble-t-il, de déplacer ce problème où les solutions dépendent trop souvent d’opinions modernes sur la logique d’un texte et la vraisemblance psychologique des interventions des acteurs, sans que jamais une solution définitive soit atteinte, sauf dans l’argumentation intempérante de philologues en compétition. C’est ce que nous proposons de faire.

Pour cela, le respect de la textualisation telle que nous la recevons est la première précaution à prendre.

—Lafont, 383

[…] compared with nightingales, doves, and swans, it is unusual enough to raise an eyebrow and indicate possible comic intent on the author’s part; this is certainly the case in the Old French prose Chevalier du Pupegau (14th century). Loquacious birds are common enough in medieval literature: the polyglot Willeri in Les Merveilles de Rigomer and the eponymous volatile in the Lai de I’Oiselet, to mention only two. And the bird as a love-messenger is not unknown, for example, Marcabru’s starling and Peire d’Alvernha’s nightingale, or the swan in Marie de France’s Milun. I doubt whether there is any specific parodic intent in the Novas del Pupagai: the fact that the flamboyant sweet-talker is a parrot is comic enough.
—Keith Busby, “The Occitan fabliau and the linguistic distribution of genres,” Neophilologus 80 (1996): 11-23; here, 18

Adding to Rigolot’s double postulation, we end up with a further dédoublement: a literary-critical debate; that is in part about debating, dialogic forms of writing; and that can be placed in conversation with a parallel debate; both debates being discussions across chronological and cultural boundaries. In further multiplication, add in the Occitan/French element to the mix. Debate, dialogue, tenso, games, play, mouvance, jeu,… ; a multiple instability of sense–not in the weak sense of, well, senselessness; but in the strong sense of polysemy, openness, liveliness.

parrot meets parrot

parrot meets parrot

Back to the beginning. I came up with a title for this paper, you see, before I came up with the paper. “Renaissance Medievalist.” As distinct from medievalist.

This paper started out with the medieval and medievalism. That is to say: reading later events in a medieval light or spirit, or seeing medieval elements in later items.  An unfortunate example is the recent abuse of the words “medieval’ and “medievalist” in American crusading propaganda. For a more nuanced and intelligent rebuttal, I’d refer you to Bruce Holsinger’s Neomedievalism, neoconservatism, and the war on terror (2009).

Medievalism would also be in the sense of later works commenting on, reacting or responding to, continuing, and otherwise engaging with medieval material.  Classic examples would include Victor Hugo’s Notre dame de Paris, Apollinaire’s “Chanson du mal-aimé,” and  Monty Python and the Holy Grail or Les Visiteurs.

Rigolot as medievalist. We go back to an article from 1967, on a medieval topic: Béroul’s Tristan. What I’d like to show you now is simply, and indeed literally, some highlighted elements.

Now, what struck me about this article wasn’t just that it is, obviously, good and useful and a contribution to Tristan studies. What struck me was a frisson of déjà vu: premonitory foreshadowings of themes that would return, or be expanded, in the next four decades or so of the Rigolot corpus–François, I won’t ask you to explain yourself, as it is only proper that some exegetical mysteries must remain veiled. I’ll simply show you what I highlighted, running through the elements briefly:

rig1.1 rig1.2 rig1.3 rig1.4

Note the very neat intertext, presaging the later Amant Vert work: Marie de France’s Lai du Laüstic: messenger-go-between bird, death of bird, entombment or enshrinement, cloth, and transformations of messenger and message into allusive physical object.

This reader’s reaction was one of, well, a very medieval émerveillement, marvelling at the uncanny: at seeing the ghosts of Renaissance topics, on the Medieval side of the line.

“Le rire est le propre de l’homme”

Moving from medieval and medievalism to renaissance medievalism. A less obvious form of medievalism would be reading 16th century writing, and criticism thereon, in the light of 13th century writing, and criticism thereon. So what happens when you read 20th century criticism of a 13th century poem in the light of 20th century criticism of a 16th century one? This talk has moved through several layers of medievalisms; I would postulate that François Rigolot is a “renaissance medievalist” in the following senses: an agent of renewal from the renaissance on the medieval; a medievalist with renaissance leanings; and a hybrid monstrous constantly shape-shifting beast. Metaphorically speaking, of course.

This is the last point of my talk today: a point of literary politics, especially in view of “medieval”and “medievalism” having become dirty words, this is a plea for understanding and solidarity to Renaissanceurs. We have much ground in common. We could play nicely together.

future/istic parrot looks speculatively to the stars

future/istic parrot looks speculatively to the stars

Other common ground: Parrots remain parrots, in the 13th and 16th and 21st centuries–evolution doesn’t effect change that fast. Humans remain, more or less, humans. We are in times of crisis for the humanities, and in the midst of postulations of various post-humanisms–some of which aren’t as anti-human as they might sound, but are quite compatible with the human and humanism.  Animal-human relations are hot, and I don’t just mean it in that way; as reflected also in a current vogue in medieval studies (see, for example, the 2009 special issue of PMLA–and Sarah Kay’s work in progress on, ahem, parrots and nightingales and citation). There’s a further historical parallel shift to note–besides a kinship between the critical discussion of the Novas del papagay and the Amant vert–in the specifically cyber sort of posthumanism:  Donna Haraway’s cyborg manifesto of 1983, and cyberpunk literature and theory, from the 1980s to the present, with roots in the late 1960s.* It is, of course, too soon to tell or to say anything more useful, or true, than “watch this space” (with an attentive, critical eye).

Mais revenons à nos moutons, or rather, to our humans. Now, while the status of rhymes équivoques shifts–see François Cornillat’s Or ne mens, for example–word-play is a very neat element, suggestive of a continuum that is both literary and fundamentally human, running from 13th century (and, of course, well before then), to the 16th, and on to the 20th and 21st. s. [Ed. 2014: this is, incidentally, what I originally went to Princeton to do graduate work on. No kidding. Puns with Rigolot.] So I’ll finish with my favourite fil conducteur in the Rigolot corpus, some classic Rigolot jokes, especially puns, in the articles just seen:

Symboliquement, la rhétorique du rhétoriqueur y passa sa “saison en enfer” avant de prétendre à l’éternité de “noble poésie”.
—“Rhétorique” et “poétique”, 534

Il ne s’agit pas encore pour Lemaire de hisser les menus faits de son existence à la hauteur du chant poétique: pas de valet de Gascogne ni de lard en Carême.
—“Intentionalité”, 200

C’est en explorant la motivation des ratures de texte que l’on pourra élucider le trouble qu’elles connotent car on ne pourra amorcer une théorire de la persona du poète qu’en tentant de saisir le texte en flagrant délit d’intentionalité.
—“Intentionalité”, 207

And, finally, en guise d’épilogue: I bring you the following 21st century jewel, courtesy of weird coincidence and my WestJet flight here:

—Quel mot commence par E, termine par E, et ne contient qu’une seule lettre?

Thank you.

  • posthumanisms: ex. Peter Sloterdijk, Peter Singer, Katherine Hayes; Donna Haraway, the cyborg manifesto (1985); cyberpunk (Bruce Bethke, 1980 pub. 83) and slipstream, Bruce Sterling and William Gibson; Gibson major move against utopian sci-fi with 1981 “Gernsback Continuum”; precursors in late 60s and early 70s, Philip K. Dick, Robert Zelazny, JG Ballard, Thomas Pynchon (gravity’s rainbow 1973).


Arnaut de Carcassés, “Novas des papagay.” In Huchet and in Méjean-Thiolier & Notz-Grob. The base text used for citations here was the Huchet edition: 158-85.

Busby, Keith. “The Occitan fabliau and the linguistic distribution of genres,” Neophilologus 80 (1996): 11-23.

Huchet, Jean-Charles, ed. and trans. Nouvelles Occitanes du Moyen Age. Paris: Flammarion “GF,” 1997.

Laffont, Robert. “Des nouvelles du Perroquet,” Revue des langues romanes XCII.2 (1988): 383-96.

Limentani, Alberto. “Cifra cortese e contenimento del narrativo nelle “Novas del papegai,” L’Eccezione narrative: la Proenza medievale e l’arte del racconto (Turin: Einaudi, 1977): 61-77.

Méjean-Thiolier, Suzanne and Marie-Françoise Notz-Grob, eds. and trans. Nouvelles courtoises occitanes et françaises. Paris: Livre de Poche “Lettres Gothiques,” 1997.

Rigolot, François. “Valeur figurative du vêtement dans le Tristan de Béroul.” Cahiers de civilisation médiévale 10 (1967): 447-53.

—. “Rhétorique et “poésie” à l’aube du XVIe siècle: la double postulation de l’Amant Vert.” Romance Philology XXXIII (1979): 522-34.

Intentionalité du texte et théorie de la persona: le cas des Épîtres de l’Amant Vert”, in Floyd Gray, Poétiques: théorie et critique littéraires (1980): 186-207.

—“L’émergence de la subjectivité littéraire moderne : les Épîtres de l’Amant Vert de Jean Lemaire de Belges.” Disputatio 1 (1996): 153-59.


(1) For more parrots, see part II chapter 6 of: Sarah Kay, Parrots and Nightingales: Troubadour Quotations and the Development of European Poetry. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013.

kay parrots(2) And here on Meta-meta-medieval: “Give thanks for unseasonal birds: parrots!” (October 2014). Some more parrots, this time in celebration of Skelton’s “Speke Parrot” going viral. Here’s Skelton’s parrot en direct, just because I see no good reason not to give this marvellous video even more hits. Spread the joy:

(3) ARLIMA (Archives de littérature du moyen âge): bibliographical entry for Arnaut de Carcassès, Las novas del papagay

(4) A psittacotic bibliography from the Parrot Museum:

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  • 21 May 2015: “Richard the Lionheart and the poetics of imprisonment”
    Cultures of War Research Network Inaugural Conference: Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Trinity College Dublin / IMEMS (Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies at the University of Wales) / associated with CARMEN (Co-operative for the Advancement of Research through a Medieval European Network)
    Dublin, 2008


avian revenge on human/ist critics

avian revenge on human/ist critics

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