Madness is a frequent theme in medieval French literature. It afflicts the two greatest heroes of the Arthurian world, Lancelot and Tristan, as well as numerous other knights and unlucky lovers in courtly tradition. It also appears in devotional literature, whether in the form of the 'holy fool' who impersonates madness as a kind of penance or in the motif of lunatics cured through the miraculous intervention of a saint. These texts manifest a wide range of attitudes towards madness, which may be associated with nobility and refinement of character, with chivalric or spiritual transcendence, with tragic illness and impairment, with comic ineptitude, or with sin and degradation. Tracing these various depictions allows for a study of how and why madness is used in different texts and different genres. This new book, from one of the leading critics in medieval studies, ties in with contemporary interest in the politics of identity, and literary constructions of identity. There are many studies of gender, sexuality, race and ethnicity, and class in medieval literature and society, but far fewer of madness.
Yet madness is the ultimate 'queerness' or 'otherness', the limit of the human condition. Madness has been identified as an important topic in feminist criticism, but has been explored largely with regard to nineteenth- and twentieth-century studies. The cultural significance of madness in the Middle Ages is often misrepresented in contemporary discussions. Sylvia Huot redresses that imbalance.
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(224mm x 144mm x 18mm)
Oxford University Press
Publisher: Oxford University Press
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Author Biography - Sylvia Huot
Sylvia Huot is Reader in Medieval French Literature at Pembroke College, Cambridge. She has held teaching positions at University of Chicago and Northern Illinois University and is a leading scholar of French Medieval literature. Her publications include From Song to Book: The Poetics of Writing in Old French Lyric and Lyrical Narrative Poetry (Cornell UP 1987), The 'Romance of the Rose' and its Medieval Readers: Interpretation, Reception, Manuscript Transmission (CUP 1993), and Allegorical Play in the Old French Motet: The Sacred and the Profane in Thirteenth-Century Polyphony (Stanford UP 1997). She has also written numerous articles in scholarly journals and in edited collections of essays.