The Old Talks Series: “Chat-Up Lines: The Expression of Feminine Ingenuity in some Occitan Hagiography” (Faith, Enimia, Margaret)

Here’s something I think I’ll return to this summer, encouraged by discussion with the marvellous Jennifer Edwards and through her talk yesterday (Kalamazoo session 73, Société Guilhem IX; Celebrating Occitania Then and Now: Responses across Disciplines):

“Si me non osculeris, hinc mihi cura nec ulla est”: Radegund, the Leper’s Kiss, and Holy Healing in Poitou.

Kalamazoo, now in its 50th year, is a great and wonderful thing. It, and the acholarly societies here, are part of the living fibre of American liberal arts culture. To a foreigner who’s been able to spend a little time at the institutional expression of this great educational idea/l, this scholarly liberal arts culture seems to be an essential and integral part of American culture, identity, mythical identity, and the dream. Before coming to the US for postgraduate study, I knew about this liberal arts culture more abstractly, in a mythic (mythified) and dream-like way, as the inheritor of the medieval liberal arts and a continuer of scholarly ideals that included the Renaissance Collège de France, the eighteenth-century German research institutes, and English (and other) scholarly societies of the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries; I’d hesitate to say that the American liberal arts culture is the pinnacle of academia, though it’s tempting. It does a good job of sitting on shoulders of giants, perhaps with several giants as the solid foundation of a cheer-leading pyramid formation.

I missed Kalamazoo last year, for various reasons, mainly a practical work-relate one. I’ve been coming here off and on since 2004, and it’s always a joy to meet the same people, including the close academic family of international Medieval Occitan studies who welcomed me at my first Kalamazoo. I was there on my own, an academic orphan mid-dissertation, my original superviser having died a few months before. I had met few Occitanists before, never more than one at a time in any place (except Cambridge). At Kalamazoo, I walked into a room of a dozen of them. It was marvellous, as were they, and as they still are. This year’s two sessions had about thirty or so in the audience, and intersections of interest with a number of fields. In keeping with the koine nature of our language and its literary culture we’re an open, hospitable lot.

The Société Guilhem IX is one of two similar-sized international Occitanist associations, the other being the French-based AIEO. It (the former) has a fine journal, TENSO, and two sponsored sessions here at Kalamazoo every year. If any of you gentle readers are interested in medieval (and later!) Occitan, if your work touches on its literature and culture in any way, if you’ve ever even simply used the word “troubadour”: this society is for you. Join. Read and download the journal online: it’s at MUSE. And come see us at future Kalamazoos.

Here’s an old Kalamazoo talk, then, which as you see is rather rough (it was a talk, written as such). I’m putting it up here now, rough and ready and ragged as it is, because we need more medieval Occitan stuff online, in whatever shape. And because some stories should be shared and spread, and talked about. It’s often easier to talk about less finished work, it feels more malleable, clay not yet fired. We had fun yesterday with Enimia: Jennifer is the first other real live person I know who had read and (of course, like any decent person) loved Enimia’s Occitan vita. Saints Foy, Enimia, and Margaret are splendid, fabulous, hilarious. The paper that follows is about their cheeky chattiness.

The Occitan text, in the Clovis Brunel edition (still the main one, was I think the only one when writing this paper???), is freely openly available online at: archive.org.

NEXT STAGES AFTER THIS ONE, in no particular order:

1. Tidy up the inevitable typos.

2. Integrate and expand what’s below and add back all quotes plus the Margaret material (cut from the talk as otherwise it would have been over-time), so the end result is one whole coherent text.

3. Add in the PDF of the Enimia text, which is out of copyright. Maybe even translate it.

4. Add full footnotes and references.

5. Fit this into a larger project, anchored in the bathing-scenes in Flamenca: on water-cures in central France, excuses to revisit the Gorges du Tarn, old rocky cores, caves and springs, skin and water on skin, stereotypically watery femininity, and a fluidity in écriture féminine. There’s a connection to my previous node for Flamenca work, the lacuna after Flamenca receives Guilhem’s salutz. I’m thinking of these textual points as nodes in a network, out of which are spun the text and its intertexts, contexts, posttexts, continuations, and all possible (and impossible) senses; I’m rethinking them spatially as caves, wells, pools, and springs that punctuate a mountain range and connect rock to river-course and allow flow between materials, states, and worlds. The heart-inscribing scene in Flamenca is a nice example of literary metaphor in action, incarnate: rock, paper, hand… skin, flesh, blood… a precursor for Guilhem’s salutz, ink on skin, dissolving into Flamenca through her skin. Rocky Flamenca, in her tower on the crest, on whom Guilhem breaks his virginity.

Sweat and other bodily fluids would be involved, but I’d like to think of her enjoying his poem-letter while bathing. Maybe she doesn’t for practical reasons, the better to enjoy him for longer. Maybe the togetherness of Flamenca and her ladies, through the medium of the shared letter, might involve shared fluids and dissolution. A nice spin on men’s companionship and homosociability, male bonding through a shared female body and/or discussion of it afterwards (if not necessarily physically sharing that body at the same time), and all manner of manly penetrative sex. And let’s not forget Oto and Claris, and how their relations with Margarida and Alis are as changed as those of Flamenca and Guilhem, and lacking in charge (discharged? uncharged?), after the salutz-lacuna, in the last part of the romance.

But “rock, paper, water, skin, blood” is for later. Less “later,” Bourbon blood. For now:

THE ORIGINAL TALK (2011)

International Congress on Medieval Studies, University of Western Michigan, Kalamazoo

14 May 2011

Sponsored Session: Société Guilhem IX, I: Saints among Troubadours

“CHAT-UP LINES: THE EXPRESSION OF FEMININE INGENUITY IN SOME OCCITAN HAGIOGRAPHY”

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

La Chanson de Sainte Foi d’Agen : poème provençal du XIe s. Ed. Antoine Thomas. Paris: Champion, 1974.

Bertran de Marseille. La Vie de Sainte Enimie : poème provençal du XIIIe s. Ed. Clovis Brunel. Paris: Champion, 1916.

Vie provençale de Sainte Marguerite. Ed. Vladimir Chichmarev. Montpellier: Société des langues romanes, 1903. (See also Clovis Brunel in Revue des langues romanes 38 (1926): 385-401.
INTRODUCTION

This is a work in progress ideas paper; the main idea is as follows:

There are some features in the depiction of trials of saints that are not what one might expect from the point of view of genre expectations. Instead, one should think not in terms of genre, but of categories of interactions such as flirting, punning, and questioning. Closer to a categorisation by modes, though not exactly identical

The idea isn’t by any means new. Probably remains best explored by a combination of what one might call “classical” critical elements.

This fits into the part of the-future-book that’s on topics of dialogue and balance. On the one hand, interpersonal relations involving reciprocity and parity; on the other, the balance that is dexterity: puns, metaphoric sleight-of-hand and tightrope-walking, the knife-edge of humour, how jokes work, and how they work can be of literary significance.

I’d previously been looking at conversations including at least one feminine voice in 12th-13th c. Occitan lyric and narrative; and contemporary parallels in French romance. Keeping romance very much at the centre of affairs. But then I started looking around at other kinds of narrative that included dialogue (and of course, for points of comparison, at tensos and partimen that didn’t feature any women), so as to see what happened, as a sort of Genette-and-Marnette-inspired literary experiment, if one reads not only A in the light of B, but B in the light of A, and both of them in the light of C, and so on: trying to avoid an attitude–or, my own prejudice–of according aesthetic primacy to romance. This is why I was looking at hagiography.

And I was surprised.

Now, it wasn’t a naïve surprise. This isn’t the first time I’ve met saints: my surname is O’Brien, and I grew up in Belgium. My surprise may have been the greater precisely because I had expectations, based on previous encounters. One would expect a saint to make at least one important  pronouncement, of an appropriate nature. It’s by no means compulsory, but one would probably also expect at least one conversation with a villainous heathen tormentor in a position of power. There is also, of course, a necessary ending of martyrdom.

Based on past experience, I also reckoned there would be some elements thrown in to create pace, maintain audience attention, and make it worth while to stay around for a foregone conclusion: not only that a character is killed, but the how and the why of it. So what’s the point of this kind of literature? The basic plot lines are known. In the case of many saints, the details are well-known. It’s not the destination, but the journey: the interest is seeing how you get there. New satellites will be added to the kernels, and some kernels might even turn into satellites: in Enimie, for example, the shift away from recounting posthumous miracles. What I’m most interested in as a structural parallel is jokes: it’s not about the punch-line, it’s about the set-up.

What I wasn’t expecting, what surprised me–but probably won’t surprise you, given this talk’s title–was the extent of the dialogue, its structural significance, and, well, the flirting.

On to the chat-up lines, then. These come from the 11th c. Canso de sancta Fides and the mid-12th c. Vida de sancta Enimia by Bertran de Marseille (I’ve cut the Margarida materials from this talk, with apologies).

All are in Occitan, feature women, exist in Latin versions, and span a fairly broad historical period. It has already been well observed (Brunel, Akhavein, etc.) that all three, compared to the Latin vitae, have a marked increased use of direct speech. Both date from before the period of, well, The Troubles in the Languedoc: allowing for readings beyond the politically figurative.

ONE: FLIRTATION

On to some flirtation:

FLIRTY CHAT IN FIDES
228-31:

“Ara, donzella, vòill audir

de qual paradge vòls servir.”

Ella parlèd e saub l’o dir:
“De nòstre Dòn me vòill aizir”
312-14

Aqel volria aver espós,

qualque plaid me’n fezéss ab vos,

a’el si m’es bèlz et amorós.
326

qu’ancsen l’amèi pos mot n’audi.
237-46:

Dunc l’apellèd ab grand amor:
rhymes error / honor / major / tenor / emperador

countered by deshonor / sennor / ador / paor
253

e volèz faire’l mèu talent

258-9:

Ella’l respón, si qe non ment:
“Ja Dèu non placza fòlz me tent.”
280s: mockery of Diana-worship (+ Deu capdon, 300)
Fides keeps her cool as Dacien becomes more mad, but calls his bluff:

285-6:

irasc tan fòrt con fa serpentz

trastorna’ls òils, lima las dentz.
291-2

ella non’n pres nulz espaventz

“Fell sias tu, si mot me’n mentz!”
Fides gets the last word (326)–which is also a first word.

Call me an overly-empathetic reader, but we have here a young lady, imprisoned, entirely at the mercy of a gentleman who has the power of life and death over her.

Why am I calling this flirtation:

there’s overt chatting up: this barely merits the name: intentions are clear on both sides, even if one side puts up a pretend-defence. On first reading, this defence is so staged, so clearly scripted, as to be going through the motions. It can be jazzed up by delivering it in an ironic mode. Doubly-ironic, delivered in a bored and indeed mechanical tone: “here we go again, I’m just saying my lines.”

there’s coyness: again, acting out a script; performance in everyday life. And, again, with a subtext–more or less veiled double-entendres.

there’s a cheekiness, esprit: playing with expectation, bringing out unexpected other senses in words, changing the expected course of the conversation. To emphasize that the situation does not necessarily lead to a foregone conclusion. This may be part of the playing of the game, and indeed become part of its rules–which, in turn, may also be played with.

flirtation PROPER must retain semantic ambiguity and permit continuation–and indeed avoid, errm, coming to a conclusion, as it were. There must be an element of future possibility, of a promise as yet unfulfilled but potentially fulfillable.

It’s Sheharazade keeping talking to stave off the inevitable. The flirtation isn’t just with the tormentor: it’s with life: and love, religious renunciation, conversion, marriage, and normal female expectations. There’s the dark humour of flirting with death: put a foot wrong on the tightrope and it’s a sudden fall. Dignity, wits, and wit should be maintained.

Flirtation is persuasion in both directions: a game of seduction, attempting to win an argument, but to do so in a manner that’s not simply functional, but with verve and panache: it’s stylish.

TWO: DIALOGUE

Here in these saints’ lives, deploying structures and syntax reminds the reader of amorous conversations in other works—and indeed outside Occitan. This is good old-fashioned intertextuality and transtextuality: affirming and re-enforcing the connections running through these works, knitting and shaping them into a literary network and cultural continuum. Such phenomena are well-studied: what interests me here isn’t just the fact that there is citation, but the way it works and its extent and diversity, starting at the level of a single loaded word and working up–by degree of complexity, not necessarily value–to a whole work and its construction.

Now: before I go to the next step: some caveats: because I want to make it clear at this point that there are grand claims that could be made at this point, and that I’m not going to make them.

I don’t know, factually, empirically, exactly what the audience expectation would have been with these three specific texts; how surprising intertextual play could have been, to a literarily sophisticated audience; what the reactions would have been to seeing common material in different contexts; and how far, of course, any perception of these contexts being different in the first place is a post-medieval anachronism.

I’m not going to make any grand claims about lay literature influencing religious literature–not least as the relationship could have gone the other way, or indeed both ways, and with both being influenced by dialogues and interrogations in legal discourse, and of course, as ever, by observed phenomena in the real world, including publicly-performed dialogues.

I will not claim that chattiness in hagiography is necessarily a tongue-in-cheek perverse import from amorous poetry and casuistry. Tempting though it is to see this as a popularising, attractive factor that works well alongside the violence, gore, rape, dismemberment, and other body-politics business.

Cheekiness doesn’t necessarily carry a specifically Occitan social and political message. Tempting, again, though that might be. I would only go so far as to say that dialogue, questioning and discussion, and play on an even field would seem to be some features that appear in Occitan literature; some of that literature also shows an interest in art influencing life–I’m thinking especially of Flamenca here

What I do think is happening here is that the presence of certain elements and structures–such as, here, interrogation–emphasize a unity that binds together this thing that is a literature: not irrespective of content being religious or otherwise, but because that distinction is irrelevant as they are integral parts of the same world. The longer version of this paper develops this idea further: its main point is that grand overarching literary categorisations based on genre, form, and content are flawed. For tactical reasons, I’m approaching that problem, and the larger one of detecting literary aesthetics, from a literary critical rather than a medievalist position.

Caveats over: what else is flirtatious about these saintly dialogues, and what does this add to the significance of dialogue?

Besides the interaction between flirter and flirtee, and the dark comedy of flirting with death and life, there’s also a flirtation with the audience. This is a seductive dialogue, and care is being taken to read between the lines–just in case you miss anything, and miss the opportunity for a comeback. It’s an intellectual flirtation: not just following along, but, as there are ideas and arguments involved, the reader too is in the position of being open to persuasion. Dialogue is also about persuasion itself, via the sample situation at hand.

It’s also about sincerity and truth. Given the seriousness of the occasion, one might expect the most truthful, sincere, and straight speech possible. Yet public speech is (especially as we’ll see in Enimie) prepared rather than spontaneous, a performance, and playing to the galleries should be borne in mind. Public social interactions play out a formulaic script but, as Fides shows, can also include thinking up new lines or lines of direction, to show  that one isn’t just parroting a script. Thinking them up is FUN and ENTERTAINING–for the speaker’s personal pleasure, screwing with the opponent to score points, to keep the game going for as long as possible, and change the script itself for the next time. This is clearest with Enimia, who changes the script at an early stage by miraculously developing leprosy in response to the threat of marriage, and having it return (leprosy, not marriage) every time she leaves her priory.

Being on the receiving end of this kind of creative play is also an imaginative exercise: a didactic one as empathy and compassion are virtues to be practised and refined. Plus the suspension of disbelief, and belief: imagining that you don’t know what’s going to happen: the pantomime “it’s behind you.”

Dialogue functions as a structural element for plot momentum. In these three vidas, it  occupies a large proportion of the text–lining up the chat-up lines–and, as key scenes are dialogues, it drives the plot. Dialogue, here, is the plot: firstly, through the psychodrama familiar in lyric, with internal dialogue as an extreme form, and debates–including the partimen–idea-play as another. Second, thanks to loaded words and speech-acts. Thirdly: plot is dialogue writ large, or rather, spun out around the dialogue: a good later example would be Machaut’s Voir dit.
THREE: FEMININE INGENUITY

Now, these dialogues are played out on an even playing-field, for that is the nature of games with rules: the same rules regardless of who a player might be.  Of course, every attempt must be made to subvert them–that being part of the game too: or, what makes it FUN.

Twisting words is a third way in which dialogue becomes one with story-line: words change, sorry are changed by their speakers, twisting and turning, being interpreted or returned in a new direction: the ball comes back from an unexpected angle, and lo! the tennis-ball has become a set of juggling beach-balls. We’ve seen this with Fides.

Which leads us to my final example

ENIMIE COUNTERS BODY-SNATCHING

1515-86, 1660s-90s

Enimie’s twist is to move from words back to deeds, including inscribing herself on the physical landscape and a convenient disfiguring skin-condition and spa-frequenting. A final sneaky trick ensures that Enimie’s remains remain where she left them, second-guessing a future body-snatching attempt by her brother. Now, while there’s more direct speech in this vida–mostly by Enimie–there’s fairly little expected dialogue. The longest piece is announcing her death and setting up a body-swap trick.

In a markedly long dialogue, near the end, Dagobert comes, as expected, to remove his sister’s remains to add to the central collect at St Denis. The abbess, and soon the entire priory, argue to keep her body: false sincerity, completely staged. This has been set up earlier, and reminders planted. Drama and hilarity ensue not from surprise, but from spinning-out this creative false debate; and I note the inclusion of a “chorus” of the whole convent.

In common with other saintly ladies across Europe and the Near East, and indeed further afield later, these vidas have an exemplary purpose: directly in imitation of Christ; indirectly in imitation of other martyrs. And there lies the rub. Christian conversion and martyrdom is a stance against following the herd–heathen married brood-mares– but: while following the trope, you want to stand out from the herd of 3rd-6th c. teenage virgins against decent marriage. So you’ll need a few distinctive twists in the tale: visions, torture and death, and miracles; add to these, interesting conversations, operating changes to the set script. Offering more than one script, and some flexibility and room for further manoeuvre, to future potential martyrs and their individual creative expression.

All of which offers hope, dreams, and fantasies, to an audience; most directly to women–to girls of marriageable age, to women in unhappy marriages. Indirectly, to anyone sharing at least some characteristics, or imagining themselves in their shoes.  Equality in discourse, attempts to take intelligent debate as the norm, calm to the point of impudence: surely an important experience in everyday life, a widely-shared characteristic, would be interactions with the law? These lives offer practical guidance in resistance: not just passive support for the witty underdog, but some useful lines to remember for future reference.

Using them contributes to the preservation and perpetuation of individual lines in the story, of the story as a whole by extension, and to all their continuations in an increasingly complex network of relations around an allusion: contributing to lexical loading, literary enrichment, fertile punning; keeping literature alive through keeping it in life.

Final slide:


***END OF ORIGINAL TALK***
[NEXT: reintegrate Margaret material cut from talk. Here follows an older draft of the paper, including some of the note-form of the Margaret section. There are further notes in an olde notebook to reread, rewrite, and incorporate; back in the office.]
CHAT-UP LINES: THE EXPRESSION OF FEMININE INGENUITY IN SOME OCCITAN HAGIOGRAPHY

INTRODUCTION

This is a work in progress ideas paper; the main idea is as follows:

There are some features in the depiction of trials of saints that are not what one might expect from the point of view of genre expectations. Instead, one should think not in terms of genre, but of categories of interactions such as flirting, punning, and questioning. Closer to a categorisation by modes, though not exactly identical

The idea isn’t by any means new. Probably remains best explored by a combination of what one might call “classical” critical elements:

How this fits into bigger picture of current work in progress: the direction of the book has shifted towards topics (thematic, rhematic) of dialogue and balance. On the one hand, interpersonal relations involving reciprocity and parity; on the other, the balance that is dexterity: puns, metaphoric sleight-of-hand and tightrope-walking, the knife-edge of humour, and how jokes work–and why their working, and how they do so, are of literary and cultural significance. I’d previously been looking at conversations including at least one feminine voice in 12th-13th c. Occitan lyric–canso, tenso–and narrative–novas, roman; and contemporary parallels in French romance. Keeping romance very much at the centre of affairs. But then I started looking around at other kinds of narrative that included dialogue (and of course, for points of comparison, at tensos and partimen that didn’t feature any women), so as to see what happened, as a sort of Genette-inspired literary experiment, if one reads not only A in the light of B, but B in the light of A, and both of them in the light of C, and so on: trying to avoid an attitude–or, my own prejudice–of according aesthetic primacy to romance. This is why I was looking at hagiography.

And I was surprised.

Now, it wasn’t a naïve surprise. This isn’t the first time I’ve met saints: my surname is O’Brien, and I grew up in Belgium. My surprise may have been the greater precisely because I had expectations, based on previous encounters. One would expect a saint to make at least one important  pronouncement, of an appropriate nature. It’s by no means compulsory, but one would probably also expect at least one conversation with a villainous heathen tormentor in a position of power. There is also, of course, a necessary ending of martyrdom.

Based on past experience, I also reckoned there would be some elements thrown in to create pace, maintain audience attention, and make it worth while to stay around for a foregone conclusion: not only that a character is killed, but the how and the why of it. So what’s the point of this kind of literature? The basic plot lines are known. In the case of many saints, the details are well-known. It’s not the destination, but the journey: following along to see how you get there. New satellites will be added to the kernels, and some kernels might even turn into satellites: see the shift away from recounting posthumous miracles in the [CHECK REFS HERE: Enimie, sure.] The same may go for debates and trials; and, what I’m most interested in as a structural parallel, jokes: it’s not about the punch-line, it’s about the set-up.

Fair enough. What I wasn’t expecting, what surprised me–but probably won’t surprise you, given this talk’s title–was the extent of the dialogue, its structural significance, and, well, the flirting.

On to the chat-up lines, then. These come from three Occitan saints’ lives, as follows:

The reasons for my choice were that all three are in Occitan, feature women, exist in Latin versions, and are approximately datable to a fairly extensive period. It has already been well  observed (Brunel, Akhavein, etc.) that all three, compared to the vitae, have a marked increased use of direct speech. Two of the three date from before the late 12th to early 13th century, and the period of, well, The Troubles in the Languedoc: which  allow for readings beyond the politically figurative.
ONE: FLIRTATION

On to some flirtation:

—and indeed outside Occitan. This is good old-fashioned intertextuality and transtextuality: affirming and re-enforcing the connections running through these works, knitting and shaping them into a literary network and cultural continuum. Such phenomena are well-studied: what interests me here isn’t just the fact that there is citation, but the way it works and its extent and diversity, starting at the level of a single loaded word

and working up–by degree of complexity, not necessarily value–to a whole work and its construction. Somewhere around the middle would lie dialogue, especially of a question and answer variety.

Now: before I go to the next step: some caveats: because I want to make it clear at this point that there are grand claims that could be made at this point, and that I’m not going to make them.

I don’t know, factually, empirically, exactly what the audience expectation would have been with these three specific texts; how surprising intertextual play could have been, to a literarily sophisticated audience; what the reactions would have been to seeing common material in different contexts; and how far, of course, any perception of these contexts being different in the first place is a post-medieval anachronism.

I’m not going to make any grand claims about lay literature influencing religious literature–not least as the relationship could have gone the other way, or indeed both ways, and with both being influenced by dialogues and interrogations in legal discourse, and of course, as ever, by observed phenomena in the real world, including all manner of publicly-performed dialogues (including, again, court cases).

I will not claim, for example, that chattiness in hagiography is necessarily a tongue-in-cheek perverse import from amorous poetry and casuistry. Tempting though it is to see this as a popularising, attractive factor that works well alongside the violence, gore, rape, dismemberment, and other body-politics business.

Nor that cheekiness has, necessarily, a specifically Occitan social and political message, reading between the lines. Tempting, again, though that might be. 
Occ version vs. others: any Occ specificity? I would only go so far as to say that dialogue, questioning and discussion, and play on an even field would seem to be some features that appear in Occitan literature; some of that literature also shows an interest in art influencing life–I’m thinking especially of Flamenca here–and thus is aware that the two worlds are distinct, but may interact. [this goes into work in progress  on fiction…]

What I do think is happening here is that the presence of certain elements and structures–such as, here, interrogation–emphasize a unity that binds together this thing that is a literature: not irrespective of content being religious or otherwise, but because that distinction is irrelevant as they are integral parts of the same world. The longer version of this paper develops this idea further: its main point is that not only are grand overarching literary categorisations based on genre and form flawed–so as those based on content. For tactical reasons, I’m approaching that problem, and the larger one of detecting literary aesthetics, from a literary critical rather than a medievalist position.

Caveats over: what else is flirtatious about these saintly dialogues, and what does this add to the significance of dialogue?

Flirting with death, and its dark humour, we’ve seen. Flirting with life. (insert flirting with life stuff here). Comic element: dark humour. We know how this ends.

[except, with Enimie, we don’t–doesn’t end up being a virgin marriage martyr!!! maybe end with this one? Marguerite in the middle?]

Flirtation with the audience: keeping attention. (Jauss, Iser, etc.) This is a seductive dialogue, and care is being taken to read between the lines–just in case you miss anything, and miss the opportunity for a comeback/score a point. It’s also an exercise in close reading, with, as Karl Uitti used to say, eyes open and brain switched on. It’s an intellectual flirtation: not just following along, but, as there are ideas and arguments involved, the reader too is in the position of being open to persuasion.

Which makes one think more about flirtation itself, and its mechanisms: you could persuade me.

And dialogue that has, amongst its subtexts, the following:

topics of persuasion, seduction, conversion–religious and literary

sincerity and truth: greater truth-value of direct speech, but slipperiness of at least one protagonist. Seriousness of occasion: expect most truthful, sincere, and straight speech possible. Sincerity: issue of monologue vs dialogue, given there’s an audience either way (unresolved). As opposed to straight-forward direct speech: this is turning OR/OO and its different aesthetics on its head: a mannered, clever, stylish speech–literary? Whilst retaining some simplicity and verisimilitude. Dialogues public and semi-private (given the setting): issues of truth, sincerity, performance. Add in playing to the galleries.

paradox: speech that cannot be pure and plain, as–especially in such situations–one must engage brain before operating mouth.

Special situation of public speech: Thus, combination of playing out the script (formulaic nature of social interactions–flirtation, trial) + thinking up new lines or lines of direction, to show that you’re sincere and not just parroting a script + thinking them up because it’s FUN and ENTERTAINING–for speaker’s personal pleasure, for audience (court/trial plus extraliterary)– + thinking them up to screw with opponent and win the game. Or at least keep it going for as long as possible, score points, and change the script for the next time. This is clearest with Enimia, in comparison with Fides and Margaret: she changes the script at an early stage. Being on the receiving end is also an imaginative exercise: a didactic one as empathy and compassion are virtues to be practised and refined. Plus the suspension of disbelief, and belief: imagining that you don’t know what’s going to happen. There may also be an element of pantomime “it’s behind you.”

and making the reader rethink sincerity and truth-value of direct speech: to separate out the truth of eyewitness verbatim reports, from the truth of the words spoken.

Dialogue as structural element: plot pace, momentum, development. Suspense.

Dialogue occupies large proportion of text: lining up the chat-up lines.

Dialogue drives the plot. Key scenes: pivots, plot nodes, etc.: dialogue.

Dialogue is the plot: three senses.

One: the psychodrama familiar in lyric, with internal dialogue as an extreme form, and debates–including the partimen–idea-play as another.

Two: words are actions; words as action; speech-acts; loaded words; especially when public.

Three: plot is dialogue writ large, or spinning around the dialogue. Doing something similar to the relationship between certain razos and the cansos they accompany, and some larger-scale replayings of the same idea:


THREE: FEMININE INGENUITY
Play, games, playing by the rules, even playing-field.

Which is where we come to: feminine ingenuity.

Or, back to Sheherazade.

Twisting words: this is a third way in which dialogue becomes plot, or story: words change, sorry are changed by their speakers, twisting and turning, being interpreted or returned in a new direction: the ball comes back from an unexpected angle, and lo! the tennis-ball has become a set of juggling beach-balls.

note the absent juggling-balls.

While Foi has enjoyed a certain success–the text, its various versions, the saint herself, later miracles, Agen on the Camino–Ste Enimie has not. Despite good blood and a location of potential–on the western way [check name…]–and prospects for a good spa-town. Her name is unfortunate, too close to énimie and the later enema for, ahem, comfort.


Feminine cunning: here, more in acts than words, including inscribing herself on the physical landscape. Make self unmarriagable–and be obliged to spend as much time as possible in a spa. There’s a dragon along the way–possibly to curry favour with fans of Margaret–the construction of a convent, a less violent death, and as a final act of cunning, a sneaky trick to ensure that Enimie’s remains remain where she left them, second-guessing future body-snatchers. There’s more direct speech in this vida, but fairly little expected dialogue. Most of the speech is by E, a lot is issuing orders: the longest piece on expected death, and setting up the body-swap trick. Prayers. Public prayer, accompanied by a silent response from God–blitzing with leprosy.
Margarida link to Enimie: compared to the Latin vita, there’s a reduction in graphic torments and miracles and more direct speech; the culminating moment is Margarida’s last words before her beheading, in which she prays for the protection of women in peril. So: emphasis on speech-act of public prayer.
There is one long dialogue, near the end.

Dagobert comes, as expected, to remove his sister’s remains to add to the central collect at St Denis. The abbess, and soon the entire priory, argue to keep her body: false sincerity, completely staged. Now: this has been set up earlier. And repeated. Drama and hilarity not from surprise, but from spinning-out this creative false debate; and I note again the inclusion of a “chorus” of the whole convent.
Creativity and derivative ingenuity: see 4 in next paragraph.
Political last point: feminine angle. In common with other saintly ladies across Europe and the Near East, and indeed further afield later: paradoxical exemplarity.

imitatio Christi

second-degree imitation of martyrs

Christian conversion and martyrdom is a stance against following the herd–heathen married brood-mares– but: while following the trope, you want to stand out from the second-degree herd of 3rd-6th c. teenage virgins against decent marriage.

so you’ll need a few distinctive twists in the tale: visions, torture and death, and miracles; add to these, interesting conversations. Operating changes to the set script. Offering more than one script, and some flexibility and room for further manoeuvre to future potential martyrs. And this is a creative act: in terms of changing a set piece with spiritual import (speech act?), in terms of the shape of the dialogue and its identity as a literary thing, and in terms of individual creativity.

all of which offers hope, maybe just dreams and fantasies, to an audience; most directly to women–to girls of marriageable age, to women in unhappy marriages. Indirectly, to anyone sharing at least some characteristics, or imagining themselves in their shoes.

but then I thought–and this is where, again, surprise and wonder: equality in discourse, attempts to take intelligent debate as the norm, calm to the point of impudence: surely the core experience in everyday life, the widest shared characteristic, is statistically as likely to be interactions with the law? Not suggesting a preponderance of criminals and heretics in the general population: but crimes, trials, and public spectacles associated thereto, as an integral part of everyday life.

Offering practical guidance in resistance: not just passive support for the witty underdog, but some useful lines to remember for future reference.

Contributing to the preservation and perpetuation of individual lines in the story, and of the story as a whole by allusion. And to continuations of lines, story, and the increasing complexity of network of relations around an allusion: contributing to lexical loading, literary enrichment, fertile punning; keeping literature alive through keeping it in life. See for one last example:

End:

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